Learning Disabilities Program

Welcome to the Learning Disabilities Program, a dedicated academic support initiative.

Established in 1979, the Learning Disabilities Program at Westfield State University creates a nurturing academic environment for students with learning differences, specifically those with learning disorders or ADHD. We take pride in our unique approach, assigning each student to a professional Program Advisor. This advisor becomes a constant guide, working with the students throughout their entire undergraduate journey. Our goal is to empower students to master their individual learning strengths and evolve into fully independent learners. Our program services come at no additional financial cost. Admission into the Learning Disabilities Program is competitive, and decisions are made on an individual basis after a thorough review of all application materials.

Connect with your advisor and explore how they can support you on your academic journey.

LDP students receive personalized guidance from orientation through graduation with a dedicated advisor. They'll help you navigate next steps and access various services. Here are some highlighted offerings:

  • Professional assistance with academic strategies, time management, and self-advocacy.
  • Academic advisement.
  • Monitoring of academic progress.
  • Early course registration for first-year and sophomore students.

Discovering your fit—What we look for

We seek incoming first-time, first-year students with a primary or secondary diagnosis of a learning disorder and/or ADHD. Candidates showcase potential in college-level academics but also carry a diagnosis of a learning disorder and/or ADHD. To better understand our criteria and how we define learning disorders, please refer to 'Defining Learning Disorders' below.

Throughout our comprehensive evaluation process, we focus on three fundamental elements:

  1. College Readiness: Assessing your preparedness for college-level academics.
  2. Program Compatibility: Ensuring that you align with the support our program offers.
  3. Diagnosis Confirmation: Verifying your diagnosis of a learning disorder and/or ADHD.

We examine your academic record, course choices, recommendations, and adherence to academic unit requirements.

Should you meet our criteria, we will invite you to an interview. During the interview you will discuss your college readiness and submit a short essay. This step is pivotal for us to determine the compatibility of our program with your unique needs.

To apply, express your interest in the Learning Disabilities Program on the Westfield State University application and submit the required documents outlined below.

Priority Deadline

  • Priority deadline for applications to the Learning Disabilities Program is February 1.
  • Candidates are accepted for fall admission only.

Applying to the Learning Disabilities Program—Next Steps

1. Express Interest:

  • Check the appropriate box for the Learning Disabilities Program on your University application.

2. Submit to the Office of Admissions:

  • Completed University application.
  • Official high school transcript.
  • Reflective personal statement (for preferential review).
  • Academic recommendations from two subject area teachers (for preferential review).
  • Recent psychoeducational assessment (preferably within the last three years), including:
    • WAIS-III or WAIS-IV or comparable.
    • Achievement tests (like Woodcock-Johnson).
    • Your most recent IEP.  If your diagnosis is found only in the IEP, you must submit that. Otherwise, we strongly encourage you to submit your most recent IEP or 504 plan.

Clear Diagnosis Criteria:

This assessment, along with its subtests, must include a clear diagnosis – including secondary diagnoses – of a learning disorder or ADHD. These learning disorders may include reading, math, written expression, and central auditory processing disorders. Please note that Autism, by itself, is not considered a learning disorder. 

Preferential Review Criteria:

Applicants who submit a reflective personal statement and academic recommendations from two subject area teachers will receive preferential review. Academic record, strength of schedule, recommendations and academic unit requirements are also considered for admission of students to the Learning Disabilities Program.

All materials must be sent directly to the Office of AdmissionsPlease note that you might need to send some material by email, fax or US mail.

Need help with your admission application or have questions on applying?

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Contact Us

Undergraduate Admissions
Horace Mann Center
333 Western Avenue, Westfield, MA 01086

Start Your Application

There are two ways to apply.

Additional Admission Information

Alternate Consideration:

  • In the event of non-acceptance into the Learning Disabilities Program, your application will automatically undergo a review for general admission.

Language Requirement Substitute:

  • The Massachusetts Board of Higher Education permits students with a specific diagnosis of a learning disorder affecting foreign language learning to substitute two college preparatory units in humanities or social sciences for the foreign language requirement.

Please see the Undergraduate Admissions Standards for the Massachusetts State University System and the University of Massachusetts, Reference Guide, 2019, p.8. Available through the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, Admissions Standards web page.  

State our definition of learning disorders.

As we observe a growing number of students being categorized with neurological and communication disabilities for IEP eligibility, surpassing traditional LD diagnoses or ADHD, we find it imperative to refine our definition of learning disorders. In alignment with this evolving landscape, we adhere to the DSM V* definition of learning disorders, with strict adherence to all criteria. 

If the disorder meets all of the criteria below as reported by an appropriate diagnostician, we will consider the student as having a learning disorder.

*Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Fifth Edition. American Psychiatric Association. Washington D.C.: American Psychiatric Publishing, 2013. pp. 66-67.

Difficulties in Academic Skills

Presence of at least one of the following symptoms persisting for a minimum of 6 months, despite interventions:

  • Inaccurate or slow and effortful word reading.
  • Difficulty understanding the meaning of what is read.
  • Difficulties with spelling.
  • Difficulties with written expression.
  • Difficulties mastering number sense, number facts, or calculation.
  • Difficulties with mathematical reasoning.
Substantial Discrepancy

The affected academic skills are substantially and quantifiably below expectations for the individual’s chronological age. This must cause significant interference with academic performance or daily activities, confirmed by standardized achievement measures and comprehensive clinical assessment.

Onset and Manifestation

Learning difficulties commence during school-age years but may not fully manifest until academic demands exceed the individual’s capacities (e.g., timed tests, extensive reports with tight deadlines, or excessively heavy academic loads).

Exclusion Criteria

Learning difficulties are not better explained by intellectual disabilities, uncorrected visual or auditory acuity, other mental or neurological disorders, psychosocial adversity, lack of proficiency in the language of academic instruction, or inadequate educational instruction.

Expand Your Knowledge

Support doesn't end here. Explore additional resources tailored to your success.

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Contact Us

Banacos Academic Center
Learning Disabilities Program
Parenzo Hall - Banacos Academic Center