On Friday, January 12, 2024, a President’s Innovation Fund (PIF) grant-supported project allowed the Learning Center’s staff and student leader team of Peer Mentors, Peer Tutors, Supplemental Instruction Leaders, and Student Assistants to engage in a special workshop titled, “College Students with Learning Differences.” This workshop was originally conceived by Writing, Reading & ESOL Lab Instructional Aide II, Whitney Liu. It was initially piloted at San Francisco State University’s Tutoring and Academic Support Center (TASC) and then presented at the J. Paul Leonard Library.

This workshop is designed to enable participants to gain first-hand experience in having various learning disabilities and to support participants in acquiring a deeper experiential understanding and awareness of how students with learning disabilities might feel while studying in college and in developing more compassion and empathy while working with these students.

The workshop was organized in three parts:
• Part I: Simulation Experience. With the assistance of station leaders from the International Dyslexia Association of Northern California, participants were placed into small groups, and each group rotated through a total of six stations. The stations mimicked two reading disabilities, two writing disabilities, and two listening disabilities.
• Part II: Educational Access Center (EAC) Presentation. Melissa Matthews, EAC Counselor, conducted a presentation that informed participants of various learning disabilities, universal design, the referral process, and the “Do’s and Don’ts” when working with students with learning differences.
• Part III: Case Studies & Application. The workshop concluded with an Application activity in which each group was given a case study of a college student with a type of (learning) disability and was tasked with finding potential solutions to address their case study.

In a post-workshop survey, participants shared how deeply informative and effective this experience was. Some notable comments shared by participants were: “How the simple things to me are some of the biggest challenges to others,” and “I found the simulations and debriefs very helpful since it allowed me to view different perspectives.” As far as addressing the goals of the workshop, one participant offered, “I will apply more empathy and understanding as I am aware that not everyone learns the same way.” Another added, “The simulations provided perspective on how difficult and draining work can be for students with disabilities.” Finally, when asked what was most helpful in the workshop, a participant replied, “Be kind and patient and connect them [students with learning disabilities] with as many resources as possible.” It is evident that for many of those who participated in this event, the workshop was engaging and useful in a way that will help them in their jobs and with the students they serve.

This workshop will be offered once again this year during our Spring Flex Day in April 2024. At that time, we hope to encourage and gather faculty, staff and administrators to join us in continuing to inform more of our Skyline College community about the challenges our students with learning disabilities face on a daily basis, as well as how best to assist them with their studies. If you are curious, please join us!

This special workshop would not have been possible without the President’s Innovation Fund and the amazing support of the following people:

• Chelssee De Barra – Acting Learning Commons Director and The Learning Center Manager
• Monique Ubungen – English Instructor & Instructional Aide II, The Learning Center
• Sherrie Wyatt – Instructional Aide II, Library
• Melissa Matthews & Jessica Truglio – Educational Access Center (EAC) Counselors

Article written by Whitney Liu | Photos by Whitney Liu and Monique Ubungen

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