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  March 4, 2002

Learning Disabilities Handbook Revised
Changes Reflect New Era for Disabled Students

Imagine being asked to rewrite the Bible. Though it is not how Joan McGuire or Stan Shaw would ever describe their textbook, many of their colleagues do.

Shaw and McGuire, professors of educational psychology, and Loring Brinckerhoff, a disability accommodations specialist who previously worked at UConn, have written a new version of their 1993 best seller. The title, Postsecondary Education and Transition for Students with Learning Disabilities, is just one of the many changes in the new edition. The whole textbook has been reworked or rewritten, new chapters have been added and, for the first time, a CD-ROM appendix has been included.

"The field has undergone tremendous change in just a few short years, so we felt our book needed to be overhauled to reflect those changes, particularly in policy and procedures," says Shaw who has been a special education expert at UConn for more than 30 years.

Among those advancements are the identification and assessment of learning disabled students, accommodations (such as a note taker) for these students, and the use of technological aids. The CD-ROM supplies examples of policies, program record keeping and data collection forms that can be downloaded, and links to website resources.

Blueprint for Programs
McGuire, who has been involved in the field of postsecondary learning disabilities since 1977, says the book was prepared with a number of consumers in mind: "It serves as a guidebook for parents, high school guidance counselors, and special education personnel who work with college-bound students with learning disabilities and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). It's a blueprint for institutions establishing or assessing their learning disabilities services and programs, and it is a handbook for practitioners."

Shaw and McGuire describe postsecondary learning disabilities as an "adolescent field" that got its start when a 1973 federal law required schools to make reasonable academic adjustments for students with learning disabilities. But it wasn't until the early 1990s that large numbers of high school students who had benefited from learning disabilities programs throughout their early education began looking at college as a real and viable possibility.

Change has come gradually, but more than 1,200 colleges and universities are now offering support services for the learning disabled - services the UConn pair, to some degree, have had a hand in developing.

"We've become the core of a national and international network of postsecondary services," Shaw says. That becomes clear when you take into account the reach of their research, publications and books. They are editors of the Journal of Postsecondary Education, and for 14 years have organized and sponsored an annual professional training institute that draws 300 postsecondary disability personnel from all over North America. "Even through our doctoral students," says McGuire, "we have articulated program standards and professional standards for the entire field."

And then there is the University Program for College Students with Learning Disabilities, which has become a national model. Shaw established the program in 1984 and ran it for two years, before hiring McGuire as director. She served in that capacity for 15 years before handing over the reins to Joseph Madaus, a professor-in-residence in the educational psychology department.

Shaw and McGuire have worked together for 16 years on proj-ects that have brought them national prominence and about $2.5 million in grants. The University recognized their accomplishments last year by granting the pair's request to establish the Center on Postsecondary Education and Disability, a new national and international resource center. The Center, located at William Hall building, is housed along with the University Program for College Students with Learning Disabilities, which serves UConn students.

UConn has one of the most professionally developed sets of policies and procedures around, according to Shaw. As an indication of the success of students who receive learning disabilities services, he points to the 88 percent graduation rate for UConn

students with learning disabilities - a good deal higher than the overall University rate of 68 percent.

Opening Doors
"Doors are open to learning disabilities students and they are better prepared for transition from high school into college," McGuire says. "Postsecondary institutions are getting their act together on policy and procedure. The pieces are in place so these students can have a successful college experience."

One of those pieces is the learning disabilities "bible" explains Linda Nissenbaum, the coordinator of disability services at St. Louis Community College at Meramec, Mo. "In the '90s, so many providers found themselves in jobs with little or no guidance available, until Stan and Joan's first textbook was published. Now with this latest edition, service providers can use this new information to refine their programs, based on current research and the implications of court decisions surrounding the ever-changing field of disabilities in higher education."

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