Imagine being lost in classes with the inability to process the information being taught. Students with learning disabilities on campus feel this way and it’s an everyday struggle.
The campus has a department to help students with these issues. Pupils can see a disabilities counselor on the second floor of the San Rafael building for help. Those who want to participate need to have verification of a diagnosis from a doctor.
The other option is to complete a learning assessment or bring paperwork from a high school stating a disability, then filling out an application to enroll in the program.
Once these requirements are fulfilled, students should set up an appointment to see a disability counselor.
The office provides students with notetaking services, learning assessment referrals, interpreters and test accommodations. They also provide trams for people who have a hard time getting around campus.
Valerie Rhaney, a Center for Students with Disabilities (CDS)counselor, has worked for the department for 27 years and cares about her pupils.
“Some students have emotional problems and we refer them to the health center to get counseling,” said Rhaney. “We sometimes refer them to other mental health services and talk with their doctor. We also check in with them three to four times during the semester. I advocate on behalf of students.”
According to Rhaney, students go undiagnosed because they don’t want to be labeled because there is a stigma surrounding the word “disabled.”
Kieran O’Neill, majoring in psychology, has faced learning challenges.
“A couple of years ago at high school, I started noticing issues so I told my mom about my problem,” said O’Neill. “I was then diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It felt scary and I found out there where a lot of people like me.”
According to O’Neill, Center for Students with Disabilities accommodates most of her needs.
They coordinate her tutoring and test issues and have even helped with priority registration.
“I feel more concentration,” said O’Neill.
The Instructional Assistance Center (IAC) located on the first floor of San Gabriel also helps students with learning difficulties.
The IAC provides tutoring in English and math and testing rooms where students can take exams.
Learning Specialist Ellen Oppenberg, who has worked for the Instructional Assistance Center for 25 years, knows the struggles of students and helps them with class problems and other things.
“I don’t see them (students) with a disability,” Oppenberg said. “I listen and understand them. I do learning testing and I am a liaison with students and faculty.”
According to Oppenberg, there is a group of students who are in special education from kindergarten to the 12th grade. They no longer want to be part of the program and get help. Later on, they go on academic probation and then find out they need help.
Student Services Technician Ann Cassidy likes helping those who stop by the IAC.
“It’s very satisfying,” Cassidy said. “I’m making a difference and I really like the students. We listen, understand and work to solve problems.”
Another student named Tatiana Calle is a clinical psychology major who found out she has a learning disability and is grateful for the help.
“It felt like a relief to figure out what was going on,” Calle said. “The IAC helps me get homework done and problems corrected.”
The High Tech Center is another location on campus at San Gabriel where students can do their essays and online homework. It provides computers and test proctoring.
Senior Instructional Computer Lab Technician Rozik Avanesian helps students with computer issues, registration and computer class.
“We proctor exams and administer placement tests for disabled students,” Avanesian said.
Kathyrn Camp is a specialist for the High Tech Center who helps students with computer needs. “I teach adapted computer classes, do student evaluations for accommodations and proctoring,” said Camp. “I do accommodations for special programs for computers such as Jaws for blind students, Dragon speech to text software and other modifications.”
Students with learning disabilities can make an appointment with a CDS counselor by calling (818) 240-100, ext. 5905.
They can also visit the office, located in SR 208, open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday; 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday; and 8 a.m. to noon Friday.