UF to develop model program to support students with learning disabilities majoring in sciences, math

The University of Florida has received an $846,000 National Science Foundation grant to develop a model program to help students with learning disabilities achieve academic success in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, collectively referred to as STEM.

“Students with learning disabilities can have a more difficult time in STEM majors because of impairments such as math or reading disabilities,” said Consuelo Kreider, Ph.D., one of the grant’s co-principal investigators and a research assistant professor in the department of occupational therapy at the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions. “So you can imagine how difficult it would be to go into engineering if you have a math learning disability, for example. But we know it’s possible for students with learning disabilities to learn the material affected by their specific learning disability. In fact, the further these students get in school, the easier it becomes for them to master and excel in their fields.”

Learning disabilities include dyslexia (reading disability), dyscalculia (math disability) and dysgraphia (writing impairment). Conditions that can contribute to a person having a learning disability include auditory or visual processing disorders, attention deficit disorder and language processing disorders.

classroomFor UF’s new project, Comprehensive Support for STEM Students with Learning Disability, or CS3LD, researchers will create, implement and validate a model for improving the learning, participation and graduation of college students with learning disabilities in STEM majors.

 “Most interventions for students with learning disabilities occur only in the classroom, but our model is unique in that we address multiple levels — individual, interpersonal and institutional — to impact success for our students,” Kreider said.

If CS3LD is successful, the UF research team anticipates using the model to help students with other disabilities and disseminating the findings to other universities to achieve greater participation in STEM.

“One of the important strengths of CS3LD is the cross-campus collaboration, with faculty and graduate student involvement from several UF colleges and student support services,” said principal investigator William Mann, Ph.D., a distinguished professor and chair of the department of occupational therapy.

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