Two Support Programs On Campus Help Students With Disablities Succeed

There is a misconception that students with learning disabilities (LD) and ADHD cannot succeed college. Another idea people have is that LDs and ADHD are correlated with a low intelligence which is not true. With the right support and the right resources these  students can excel and succeed in college. The Learning Effectiveness Program (LEP) and Disabilities Support Program (DSP) at the University of Denver are two programs that empower students with learning disabilities to reach their full potential.

The LEP and DSP are located on the fourth floor of Ruffatto Hall

The LEP and DSP are located on the fourth floor of Ruffatto Hall.


Both offices are located on the fourth floor of Ruffatto Hall. The DSP provides accommodations to any student with any type of documented disability. For example, students who are physical disabled, deaf or blind receive accommodations from DSP.  Currently there are close to 800 students registered with DSP. DSP helps students with learning disabilities receive accommodations such as note takers and extended time on exams. All students that are granted these accommodations legally receive them from the DSP due to the ADA that was signed into law in 1990. LEP is a fee based program that gives academic support to DU students with LD and/or ADHD, currently 210 students are enrolled.

In 2000, 9% of college students reported having a disability, it grew to 11% in 2008 and the number of students who disclose having a learning disability is growing at a faster rate according to a report by the Government Accountability Office  in 2009.  According to US Department of Education,in 2008 88% of two and four year colleges in the United States enroll students with disabilities, yet only a quarter of them said they have special support in place to significantly help these students while in school.  DU is a pioneer in offering academic support to students with learning disabilities and ADHD, LEP has been part of DU for over 25 years.


Many people think that ADHD is considered a LD, it is a specific disorder that affects millions with difficulty sustaining attention, organization, time management and impulsive behavior.  Learning disabilities are a group of varying disorders that have a negative impact on learning. They may affect one’s ability to speak, listen, process information quickly, read, write, spell or compute. The most prevalent LD is in the area of reading, known as dyslexia.


Learning disabilities and ADHD are life long and cannot be cured; however, the effects of an LD and ADHD may be mitigated to support learning, living and working, particularly when identified early and dealt with effectively.  Students with learning disabilities have average or higher IQ’s, there is however, a discrepancy in their performance due to how they learn. Academic support and accommodations help them to maximize their academic performance.

Liz Yount is the Tutor Coordinator for the LEP and former LEP student. Liz recruits, trains and oversees LEP tutors.  Yount stressed that student have strengths that they have yet to tap into. “The biggest problem is trusting their own strengths.” Yount said. “I believe LEP students work twice as hard as everybody else.”

One reason that students with LDs have a hard time in college is the transition from high school or living at home to the college life experience.  Once students live on campus their school work becomes their responsibility without parents and teachers watching over them.  Jo Roth, Organization Specialist for the LEP, tries to help students with this difficult transition. “Many have had a very structured life and they come out of that structured life and all the structure is gone and all the structure is internalized so I tend to do a lot of that.”

Staff like Jo Roth not only help students get organized but help students find their strengths. The staff all works towards the common goal to help LEP students.  With the help of LEP tutors and LEP advising staff, students find their own individual strengths.  “Once the students figure out what their strengths are, that’s when they become successful,”  Yount said.

The LEP provides many tools for their students to use such as tutors and weekly meetings with academic counselors. Students use these tools to become more successful students.  The LEP’s staff is highly praised in many regards among students and co-workers alike. “The staff is the strongest tool,” Yount said. “They are the best resource; they are versatile and adaptable and help in a number of ways and are the number one resource the LEP has to offer.”

Tutors areone of the many tools that the LEP offers students

Tutors are one of the many resources LEP offers students.

Moving forward the LEP is trying to help students connect with one another by holding social study nights. Three times a quarter, the LEP host open events that students are welcome to join. These offer students a chance to build community as they bond due to their similar experiences. “LEP is very unique; we have all these students that are very diverse,” Yount said. “But we have this central understanding of each other based on the struggles we’ve all gone through.”

Director of LEP, Jimmie Smith provides Universal Design for Learning (UDL) trainings to DU professors to educate them about teaching to diverse learners in the same classroom. This builds awareness about learning differences to the greater University. “The bottom line of UDL is to provide equal access to learning for all students.”  Smith said. Smith and her staff are always willing to serve as a resource to the University community.

Lastly, both DSP and LEP display the idea of DU’s exclusive excellence. These students are in regular classes, learn differently and think differently but are accepted at the University with open arms. This shows how dedicated DU is to accepting students from all walks of life to the university and giving them the tools they need to succeed.  Hector Simoudis, LEP student, sums it up “I love the LEP and it’s one place I am honestly going to miss after I graduate this year”

Leave a Reply