The University needs to make an extra effort to accommodate the needs of students with dyslexia, a Harvard Medical School fellow said yesterday in a speech at Winthrop House.
"Harvard should reach out to dyslexic students to let them know that it's okay and that the University wants to know they're there," said Dr. Jonathan Schwartz, Fellow in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital.
Speaking as a guest of the Harvard Dyslexia Awareness Group before an audience of 40, Schwartz focused on strategies for overcoming the academic and social problems associated with dyslexia.
Schwartz outlined several measures which Harvard could implement to increase support for dyslexic students. These included offering untimed or oral exams and training advisors to be familiar with dyslexia.
According to Nancy Blackmore, assistant to the Winthrop House senior tutor and founder of the Dyslexia Awareness Group, close to 15 percent of the population suffers from dyslexia, a learning disability that impedes reading and writing abilities.
Although the figure for the Harvard dyslexic population has not been calculated, Blackmore said there are many dyslexic students at Harvard who are afraid to admit their disability.
Roger Purdy, assistant coordinator of Programs for the Handicapped at Harvard, who was present at the talk, said the decentralization of support for learning disabilities is a weakness in the University's approach to the problem.
Recent steps to address the problem of dyslexia have included the creation in October of a Dyslexia Support Group to counsel dyslectics on such matters as study skills and time management. The Office of Programs for the Handicapped is also drawing up a pamphlet on learning disabilities which will be published by June.
While commending these developments, Blackmore said, "Faculty awareness about dyslexia is one of the main problems that still needs to be addressed."
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