Hello, I am Kayla Queen and I have dyslexia. I hold a BA in International Cultural Studies and a Certificate in Intercultural Peacebuilding from Brigham Young University – Hawaii. I started graduate school at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas as a Higher Education Major and have discontinued the program.
As a freshman, I had to be reevaluated before receiving accommodations in college. Luckily this was a service BYU-Hawaii provided for free but due to the small size and remote location of the campus I had to wait until my move-in date to arrive on campus and meet with Disability Services. As someone who has studied student development theory, looking back I see requiring new testing hindered instead of fostered healthy student development for me. While I should have been forming connections with my peers and figuring out with them how to use Canvas and the library circulation desk, I was stuck testing.
It was unnecessarily harmful to rehash my fears and insecurities surrounding having a learning disability. This is especially true when you add insult to injury. Consider the fact I was being set up to enter academia where learning disabilities are stigmatized and professors undermine your disability even with documentation. Making a big deal out of documentation and learning disabilities just adds to the feeling of being othered and deepens the frustration when soliciting needed support is hard.
Testing was taxing and took about 10 hours taking place over the first and second week of school. Many students do themselves a disservice by passing on accommodations but I see why. Getting approved for accommodations is demanding and it doesn’t guarantee you won’t receive pushback for seeking the support you need. Getting accommodations needs to be made more realistic but we also need to ensure that we increase the number of students protected and the strength of that protection.
In 2018 I started graduate school at UNLV but what I experienced was unprecedented and resulted in me leaving school indefinitely. I started the accommodation process a couple of weeks before my classes started but the quarter was more than halfway over by the time I had accommodations in place. This was due to the university’s procedures which were wildly different from the other university I had attended. UNLV only reviews applications for accommodations every two weeks, then if approved you have to meet with accommodation coordinators and then set a separate appointment with a coordinator of accessible technology. In my case, the accommodations coordinator who was assigned to my case was on a two-week vacation and my request to meet with someone else in the interim was denied. Since it took too long to get the accommodations in place I ended up taking an incomplete and starting my program on academic probation as a result.
There were no guidelines to keep the DRC accountable for granting accommodations in a timely manner even when they had all the necessary documentation of my disability. I made up that class in the fall and then transitioned from part-time to full-time in the spring while starting to work as a Graduate Assistant but continued to have a hard time getting accommodations properly in place. Ultimately I decided to discontinue my academic program, not because of grades, but due to constant issues getting reasonable accommodations implemented.
Institutions of Higher Education would see much better outcomes if they sought to lighten the burden of managing a learning disability for students who have them. When the process of getting accommodations is so time-consuming and time-sensitive, financially burdensome, and emotionally draining that it hinders a student’s ability to learn, you know we have a deeper problem than “having a hard time learning”.