A Problem to Solve: A Scarcity of PhD Students with Learning Disabilities in the Work Force

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PhDs with Learning Disabilities: Where Are They and How to Find Them.

By Sereen Suleiman

The term “disabled” is one that has been around for centuries and one that continues to be modified. At first, the term meant people who were on wheelchairs or canes. Now, according to the Association for Psychological Sciences (APS), the term includes people with mental illnesses, psychological impairments, medical conditions, and learning disabilities. Over the last decade, it appeared that the number of disabled students in academics increased in number. This group of students is commonly referred to as “LD students.” In fact, in 2006, the National Center for Learning Disabilities reported that almost 2.9 million children with learning disabilities are attending U.S. schools and receiving support, which is a significant amount of students. Additionally, the National Institute of Health (NIH) recently proposed that about 15-20% of the U.S. population has some type of learning disability. However, it seems that LD students obtain most of their support during their K-12 years in school rather than the time they would need it most, which is their college and postgraduate years. According to a National Longitudinal Transition Study posted by GradSchools.com, only 13% of students with learning disabilities attend a four-year college, and an even smaller percentage of those continue on to graduate school.

Low Self Esteem in Graduate LD Students

There could be a main reason why the percentage of graduate students with LDs is low: lack of confidence. As the APS states, the competitiveness of graduate school tends to make students with learning disabilities feel less confident in their abilities than do their non-LD counterparts. Often times, LD students are hesitant to share their disorders and struggles in a classroom setting. Furthermore, classrooms are not prepared with the necessary equipment or accommodations that LD students need, as reported by GradSchools.com. They would have to go to their campuses’ disability centers to get accommodations such as extra time for tests, recording pens, audio equipment, or requesting a note taker. Graduate programs, especially STEM related ones, require academic and time management skills that may be affected by learning disabilities. To earn a PhD, a student must devote himself or herself to years of intensive work and research projects, which often hinder students with an LD. LD graduate students don’t request for as many accommodations as they did in a four-year school because, according to the APS, “they can be seen as an admission of weakness, failure, or uncontrolled difficulty.”

Another reason is that these individuals tend to “think differently,” says LD scientist, Collin Diedrich, in a HuffPost blog. “Goal-orientation, perseverance and passion have consistently been shown as some of the most important attributes to success. In my biased opinion, individuals with LDs will have to have these personality traits, giving them a paradoxical ‘leg up’ in academia.” In other words, LD students need to be confident of themselves rather than doubting themselves. I know this because, like Collin, I am also a student with a learning disability and I’ve gone through periods of self-doubt. But you know what? If you have a passion, go for it, and don’t let your learning disability get in the way of that. After all, LD students are just like everyone else and pursuing a PhD in science is a challenge, but not impossible.

Disabled PhDs Struggle to Find Employment

Despite being incorporated in their respective graduate programs, wherever they may be, there doesn’t seem to be much advocacy for PhD students with disabilities. In other words, they are not well known by employers or even the public. Part of the reason is that graduate programs aren’t really making an effort to spread education and awareness about LD graduates. Adjustments, such as the possibility of flexible work hours and other accommodations, would be easier if both the academia and employers were more educated about LDs in the graduate student population. Fortunately, the APS says there are organizations available to offer helpful information on learning disabilities. These groups specialize in linking affiliates to promote a network of LD advocates through teachers, students, and professionals.

Organizations to Recruit with Disabilities

Every year at California State University, Northridge (CSUN), the Center of Disabilities hosts the CSUN Assistive Technology Conference. Through this conference, “researchers, practitioners, exhibitors, end users, speakers and other participants share [their] knowledge” with LD students. At the same time, the students are exposed “to cutting edge technology.” The CSUN Conference has one goal in mind: to remove the barriers that prevent LD students from participating in the work force. Currently, this conference is partnered with the Association for the Advancement of Assistive Technology in Europe Conference (AAATE) and the International Conference on Computers Helping People with Special Needs (ICCHP).

Another organization is the Job Accommodation Network, also known as JAN. JAN provides consulting services for individuals, including one-on-one consultation about job accommodations and rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Furthermore, they post descriptions of the most common disabilities such as Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), and even Alzheimer’s disease. Sources and guidelines are provided to both employees and employers alike.

TFS Scholarships Launches Online Toolkit to Provide College Funding Resources

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SALT LAKE CITY— TFS Scholarships (TFS), the most comprehensive online resource for higher education funding, has launched a free online toolkit to provide counselors, families and students with resources to help improve the college scholarship search process. The toolkit, available at tuitionfundingsources.com/resource-toolkit, provides downloadable resources and practical tips on how to find and apply for scholarships.

The launch comes in celebration with Financial Aid Awareness Month when many families are beginning the FAFSA process and researching financial aid options.

“We hope these resources help raise awareness around TFS and the 7 million college scholarships available to undergraduate, graduate and professional students,” said Richard Sorensen, president of TFS Scholarships. “Our goal is to help families discover alternative ways to offset the rising costs of higher education.”

The resource toolkit includes flyers, email templates, newsletter content, digital banners and table toppers which are designed to be shareable content that counselors, students and organizations can use to spread the word about how to find free money for college.

The newly revamped TFS website curates over 7 million scholarship opportunities from across the country – with the majority coming directly from colleges and universities—and matches them to students based on their personal profile, where they want to study, and stage of academic study. By tailoring the search criteria, TFS identifies scholarships that students are uniquely qualified for, thus lowering the application pool and increasing the chances of winning. By creating an online profile, students can find scholarships representing more than $41 billion in aid. About 5,000 new scholarships are added to the database every month and appear in real time.

Thanks to exclusive financial support from Wells Fargo, the TFS website is completely ad-free, and no selling of data, making it a safe and trusted place to search.

