ZU Hosts 2nd Learning Difficulties Awareness Campaign

22 Mar 2019

Did you know that Steven Spielberg, Jennifer Aniston, and Thomas Edison were born with Dyslexia? Albert Einstein and Cher suffered Dyscalculia.  They among many other names ached a form of neurologically-based processing problems.

Enlightening the students about learning difficulties, Zayed University Department of Student Accessibility Services (SAS) has recently organized an awareness campaign urging them to self-check different sorts of the disorder that may affect their full learning potential.

With numbers on the rise, Fatma Al Qassimi, Director, Student Accessibility Services Department, said that many students in ZU suffer a form or more of learning difficulties, “Compared to 90 students last year, today we have over 105 students that experience Learning difficulty disorders such as ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dyspraxia, Dysgraphia, and memory issues."

Through the ‘Great Minds Think Differently’ campaign, SAS aims to instruct other students about the symptoms by examining simulation activities and challenge stations.

Al Qassimi has also indicated that such ongoing campaigns, educate faculty members as well, about this rising problem. "Faculty need to explore means to approach those students during teaching sessions and examinations, They need to be open-minded and aware.  For example, if it was a math class, why can’t a Dyspraxia student, who faces difficulties writing, orally answer the examination separately. These small factors matter, and has a huge impact on their lives,” she said.

Furthermore, the university has reached out to various companies to educate them about learning difficulty graduates. "We assign a specialist from SAS to shadow the newly enrolled graduate, with the difficulties, throughout the initial phase at the workplace. We also offer training to the employers who are willing to enroll those graduates,” SAS Director said.

“Regardless of your difficulties, you still matter to the society and one day you can become great,” said Marjorie Daniel, Learning Disabilities Specialist at ZU. “Look at Alexander McQueen for example, the super talented designer, he suffered ADHD; a disorder that makes it difficult for a person to pay attention and control impulsive behaviors. He used to remember things at school by drawing a dress which he assigned to many different topics. So that worked for him!”

It is crucial to note that every Zayed University student has earned their diplomas’ through hard work and sleepless nights, and nothing was driven by empathy. "We cannot alternate their curriculum, and the change comes in place with how the input (lesson) is taught or the way the output (finish product) is received."

There is also another challenge in the way the department handles the student learning difficulties, “We cannot simply unify a mechanism to deal with those who suffer Dyscalculia, because each person is a unique case. Moreover, that originates from the severity of each complex which amplifies from the unpredictable previous learning environments back at school,” she said. “Some schools are paying attention to those students, with difficulties, while others are lenient and forgiving, neglecting the fact that one day these students struggle to an apprehensive university educational reality. This is a problem that must be addressed at an early stage, at school,” she said.

Discovering the difficulties, many students may approach SAS and run several tests and examinations. Mohja Ibrahim, an Accessibility Specialist from ZU, said that the university had appropriated various technological adaptations that highly benefited those students and raised their level of engagement and self-esteem. "We apply many e-Charts that were tested and deployed by CALL Scotland; from the University of Edinburgh, these charts are effective to list down all learning difficulty types and the suitable android driven or iOS Apps, that solve the dilemma. Those faced with writing difficulties can check the e-Chart, which breaks down the difficulty categories into subdivisions, i.e. Word Processing, Audio Notes, Note Taking, Sentence Structure or Writing Support. Then other sectors appear with the recommended apps,” Ibrahim said.

The Learning Difficulties Campaign saw several workshops that explained different types of learning difficulty syndromes and various approaches used to overcome such obstacles. The event welcomed hundreds of students and ZU community members across both campuses in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. 

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