Cognitive Disability Resources

The term “disability” can cover a wide range of conditions that can be physical, psychological, and cognitive. The Americans with Disabilities Act 1990 is a civil rights legislation that prohibits, under certain circumstances, discrimination based on disability. This section will focus on raising awareness about cognitive disabilities, which are often misunderstood, or undiagnosed.

Cognitive disabilities are caused by central nervous system dysfunction. Some typical types of cognitive impairment include dyslexia, learning difficulties, and ADHD. It is important to note that cognitive disabilities do not imply a lack of intelligence – in fact, many people with such disabilities often remain unnoticed because they use their other abilities to develop compensatory strategies. Nevertheless, hidden, undiagnosed and misunderstood cognitive disabilities can have negative effects on self-esteem and self-worth of students as well as academic performance. Alternatively, cognitive disabilities may be the reason why an obviously intelligent person is not performing according to expectations. Additional information is available from the National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities.

A short description of some of the cognitive disabilities are provided below:


Dyslexia is a condition where people have difficulties with reading, writing or spelling. There are various forms of dyslexia which have different symptoms.

Learning Disabilities

“Learning disabilities” is a general term that refers to a heterogeneous group of disorders manifested by significant difficulties in the acquisition and use of listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning, or mathematical skills. These disorders are intrinsic to the individual and presumed to be due to a central nervous system dysfunction, and may occur across the life span.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a condition that becomes apparent in some children in the preschool and early school years. ADHD can often continue into adulthood. The principal characteristics of ADHD are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Different symptoms may appear in different settings, depending on the demands the situation may pose for individual’s self-control. Hyperactive individuals seem to be “on the go” or constantly in motion. They may feel internally restless. They often report needing to stay busy and may try to do several things at once. Impulsive individuals seem unable to curb their immediate reactions or think before they act. They may impulsively choose to do things that have an immediate but small payoff rather than engage in activities that may take more effort yet provide much greater but delayed rewards. Inattentive individuals have a hard time keeping their minds on any one thing and may get bored with a task after only a few minutes.

University of Illinois Disability Resources

The University of Illinois seeks to ensure that qualified individuals with disabilities are afforded an equal opportunity to participate in and benefit from the opportunities available at the university and has resources available for such purposes. Disability Resources and Educational Services (DRES)  is the campus unit that serves all qualified disabled students on campus. They provide an extensive array of services addressing a wide range of physical, psychological and cognitive disabilities.

Academic Services

Academic services provided by DRES mainly include psychological services to all University of Illinois students with disabilities, such as neuropsychological evaluation for disability diagnosis, academic accommodations, academic skills/strategies training, case management and coaching, short-term supportive therapy, crisis management, and/or consultation are available. Following are some major services that may benefit most to international students.

Neuropsychological evaluation for diagnosing disability

The Counseling Center and DRES provide neuropsychological evaluations for free to any University of Illinois students who want to test their suspected disability. Students with diagnosed disabilities are legible for academic accommodations, such as accommodation letters to class instructors, academic skills/strategies training, case management and coaching, and short-term supportive therapy.

Academic coaching program

Coaching program provide students with psychological disabilities, traumatic brain injuries, attention deficit disorder (ADHD), and learning disabilities to meet certified rehabilitation counselor or interns in DRES to learn strategies of dealing with disabilities and other relevant concerns.


DRES provides individual therapy through practicum students in the doctoral program in counseling psychology. Students may also be referred to seek mental health services from the Counseling Center, McKinley Mental Health, or various community agencies.

Support groups

DRES provides two support groups, one for students with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and/or learning disabilities and a second group for students with psychiatric disabilities. These support groups meet on a regular basis and provide students with support, social interaction, and problem solving strategies.
Visit the DRES website  for more information.