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Alternative Learners Project (ALP)

In 1979, the Alternative Learners Project (ALP) was founded as the first program of its kind in Pennsylvania to provide support to students with learning disabilities.  Since that time, the ALP has focused on helping students with all types of disabilities to succeed in college.  With a dedicated Alternative Learning Manager and a professional staff that includes highly-qualified full-time program coordinators, two testing center coordinators, and an abundance of cooperation and support from an excellent faculty and administration, the ALP serves approximately 50 students with disabilities per year.

ALP Services

Students who are served by the ALP participate in regular university classes - the same courses all MU students take.  There are no special courses, special sections, or special teachers.  Our majors dictate which courses and experiences students must complete.  While students with disabilities must meet the same requirements as all other students, it is often suggested that they take a carefully-selected, reduced credit load (12-15 credits) each semester.   (Note: Some majors may require a minimum of 15 or more credits).

The ALP helps students to successfully complete their course requirements by offering:

  • Participation in the BRIDGE Program, which provides incoming first-year ALP students the opportunity to arrive on campus early (one week prior to the start of the fall semester) and features a series of assessments and workshops designed to assist students in identifying both strengths and needs in their learning styles.
  • Training in the use of the Learning Strategies Curriculum, techniques developed by Kansas University's Center for Research in Learning, designed to help adolescents and adults with disabilities become more effective and efficient learners.
  • An individualized Program of Accommodations (POA), an array of strategies and supports that students can use to bypass challenges produced by their disabilities.
  • Support by a staff of master-level prepared Program Coordinators.

Bridge Program

First Year ALP students are included with a number of other first-year students in the Bridge Program, which traditionally operates for five days, Sunday through Thursday, the week prior to the official start of the Fall semester.  A variety of techniques are presented by ALP Coordinators and members of the Student Success Center (SSC) Staff to aid students in attaining their educational goals.

Bridge affords students the opportunity to become acquainted with in-coming peers as a means of helping to allay some of the usual anxieties associated with being in a new environment.  ALP students are integrated with other freshmen from the University at-large.

Learning Strategies

All incoming ALP students participate in the Learning Strategies Course during Bridge and for the first eight weeks of the Fall semester of their freshmen year.  The curriculum for Learning Strategies was developed by Kansas University's Center for Research in Learning, and is designed to teach students to more efficiently acquire, store, and express information.  The instruction focuses on making the students more active learners by teaching them how to learn and how to use what they have learned to solve problems and be successful.

 Program of Accommodations (POA)  (click to view document)

Prior to the beginning of each semester, the ALP staff works with students to establish their POA, which includes a list of courses to be taken, the names of the professors, and a list of accommodations the students should use during the semester.  Accommodations, such as  Kurzweil Text to Speech software,  scanners, note-sharing services, and alternative test-taking procedures allow students to work around their disabilities.  The services listed on a student's POA are intended to support each individual's areas of need.  However, the accommodations do not minimize the necessity for ALP students to master the essential academic competencies required of all students.  Curriculum requirements in students' majors are not otherwise adjusted.

With the student's approval, the Program Coordinator (PC) shares the POA (and no other information) with affected members of the faculty and the student's advisor.  In doing so, the ALP notifies professors of the students served by the Program (if any are in their classes) and which accommodations will be needed by the students.  Students do not have to ask faculty for anything: ALP staff do all of the arranging. Moreover, we do not ask faculty to teach or test differently; we just ask them to allow us to provide the accommodations.

Supplemental services for ALP students also include:

  • Case management by academic specialists
  • Writing support including assistance with editing and transcription
  • Planning and selecting courses in collaboration with department advisors
  • Communicating with faculty and administration
  • Dedicated study room with access to technology
  • Time management support

Program Coordinators

Each student served by the ALP is assigned a program coordinator(PC), an ALP staff member who manages the delivery of the program of accommodations.  The PC, with the advance permission of students, arranges all accommodations.  In addition, the PC meets individually with students according to the following schedule to make sure that the accommodations are working:

  • First year freshmen: two hours per week
  • Second semester freshmen and all upperclassmen: one hour per week

As students progress, they become more personally responsible for dealing with faculty members, However, ALP staff and support are available whenever needed throughout the students' years at Misericordia University.

In addition to the supports provided by the ALP, Misericordia University offers a wide variety of special services that may be accessed by ALP students. Counseling, peer and on-line tutoring, writing center services, and general and specialized career programs are also available.

