Students with learning disabilities advise getting help with challenges



Classrooms can seem perilous to students with learning disabilities. But increasing numbers of people with learning disabilities are enrolling in two- and four-year colleges and universities.

Nationally, 3.3 percent of all students who head off to college each year report having a learning disability, usually attention deficit, dyslexia or some kind of a processing disorder.

For Nadine Williams, a Detroit Mercy student, the struggle became obvious in third grade when she was expected to make the transition from learning to read to reading to learn. 

Williams benefited from extra attention and assistance through grade school.

 “There are a lot of people who are not diagnosed at that age, and don’t find out until college,” she said. “Often times those people have compensated like heck to do well in school or worked ten times as hard. Working ten times as hard is not possible in college. So it’s harder to do those compensatory methods.”

Growing up with dyslexia and dysgraphia made reading, writing and public speaking extremely difficult for Wayne State University graduate Tavira Hardge. 

“I would have to stop and think about what I was saying so that my words would not come out backwards,” she said. “I didn’t always know that I was dyslexic or dysgraphic.”

 Hardge started having problems in elementary school. 

“We were each given one book, and the idea was to go on to the next book,” she said. “But the problem was that I never went on to the next book. At least not for weeks.” 

Hardge spoke about the first time she ever felt humiliated by her condition. 

In tears she described a conversation between a teacher and her mom, wherein the teacher told her mother not to pressure her with high expectations because she would be limited in what she would be able to accomplish, and that she would not be able to go to college. 

“I remember telling myself that nobody can know about this,” she said. 

From then on, Hardge refused to read and participate in group settings for fear that her imperfections would be noticed by others. 

Hardge recalled reluctantly coming out to her good friend Allen in third grade after he noticed that she was no longer participating in group projects. 

She shared with him what their teacher told her mother. 

Laughing, Hardge said, “Allen told me that she was not the president and that she didn’t know anything. From then on Allen helped me with all group projects.” 

With the assistance of good friends, as well as specialists and understanding teachers, Hardge graduated from college. 

What advice would she give to students struggling with learning disabilities?

“Communicate with your instructors,” she said. “Don’t hide your problems from them. Don’t be ashamed of your learning disability. It makes you who you are. … Don’t judge or compare yourself to others. Take criticism and use it to become the best version of yourself.”

Detroit Mercy has a host of services to help level the playing field for students with documented disabilities. 

For those struggling without a documented disability, the university has a clinic with psychiatrist to provide evaluations and documentation necessary to lend support to all of students in need. 

To access the services, contact the Student Success Center in room 319, one the third floor of McNichols Library.

Students may also email director Susan Trudeau at