Transformations Magazine January 2014 - page 14

When one hears
about the educational
experience from
the perspective of
students with learning
disabilities, one’s view
of classroom design may
be significantly changed.
In this article you will
meet three students
who have agreed to
share their experiences
as college students who
have learning disabilities:
Trevor Swearingen,
Brandon Shell, and Jody
Trevor Swearingen is
an eighteen-year-old
freshman majoring in
Communication Studies.
In addition, to ADHD,
Trevor has a nonverbal
learning disability which
affects the speed at which
he is able to process
information. He was
diagnosed in the fourth
grade when his grades
began to decline. Trevor
said that he experienced
difficulty concentrating
and could not sit still
for more than a
few minutes at
a time. Trevor
credits his
mother with
helping him
achieve a good
attitude toward
his disabilities.
He says, “I am
no different than
other students.
It just takes
me longer.”
His mother
told him, “You have a
learning difference, not a
disability.” Fortunately
for Trevor, a move to
a different elementary
school in the fifth grade
made an incredible
difference for him. His
teacher understood his
struggles and was able to
see the “good kid” in him,
rather than labeling him
as a “problem child.” At
the end of that year he
was awarded the Student
of the Week award—an
award that had a positive
effect on his self-esteem.
Although medication has
helped him focus more
efficiently, Trevor must
still study differently
than most students. He
uses several approaches
to study and prepare
for his classes. Trevor
often reads aloud so
that he can articulate
the sounds and “hear
them in his head.” He
says that reading an
assignment as though
he is a news reporter
helps him to create a
visual image in his mind.
His roommates did not
initially understand that
reading out loud was
necessary for Trevor
to comprehend the
material, prompting
some interesting
questions from them
about his approaches to
studying. Trevor must
also spend more time
studying than the average
student. Guidelines
for effective studying
typically recommend that
students study two hours
outside of class for every
hour they are in class.
For Trevor, this is not
enough time to absorb
and understand the
material. He admits that
math is a challenging
subject for him and that
he must spend about four
hours studying for every
hour in class. Writing
can also be challenging
because of the lag
in processing time.
Sometimes he will do his
most difficult homework
first; other times, he may
study the most recent
material if he is afraid
that as time passes he
will be more prone to
forget. He admits that
simply locating items
in his notes can be a
difficult and frustrating
“I am no
different than
other students.
It just takes me
Brandon Shell is
majoring in mechanical
engineering on New
13 /
A Student Perspective
Trevor Swearingen
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