An Example of Participation in ALP

Sam is a 19 year-old Misericordia second semester freshman who is majoring in social work.  His disability is in the area of reading.  The ALP introduced him to several leaning strategies during the Fall semester that made him more effective and efficient, and his POA includes:

  1. Weekly one hour individual meetings with his PC
  2. Training and access to the Kurzweil 3000
  3. Provision of a "Note Sharer" in selected courses
  4. Writing support including assistance with editing and transcription
  5. Time management
  6. Extended time for tests to be conducted in the ALP offices
  7. Test items read to him by his PC

Sam will take a reduced caseload of 12 credits this semester, and all forecasts suggest that he will be a great social worker.

Application and Eligibility for ALP

Each student interested in applying for admission to ALP should submit the following documents to the Director, Student Success Center/Office for Students with Disabilities.

  1. A personally written cover letter which briefly summarizes the student's disability and indicates a desire to participate in ALP.
  2. A copy of the most recent IEP or 504 Plan would be helpful.
  3. A copy of the student's high school transcript.
  4. Three letters of recommendation by educational professionals.  A special education teacher (if appropriate) should complete one of these letters.
  5. A qualified professional must provide documentation and interpretation which clearly identifies and explains the applicant's disability.

(a). Applicants with learning disabilities should submit the results of recent (no more than two years old) tests of:

  • Aptitude/Cognitive Ability: The preferred instrument is the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS III). The results of Woodcock Johnson III Tests of Cognitive Abilities, Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-III), or Stanford Binet Intelligence Scale IV are also acceptable.
  • Tests of Achievement: Assessment in the following areas is required:
    • Reading (decoding, rate and comprehension)
    • Mathematics (calculations, reasoning and algebra)
    • Written Language (spelling and written expression)
  • Other pertinent evaluations as needed.

(b). Students with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder need to provide the following documentation:

  •  A specific diagnosis that conforms to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual - IV (DSM-IV) of the American Psychiatric Association for Attention Deficit Disorder, with or without hyperactivity;
  • Current functional limitations on major life activities resulting from the Attention Disorder;
  • Evidence to support the functional limitations derived from Aptitude/Cognitive Ability and achievement testing as described in the previous paragraph related to applicants with learning disabilities;
  • Requested accommodations;
  • Additional information (optional): Tests of Information Processing, clinical observations/interview, teacher observations.
  • Other pertinent evaluations as needed.

(c). Students with a sensory, physical, or psychological disability must meet the following documentation standards:

  • Documentation must be completed by a professional qualified to diagnose the nature and extent of the disability;
  • Documentation from  a professional must be no more than one year old;
  • Documentation must contain a specific diagnosis, state major life activities limited by the disability and resulting functional limitations, and list prescribed medications;
  • Documentation must include recommendations regarding accommodations; and
  • Other pertinent evaluations as needed.

Review of Documentation

The Assistant Director, Student Success Center/Office for Students with Disabilities will review the aforementioned information along with the standard admission information.  If it is determined that an individual is a suitable applicant, he/she will be invited for an on-campus 60 to 90 minute interview.  The interview will be an opportunity for gathering and sharing information.

Walk-On Students

Students who are already enrolled at Misericordia may apply for the services of the ALP by contacting Kristen Ricardo, Assistant Director, Student Success Center Office for Students with Disabilities, 570-674-6205 or kdefeo@misericordia.edu

Costs

Misericordia University's Alternative Learners Project is designed to provide support to students with disabilities that extends beyond those accommodations required under the University's Section 504 program.  ALP students pay a fee each semester for the program as follows:

  • First Year Freshmen: $2250(first semester). Fee includes Bridge, Learning Strategies and weekly one-to-one two-hour sessions with an ALP Coordinator.
  • Second Semester Freshmen and All Upperclassmen: $1750 per semester.  Fee includes one hour individual weekly session with an ALP Coordinator.

Students may be eligible for financial assistance, grants, work study, and loans.  They are welcome to contact Misericordia University's Financial Aid Office at (570)674-6280.

 For More Information about ALP

You can write, call, or e-mail us:

Kristen Ricardo
Assistant Director, Student Success Center/Office for Students with Disabilities
Misericordia University
Student Success Center
301 Lake Street
Dallas, PA 18612-1090
Tel: (570)674-6205
Fax: (570)674-3026
kdefeo@misericordia.edu.

We look forward to hearing from you!

You might also consider:

  • Attending an MU Open House where ALP staff will be available to meet with you and your family
  • Scheduling a visit or phone conference with our Assistant Director, Student Success Center/Office for Students with Disabilities