CRESTVIEW HILLS, Ky. - Adjusting to college is hard for any first-year student.
But for the 10 to 15 percent of high school graduates who have documented learning differences, bridging the gap can be even tougher.
A new program at Thomas More College is providing academic, social and emotional support for students like Sydney Walsh, who was told she'd never go to college. “With my disability, people didn't think I’d make it to graduation from high school,” Walsh said.
Her short-term memory loss and reading disability made studying difficult. Then she found the Institute for Learning Differences (ILD) at Thomas More.
”Coming to college has been a big huge jump for me,” Walsh said. “With the ILD program, it's helped with getting more help and trusting people to help me.”
ILD is a comprehensive program for students with autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and many other learning differences. It's unlike any program in this area and one of only a few nationwide.
“We meet the student where they are and get them to where they need to be on this journey," said Amy Osborne, ILD director.
ILD students get a strategic learning specialist, tutoring, and any help they need with writing, technology, or just getting used to college life.
Osborne said that includes "organization, making it to class, how to break down assignments, navigating content, how to meet deadlines, how to show up to class with materials needed."
Adam Tobben, one of 12 students in the program, gives it high marks.
"It actually works,” said Toebben. “From the first day I came here, I knew it was gonna work, and I want anyone who feels like they can't do it because it's them - I want them to come here and try.”
Sean Greene agreed.
“During my first semester I was struggling so much,” said Greene, who has Asperger's syndrome. Last year, his father would make the trip from Mt. Orab to Crestview Hills twice a week to help Sean study. But then he found the ILD.
“I've been making very good progress here,” Greene said. “I’m able to write a a better paper than I was my first semester. I've been passing all my tests with C’s or higher.”
A grant helped set up ILD and students pay $7,500 on top of tuition for the additional services.
Students in this program are enjoying the same rate of success as their peers. But this isn't just about a GPA or a diploma.
“It just kinda feels like a community here,” said Toebben.
“There's a lot of growth that comes in this time period for students.” said Osborne. “To see them in a community where they flourish, where they find peers with similar struggles, challenges, successes - it's a huge reward for those of us who work in the program."
ILD already has 11 applications for next year so it's preparing to double enrollment.