Inclusion has always been a central theme in the Notre Dame University-Louaize (NDU) mission to provide exceptional education to all our students regardless of gender, ethnicity, or disability. The initiative of “Inclusion” dates back to 1998 with the support of Dr. Simon Abou Jaoude, Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Humanities (FH) and Dean of Students at the time, and NDU put its full support behind the initiative. The University was the first to open its doors for students with difficulties, with the Student Affairs Office (SAO) and every subsequent Dean of Students providing the necessary support for each one. In 2019, NDU formalized the process as part of that year’s Holistic Presidency Initiative on Inclusion and the creation of the SKILD-led Learning Accommodation Service (LAS) as an integral part of the Student Affairs Office (SAO).
Since its creation, the LAS has received many students with a diverse array of special educational needs ranging. Cases range from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), learning difficulties like dyslexia or dysgraphia; psychological disorders like anxiety, depression, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD); physical impairments like motor disabilities, hearing and/or visual impairment; medical conditions like epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and meningitis; and students on the Autism Spectrum. Most students have a clear diagnosis of their condition and are followed-up by professionals. Students who do not have a complete file are referred to specific professionals off-campus (depending on their case) in order to properly determine their condition.
What is the process? Students are welcome to approach the LAS themselves, or can be referred by their instructors, parents, or the Office of Admissions. An LAS Officer, trained by SKILD, then meets with students individually to discuss their case. Students will be considered eligible for receiving learning accommodations after presenting clear documentation of their condition. With the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic, most of these meetings are conducted online, with follow-ups by call or email.
Once a student has been deemed eligible and after attaining the student’s consent, the LAS Officer then consults with the professionals treating the student to understand how to best proceed with their case. Based on the information provided, the Officer then provides a letter detailing the student’s specific learning accommodations according to their needs. The Dean of Students approves and signs the letter before it is passed on to the student and their instructors.
Finally, the LAS Officer schedules a meeting with the student to provide recommendations and guidance on how to apply the accommodations. Follow-up meetings are set with the student and their instructors to evaluate their progress, working with the Dean of Students to provide personalized support for each and every students’ case. “We do our best to ensure that each student is properly catered to,” said Dr. Charbel Zgheib, Associate Professor and current Dean of Students. “Each case, like every student is unique and requires a personalized approach we are more than happy to provide.”
As of Fall 2020, the LAS has provided support for over 40 number students, but is always looking to expand and help further. Students with any of the previously mentioned conditions – psychological disorders, physical impairments, ADHD, learning disorders, medical conditions, or students on the Autism Spectrum – are invited to contact the LAS and see what kind of support is available for their specific case. No matter their personal challenges, NDU remains a place for all students and will always strive to meet their needs.