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Why Transitioning to Online Classes Has Been Hard as a Student With Learning Disabilities

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To my teachers and professors,

I know this time and the transition to online learning is chaotic and stressful for everyone. I could never imagine having such short notice to move classes online and ensure that objectives can be met.

Recently I have heard from many of you about plans, course structure, due dates, access to technology and even just to check-in on a general basis. It makes me feel good knowing you all have the needs of your students in mind during this chaotic time. Although a good amount of my concerns about online learning have been addressed, one big concern still remains. I am concerned about whether I will be able to fully access my classes.

For many students, online classes are a big shift, but manageable once they acclimate. For someone with learning disabilities, slow processing speed and related challenges, online classes pose numerous accessibility challenges beyond acclimation. Although some of my needs can be met remotely, I would like you to consider how other important needs I have cannot be met remotely.

Slow processing makes it difficult to work at a decent pace. Extensions help, but when access to support is delayed and/or reduced, I will be in the same place. Executive functioning challenges make it hard to organize my time, plan my day and transition to new tasks. I even have difficulty prioritizing my work, especially when everything for all my classes is due in the same three-day timespan. Working memory challenges make it hard for me to organize my thoughts and express them in my writing, both academic and non-academic. Dyscalculia makes it extremely challenging to learn and write about math concepts on my own. Low self-esteem and anxiety make it hard to stay focused, to feel confident in my work, and to sleep after working all day.

At home, I do not have access to a reduced distraction environment to complete my work. I don’t get to benefit from your detailed explanations, the ability to ask questions without a significant delay, and supplemental instruction. I don’t have access to the same quality tutoring services I need to complete my papers or complete my math homework on time. When I do, the time may not go as far as it normally would. I spend a lot more time on one assignment than I would under normal conditions. Now that I’m remote, I’m staying up until 3 a.m. and will be pulling all-nighters by finals week at this rate. In other words, I am operating on a finals week schedule.

As the rest of the year goes on, please consider my needs and the needs of other students with learning disabilities in the class. I assure you that I am trying my hardest and putting my best effort into my studies. The little things make a huge difference and are what allow myself and others to access success.

For more on the coronavirus, check out the following stories from our community:

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Originally published: April 2, 2020
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