David McKinney/University Relations

Andrew Shoemaker, associate director of Disability Resources, works to help students learning disorders and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder succeed in college.

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Breaking down barriers of learning disorders

Name and job title: Andrew Shoemaker, associate director, Disability Resources

Years at current job: Eight years as of April 2.

Job duties: I supervise three disability specialists and also coordinate services for students with learning disabilities and attention deficit hyperactive disorder.

Would you say there is a stigma associated with learning disabilities and, if so, how can that be overcome in a higher education setting? To a certain degree, I still think there is. In fact, when passing the ADA in 1990 and the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, Congress made clear that people with all types of disabilities faced unnecessary discrimination and prejudice that limited their ability to have equal access in all facets of American society. I think we have made great strides though. On an individual level, I work with some students that are really resistant to using accommodations because they donít want to be seen as ďdifferentĒ or they have been labeled for years by the school system and they donít want the label any longer. But, Iíve also worked with students that were relieved to learn what was impacting their academic performance and eager to learn more about the disability so they can modify study strategies, work on time management skills or implement academic accommodations.

What are some of the most effective methods of helping students with learning disorders and attention deficit hyperactive disorder achieve in college? I think itís vital for the student with learning disorders or attention deficit hyperactive disorder to develop a solid understanding of his or her disability and be able to describe it in common terms that explain the functional limitation and how the recommended accommodations provide equal access. These students also need to have strong self-advocacy skills. These are life-long conditions that just donít go away upon graduation. Additionally, motivation for academic success is essential. Accommodations only provide a level playing field. One must still put in the time to be successful.

Do you have any favorite examples of students you have helped to overcome their respective challenges to go on to success? I got an email last year from a former student who has now started his own social media marketing company. He was talking to his neighbors who were worried if their daughter that had just been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactive disorder would be able to attend college someday. He explained that he also had attention deficit hyperactive disorder and told them about the different types of accommodations and support he utilized while at KU and told them that the support provided by Disability Resources helped him obtain his goal of a college degree.

Campus closeup
Andrew Shoemaker, associate director, Disability Resources
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