History of the Learning Differences Program
The Learning Differences Program (LDP) at Mercyhurst University was inaugurated approximately 25 years ago at the urging of Sister Maura Smith, RSM '48. Since service to students with educational and economic needs is integral to the Mercy tradition, helping students with special needs and tending to diverse learners was a natural outgrowth of the University Mission
. At the time of its inception, the Mercyhurst Learning Differences Program was one of the smaller programs for the learning disabled nationwide and was the first of its kind in Pennsylvania.
This program was truly visionary. The Americans with Disabilties Act was enacted seven years after Mercyhurst began providing help to students with special needs and diverse learning styles. Over the years, the LDP has evolved to provide accommodations to students with physical or mental impairment that substantially limits major life activity.
Twelve students comprised the inaugural class when the program began under the direction of Dr. Barbara Weigert, and later assisted by Tina King. Since 1998, Dianne Rogers has served as Director of the Learning Differences Program at Mercyhurst. Rogers has worked in both public and private schools with populations of individuals with special needs, including students with sensory disabilities, physical disabilities, social and emotional disturbances, and learning disabilities prior to her involvement with the Autism Spectrum population.
With the introduction of the Asperger Initiative at Mercyhurst (AIM) in 2008, Rogers has become a requested consultant to parents, autism groups and area colleges on higher education’s responsibility for providing social and academic support to individuals with Asperger Syndrome and high functional individuals on the Autism Spectrum.
Since 1986, the LDP has guided more than 560 Level 2 students to become key contributors in their academic disciplines. Graduates from the LDP are teachers, counselors, hotel administrators, business executives and professionals throughout the legal and criminal justice systems as well as other professional careers.