It’s not every day that you check your email inbox and find an unread message from a U.S. senator. In early October, Karen Chauvin, director of the Louisiana Center for Dyslexia and Related Learning Disorders at Nicholls State University, received a letter from Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy on behalf of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions requesting that she testify for an Oct. 13 committee hearing titled “Developmental Perspective on Testing for Dyslexia.” Having dedicated the past 17 years of her professional career to dyslexia research and support at Nicholls, Chauvin immediately saw the opportunity to share her Colonel Pride and do what she does best — give students with learning disorders a voice in the education conversation.
“Senators and representatives from around the state are supporting dyslexic students,” Chauvin said. “They want to emphasize that if a student receives accommodations when entering college, he or she should still receive those same accommodations years later. Once you’re an adult, a disorder doesn’t change much. Currently, if you are a college graduate with dyslexia and decide to get a higher-level degree four or five years after graduation, you would have to be re-evaluated in order to receive accommodations. The evaluation is costly, so this puts students with dyslexia at a disadvantage.”
Accommodations for college students with dyslexia and related learning disorders range from being granted additional time to complete tests to having tests read aloud to them using Kurzweil Education software. The Louisiana Center for Dyslexia and Related Learning Centers, which serves 130 Nicholls students, coordinates these accommodations.
In preparing for the Senate committee hearing, Cassidy requested that Chauvin stress the significance of providing accommodations that help dyslexic college students maximize their academic potential and address any additional resources Congress can consider when developing a plan to help these students “succeed in school and life.”
A Nicholls graduate (BA ’88, MEd ’92), Chauvin became director of the Louisiana Center for Dyslexia and Related Learning Disorders in 2005. Prior, she served as assistant director and program coordinator at the center. In addition, she is the founding president of MAX Charter School, a Nicholls campus-based school strategically designed to support first- through eighth-graders with dyslexia. At 120 students, the school is currently at its maximum approved enrollment.
“I’m proud that Nicholls supports students who may not be able to get a degree anywhere else,” Chauvin said. “The greatest thing is to see students walk across the graduation stage and get their diplomas and know that for them just getting out of high school was a struggle. When the dyslexia center first came to Nicholls, a lot of faculty didn’t fully understand dyslexia. We have educated the campus, and now the Nicholls faculty appreciate the hard work our students put in to succeeding. I’m proud that our administration stands by these students and our dedicated mission to help them achieve their best.”