All About LSS: A Growing Program Makes a Difference
As more students with disabilities enter the college ranks, Pacific's Learning Support Services (LSS) has expanded its services to meet the demand. "We provide services to students who have documented disabilities so that they can get as close to the same educational experience as their peers who don't have disabilities," said LSS Program Assistant Pete Erschen.
The program has grown considerably over the years. When the current director of LSS, Edna Doar Gehring '70, M.S.Ed. '72, took over in 1999 there were 24 clients. Now there are 64. One reason for this increase reveals the advancements made in education. "There are more and more students who have worked through K-12 education and so we're going to see more students with disabilities coming to school that are educated. People are learning to work with various students based on their disabilities," said Gehring.
With each client having unique and individual needs, there is always work to be done. Some of the learning disabilities that LSS accommodates include ADHD, dyslexia, and visual impairments. "There are all types of different disabilities that we're working on," said Gehring. Clients are about one half undergraduates and one half graduate students.
One of the most labor intensive and time sensitive jobs includes scanning textbooks and handouts for dyslexic and blind students. This process converts text into Word documents that are e-mailed to the students. "The assumption is that the (students) have a voice synthesizer program that will read the text to them," added Gehring. Last semester LSS scanned over 8,000 pages of text for their clients. "We have to try to make sure the students have the material at least a week before it's due so that they can read it at the same time their classmates are reading it and are able to talk about it in class at the same time," said Erschen.
Workstudy students also play a key role in accomplishing LSS's mission. "They do the scanning for us, the filing, and answering phones," said Gehring. With about 20 workstudy students it is truly a team effort.
Another vital step towards helping students is to inform professors. "For each one of our clients, we send a letter to all of his professors at the beginning of the semester explaining what his disability is and what accommodations he receives," said Erschen. Over 300 letters were sent in the fall and this spring.
While LSS has grown, it continues to be a hands on program with individual meetings and the ability to go the extra mile. "We are more high touch as is typical of everything at Pacific," said Erschen. "We will go that extra step." That personal attention is making a growing program reach out to many more students. "We're all about serving the students and making it an equal and level playing field for students with disabilities," said Gehring.