For over six years Oakland Community College’s Economic and Workforce Development Department has received an Oakland County Workforce grant to provide screenings for learning difficulties and interventions. As of December 2012, OCC has served 2,091 adult learners, including welfare clients in the Michigan Works! Agencies, OCC short-term training program students, and OCC No Worker Left Behind students.

Screenings determined the following facts:

  • Visual Stress Syndrome: 9 out of 10 had problems with print distortions and other VSS symptoms. (VSS usually interferes with ability to read!)
  • Attention Difficulties: 8 out of 10 had problems with attention challenges.
  • Vision: 3 out of 10 had problems with vision, binocularity deficiencies being the highest percentage. (Such difficulties usually interfere with ability to read.)
  • Auditory: 2 out of 10 had problems hearing.

The PowerPath program used at OCC engages learners in thinking about how they learn and identifies what might be getting in the way as well as what can be done about it (empowerment, increased self-awareness and self-advocacy). It builds on the students’ strengths, and motivates them because it is all about helping them reach their identified short-term and long-term goals. The screenings result in a report from which the student is able to select strategies. If the student is screened for problems with vision or hearing, in addition to strategies, referral forms are provided and the program helps them connect with resources for glasses or hearing aids. The program also provides simple adaptations such as overlays/filters, magnifying glasses, ear plugs, koosh balls, highlighters, etc., and explanations of how and why they could help. The clients and students are also taught a meta-cognitive model for learning: SMARTER, an acronym for the steps in the learning process.

Through LEAP (Learning Enhancement and Assessment Program) OCC also provides learning difficulties-related training and presentations for Michigan Works! Centers staff, OCC staff, state of Michigan Adult Education and Literacy staff, and the Michigan Community College Association’s Breaking Through Learning Network and Center for Student Success. Ultimately, LEAP/PowerPath is about systemic transformation – changing the way we help struggling learners.

The LEAP/PowerPath program at OCC has been recognized with the Michigan Association of Continuing Education and Training Special Projects Award (2008); the Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit Health Community Partnership Award (2009-10); the State of Michigan, DELEG, Division of Lifelong Learning – Office of Adult Learning Making a Difference-Change Agent Award 2011, and was selected as a Michigan Best Practice for presentation at the Michigan Community College Association’s Student Success Summit (Aug. 18, 2010).

The best awards though, have been the successes of the program’s clients/students.


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