For more information about Tuition Funding Sources visit tuitionfundingsources.com.

 

About TFS Scholarships

TFS Scholarships (TFS) is an independent service that provides free access to scholarship opportunities for aspiring and current undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. Founded in 1987, TFS began as a passion project to help students and has grown into the most comprehensive online resource for higher education funding. Today, TFS is a trusted place where students and families enjoy free access to more than 7 million scholarships representing more than $41 billion in college funding. In addition to its vast database that’s refreshed with 5,000 new scholarships every month, TFS also offers information about career planning, financial aid, and federal and private student loan programs as part of its commitment to helping students fund their future. Learn more at tuitionfundingsources.com.

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Being bilingual may help autistic children

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Study suggests bilingualism may increase cognitive flexibility in kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)

Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) often have a hard time switching gears from one task to another. But being bilingual may actually make it a bit easier for them to do so, according to a new study which was recently published in Child Development.

“This is a novel and surprising finding,” says Prof. Aparna Nadig, the senior author of the paper, from the School of Communication Sciences and Disorders at McGill University. “Over the past 15 years there has been a significant debate in the field about whether there is a ‘bilingual advantage’ in terms of executive functions. Some researchers have argued convincingly that living as a bilingual person and having to switch languages unconsciously to respond to the linguistic context in which the communication is taking place increases cognitive flexibility. But no one has yet published research that clearly demonstrates that this advantage may also extend to children on the autism spectrum. And so it’s very exciting to find that it does.”

The researchers arrived at this conclusion after comparing how easily 40 children between the ages of six and nine, with or without ASD, who were either monolingual or bilingual, were able to shift tasks in a computer-generated test. There were ten children in each category.

Blue rabbits or red boats

The children were initially asked to sort a single object appearing on a computer screen by colour (i.e. sort blue rabbits and red boats as being either red or blue) and were then asked to switch and sort the same objects instead by their shape (i.e. sort blue rabbits and red boats by shape regardless of their color).

The researchers found that bilingual children with ASD performed significantly better when it came to the more complex part of the task-shifting test relative to children with ASD who were unilingual. It is a finding which has potentially far-reaching implications for the families of children with ASD.

“It is critical to have more sound evidence for families to use when making important educational and child-rearing decisions, since they are often advised that exposing a child with ASD to more than one language will just worsen their language difficulties,” says Ana Maria Gonzalez-Barrero, the paper’s first author, and a recent McGill PhD graduate. “But there are an increasing number of families with children with ASD for whom using two or more languages is a common and valued practice and, as we know, in bilingual societies such as ours in Montreal, speaking only one language can be a significant obstacle in adulthood for employment, educational, and community opportunities.”

Continue onto McGill University to read the complete article.

 

Deaf dancer feels the beat

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Antoine Hunter leads master class with lessons in movement, inclusion

BY Jill RadskenHarvard Staff Writer

Deaf dancer and choreographer Antoine Hunter carries with him a joy of movement and a mission of artistic leadership. Leading dozens of students in a master class at the Harvard Dance Center, Hunter said he believes “all people are born with an element of creativity.”

“Art is live, and it has the power to heal, to bring the community together, to educate,” he said.

The founding artistic director of the Urban Jazz Dance Company in San Francisco and producer of the Bay Area International Deaf Dance Festival, Hunter grew up in a tough Northern California neighborhood.

“Dance saved my life,” he said, recalling the isolation he experienced as a young person born deaf. “Oftentimes I felt people couldn’t understand me.”

His company incorporates many dance genres, including ballet, jazz, hip-hop, and African, as well as including sign language as part of an aesthetic that he describes as gritty and raw and “fresh with unexpected movement.”

“Our goal is to bring the community together and inspire people, regardless of age or hearing levels,” he said in an email. “Most importantly, we strive to teach, present and inspire that ‘Deaf can do anything’ in art forms.”

Continue onto the Harvard Gazette to read the complete article.

USBLN Rising Leadership & Disability Equality Index Registration is Now Open!

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The Rising Leaders Mentoring Program is a six-month career mentoring opportunity to at least 100 college students and recent graduates with disabilities through linkages to business professionals from USBLN partner companies.

The Rising Leaders Mentoring Program brings together employers and college students and recent graduates with disabilities, including veterans, in a mutually beneficial way. Mentees meet and interact with business professionals in their field of study or area of interest and whom they would not otherwise have access to.

Applications for 2018 Rising Leader Mentees and the 2018 Rising Leadership Academy are now open! If you are a college student or recent graduate with a disability that has questions about transitioning into employment in the business sector, we highly encourage you to apply for the Rising Leaders Mentoring Program. Our mentoring program is designed to support students and recent graduates as you navigate what is means to be successful and even unique questions that relate to being a person with a disability in the workforce. The RLMP also gives students and recent graduates a network of business partners to connect with! The USBLN especially encourages STEM majors, veterans, students of color, and LGBTQ+ students to apply.

Click here to view benefits and opportunities!

Click here to learn more about the initiative and to apply to this unique program!


The Disability Equality Index (DEI) is a unique, joint initiative of USBLN (US Business Leadership Network) and the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD). It serves as the nation’s most trusted annual benchmarking tool allowing America’s leading corporations to self-report their disability policies and practices.

The DEI is an aspirational, educational, recognition tool that is intended to help companies identify opportunities for continued improvement and help build a company’s reputation as an employer of choice.

Companies that take the DEI self–report on a wide variety of criteria within four categories: Culture & Leadership, Enterprise–Wide Access, Employment Practices, and Community Engagement & Support Services.

The registration for the 2018 DEI is now open– click here to apply.

Click here to view the DEI brochure