The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services Administration defines learning disabilities as a disorder in one or more of the central nervous system processes involved in perceiving, understanding, and/or using concepts through verbal (spoken or written) language or non-verbal means. This disorder manifests itself with a deficit in one or more of the following areas: attention, reasoning, processing, memory, communication, reading, writing, spelling, calculation, coordination, social competence, and emotional maturity. Learning disabilities in students aren’t just found in the primary grades of K through 12. We are now seeing more students with learning disabilities in higher education within our colleges and universities. There is no cure for learning disabilities. They are life-long. However, children and young adults with learning disabilities can be high achievers and can be taught ways to cope with the learning disability. With the right help, they can and do learn successfully.
In today’s society, what do our higher education institutions do to help college students with learning disabilities succeed? Today, I will be giving you all insight into a program geared toward the success of students with learning disabilities at Texas Tech University known as the TECHniques Center.
So, what is the TECHniques Center?
The TECHniques Center is a fee-for-service peer tutoring program of the Student Disability Services Department at Texas Tech University. This program was founded in 1999 by Dr. Michael Shonrock. At that time, colleges and universities were beginning to see the first waves of students with learning disability and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder diagnoses increasingly enroll in higher education. The TECHniques Center program was based on the Strategic Alternative Learning Techniques or SALT program at the University of Arizona. It began with 2 counselors, 20 tutors, and 24 students.
Today, 15 years later, the TECHniques Center has grown and has become a deciding factor as to which college or university to attend for prospective students with diagnosed learning disabilities. The TECHniques Center serves over 170 students with 7 full time counselors and approximately 90 peer tutors per semester. It is one of six similar programs in the United States and the only one of its kind in the state of Texas. The program is so successful that it has a waitlist every semester. And since 2011, the TECHniques Center has been an integral partner with Project CASE (Connections for Academic Successes and Employment), a grant project with the Burkhart Center for Autism Education and Research at Texas Tech University.
So, as a parent or student who has been diagnosed with a learning disability looking at college, what does the TECHniques Center at Texas Tech University offer?
The TECHniques Center provides supplemental academic support services to meet the needs of, and to promote the retention of, undergraduate students with documented evidence of learning disabilities and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorders. It also supports students in maintaining their focus, accomplishing their educational goals, and making education accessible to those who learn differently.
You are probably thinking, how can the TECHniques Center provide this kind of support?
The TECHniques Center counselors assist students in their academic success through individualized services and structures. They also provide supplemental academic and career advising, referrals to campus resources and services, and co-curricular involvement opportunities. This is done in weekly meetings between the counselor and the student.
The TECHniques Center also offers consistent one-on-one tutoring throughout the week. Peer tutors are undergraduate and graduate students who have a minimum of 40 credit hours and who hold a 3.0 GPA. The TECHniques Center is certified through the College Reading and Learning Association (CRLA) to train and certify their peer tutors. This CRLA certification ensures that the TECHniques Center tutors are not only knowledgeable in their subjects, but also trained in the areas such as learning disabilities and learning styles, which increases tutors’ effectiveness.
Looking at the information that I have provided to you, it is no wonder that the TECHniques Center at Texas Tech University creates a path to success for its students.
The TECHniques Center students are consistently successful. Students who remain with the center have an almost 99% retention rate in Texas Tech University. A parent of a past TECHniques Center student attests to this by stating, “What the TECHniques Center offered our daughter was a continuation of support for her learning needs and an important reinforcement that she was not “different” or in any way less capable than other students at Tech. I am personally amazed at the way the TECHniques Center made her feel valued, and almost the center of attention, among a student population of 30,000.”
In closing, the inspirational quote writer, William Arthur Ward, has captured the essence of the TECHniques Center in the following quote: “A true friend knows your weaknesses but shows you your strengths; feels your fears but fortifies your faith; sees your anxieties but frees your spirit; recognizes your disabilities but emphasizes your possibilities.” With the help and dedication of both the tutors and counselors of the TECHniques Center, students with learning disabilities are able and capable of accomplishing their educational goals and receiving a degree from an accredited 4 year university. You now can see why parents and students with learning disabilities seek out the program and it is one of the deciding factors for their registering with Texas Tech University.