University of St. Thomas offering one-of-a-kind program for students with learning differences

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- October is National Disabilities Month and according to the Learning Disabilities Association of America, 2.3 million children in public schools have learning disabilities.

Some of these disabilities span from dyslexia and autism to attention issues.

Once these students graduate high school, there are no options for them when it comes to getting a higher education, and that's why the University of St. Thomas Houston just launched a one-of-kind program that's really not offered anywhere else in the country.

Dr. Terra Torres, who is the chair for the program at UST, told ABC13 they offer an academic lifeline to students with learning differences, which have interfered with their success in a traditional college setting.

The new Associates in Applied Science in Pragmatic Studies is a full-time, 2-year, face-to-face program.

"To have a population, so many people fit into, that have no options after high school is crazy," she said. "How is it 2021 and someone who wants to go to college can't because they have ADHD or autism or because she has severe dyslexia? What does that have to do with anything?"

Torres said these students, who fall between the cracks, are often too high-functioning to enter vocational training programs and generally don't qualify for vocational rehabilitation services.

One perfect example is 25-year-old Emily Mannikko, who is from Reno, Nevada, but moved to Houston just for the program. She never thought college would be an option for her.

"I've had a lot of learning differences and my own personal struggles in school," she said. "I honestly think if I hadn't found this program, I'd be stuck. This is something I never thought would be possible for me, so it's been a whirlwind and a transition and a real full-circle moment for me."

Admission to the program requires high school completion and a current full and individual psychoeducational evaluation (FIE).

Applicants must take the Texas Success Initiative Assessment (TSI) to assist in determining current skill level, as this is required for all students entering college in the state of Texas.

Furthermore, an interview between the program faculty/staff and the student applicant will be required for admission.

For more information, go to University of St. Thomas website or call Torres at 713-899-0690. The program is pending SACSCOC approval.

For more on UST's program, follow Mayra Moreno on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Copyright © 2021 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.