Going Global

Dr. Nobutaka Matsumura

SALT Center Recognized as the International Model

Nobutaka Matsumura, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology at Kansai University in Osaka, Japan, as well as an adjunct professor at the Open University of Japan. His research interests include the individual needs of gifted learners. He recently wrote an article about the SALT Center in a bulletin for Kansai University entitled “Academic support for students with developmental disabilities: The SALT Center’s services at the University of Arizona.” In this publication, he highlights what can be learned from the SALT Center regarding the support of students with learning challenges at universities in Japan and around the world. The following is a synopsis of that article:

In 2007, Japanese law governing education underwent a revision. Learning challenges such as Learning Disabilities, Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, and Autism Spectrum Disorder were formally recognized as disabilities that require academic intervention. However, while the concept of reasonable accommodations for students with learning challenges is now supported by Japanese law, the implementation of these accommodations is not legally mandated, leaving students with no legal recourse if they do not receive the support that they need.

This lack of enforcement presents a problem for students as they transition to college. According to a 2012 national survey, 6.5% of the mainstream student population in Japanese elementary and middle schools are struggling with learning challenges, but only 260 of the 1,200 colleges and universities in Japan have a support system in place for students who learn differently. Currently, there are 1,300 students with learning challenges receiving academic support at Japanese universities, and that number is increasing every year. Additionally, approximately 2,700 students without diagnoses receive some kind of academic intervention. Clearly, support for students with learning and attention challenges at the college level is a necessity, and my research has lead me to the following conclusion:

I believe that the SALT Center Dr. Nobutaka Matsumura is the international model for comprehensive academic support for students with learning differences.

The following practices set the SALT Center apart from other post-secondary support centers on college campuses throughout the world, and it is these characteristics that should be reproduced if others are to achieve similar success:

1. Supporting Students without Diagnosis – Because support is tailored to meet the needs of each student, diagnosis should not be conditional. Moreover, because the program is fee-based, students without diagnoses who appeal for support should be granted access.

2. Training Staff on Cognitive Individuality – I refer to the various cognitive traits possessed by each person as “cognitive individuality.” Based on the concept of Multiple Intelligences, cognitive individuality creates a profile of a person’s strengths and challenges. It is important to grow the expertise of the staff and tutors by refining the methods of their training in the concept of cognitive individuality.

3. Facilitating the Transition from High School to College – Partnerships between high schools and universities ensure the smooth transition to college for students with learning challenges. Universities need to inform high school students and their families of the various support structures that they offer. Similarly, high schools should support strategic learning that maximizes each student’s strengths, encouraging the pursuit of a college degree for all students with learning challenges.

4. Offering Fee-Based Academic Support Services – The fee-based model is important because it is self-sustaining. It affords the organization the flexibility it needs to stay relevant, effective, and innovative because it is not reliant on federal funds controlled by the university.

5. Creating an Active Development Agenda – Due to the nature of the fee-based model, it is important to establish a well-endowed scholarship fund for students who cannot afford support services. Access to higher education is a global imperative, particularly for those with learning challenges.

It is clear that the SALT Center has successfully accumulated strong pioneer know-how in the effective support of students with learning challenges. At Kansai University, I will work to implement academic support services for students with learning and attention challenges. I plan to spread the word about this remarkable program, and to collaborate with researchers at several institutions to investigate the application of its practices in Japan and across the globe.

The SALT Center aspires to be the leading international model of success in higher education for students with learning and attention challenges.