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  • Madelynn Lockwood

Learning Disability Month through the eyes of learning disabled students

By: Madelynn Lockwood, Features Editor

October is Learning Disabilities and Dyslexia Awareness Month. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, roughly 7.3 million students (or about 15 percent of all public school students) were identified as having learning disabilities and qualifying for special education services through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (also known as IDEA) during the 2021-2022 school year. Learning Disabilities Awareness Month hopes to bring attention and acknowledgment to students who struggle with issues related to their learning disabilities every day.

Erik Schneider is in his third year as a part-time student majoring in humanities at Canisius, and he explained being diagnosed as “globally developmentally delayed.” On pursuing his degree with his learning disability, he said, “It is learning more than the average person, and you have to work twice as much to achieve it.”

Schneider shows extreme gratitude towards his family who has advocated for him to receive the support that he needed ever since his diagnosis about 20 years ago. They — along with close coworkers — have supported his interest to pursue higher education and pushed him through initial doubts and hesitations to do so. After 10 years of not being in a classroom, Schneider returned to school in the fall of 2021 and shared that he was “a bag of emotions” wearing a backpack and walking to class for the first time since 2012.

October being a dedicated month to bringing awareness to learning disabilities acknowledges the experience of so many students like him; an experience that Schneider says is “the most challenging thing that [he has] ever endured.”

Another Canisius student succinctly summarized the month’s meaning as creating “awareness that not everyone learns the same.” ​​They also said, “College services can be vastly different than the ones in high school, and colleges are not required to honor the 504 plan that students previously had, which can be scary.” Students with learning disabilities can be given an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or a 504 plan if they qualify.

Canisius’s Student Accessibility Services can help provide a path where all students are able to succeed as they progress through their education at Canisius. The Canisius student noted that transitioning from an IEP or 504 plan in high school into the college environment can be incredibly difficult. Additionally, students with these services are required to be retested to maintain the services they need.

Schneider always likes to remind his fellow students with learning disabilities that it is okay to ask for help when you need it. He ended on a note of hope for others with learning disabilities, maintaining the idea that a learning disability does not define who a person is or limit their ability to succeed.

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