Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

April 30, 2004

U of G program prepares students with learning disabilities for university

The University of Guelph is helping to give students with learning disabilities the information and confidence they need to succeed at university through a week-long Pre-Flight summer preparation program.

“We try to mimic a week at university by creating a similar academic and social atmosphere,” said Lynda Slater, education specialist in U of G’s Centre for Students With Disabilities.

From July 2 to 9, Pre-Flight participants will complete written and oral assignments and tests while having the distractions of living in residence, meeting new people and trying to squeeze in social activities. Any Ontario high school student with a learning disability who plans to attend university somewhere in the province this September is invited to apply by May 21.

“We help students understand that ‘learning disability’ doesn’t mean ‘inability,’” said Slater. “Learning disabilities are information processing deficits in students with average to above average intelligence. These disabilities often make learning in conventional ways a challenge for students.” The program helps students understand the nature of their learning disability, investigate the strategies they currently use to cope and begin to predict what new learning strategies they may need to employ at the university level.

Through group and one-on-one workshops, Pre-Flight students become aware of their own learning style and of resources that will be of use to them. They also have the opportunity to experiment with how adaptive technologies can help them with their course work before they’re faced with real assignments.

First-year sociology student Paul Marley, who took part in last summer’s inaugural Pre-Flight, learned how to use a program called Inspiration that creates a visual spider web of how his essay ideas are interconnected. “When I try to do everything in my head, my ideas get mixed up and I lose the important points I want to put in an essay,” he said.

One of the first exercises the participants must complete is to describe their own learning disability on paper and present it orally to a peer and a professor. That exercise was invaluable to Stephen Sweet, who also took part in last summer’s Pre-Flight program. “Learning I could advocate for myself to my professors gave me the confidence to ask for what I’m entitled to,” he said.

Slater said that watching Marley, Sweet and the other participants come out of their shells throughout the week and leave knowing that they aren’t alone in their learning challenges is one of the greatest rewards of the program. “It’s rare to get a group of people together who have had these similar challenges, and I think that’s one of the things that really brought them together,” said Slater.

Added Sweet: “Right away, I felt a great sense of community. I’ve never seen a group so open and accepting in my life. The experience gave me a better understanding of who I am, not just with my learning disability, but with what I was looking to get out of university and out of my future.”

Funding provided by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities’ Learning Opportunities Task Force allows U of G to offer the program free of charge for 20 successful applicants. Applications and more information about the Pre-Flight summer program are available online at

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt (519) 824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rachelle Cooper, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982.

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