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June 2008

Release Date: June 2, 2008

ASU Professor Targets Learning Disabilities

Dr. Richard Evans is on a mission to light the unconventional path to higher education he took in hopes others will follow.

Evans, who overcame two learning disabilities, focuses on special education and utilizes his understanding of learning and reading difficulties to better prepare future teachers for working with special-needs students.

He began with the first summer term Monday as an assistant professor of education at Angelo State University.

Evans’ understanding is first-hand after he went from high school dropout in Brady to earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Angelo State University and a doctorate in educational psychology from Texas A&M.

After he secured his college degrees, Evans taught special education and regular classes in Texas schools. Most recently, he served as an assistant professor in exceptional education at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va.

Along the way, he picked up a passion for education that he never had as a student in the 1970s. The reason he disliked his school days and finally dropped out became clear in 1992 when he took a psychological evaluation for depression.

“I was diagnosed with two distinct learning disabilities, Developmental Reading Disorder and Expressive Writing Disorder,” Evans said. “You would have thought this might only add to my depression, but it did not. Just knowing that my problem had a name and that I was not stupid gave me hope.”

After getting help from the Texas Rehabilitation Commission and the Tom Green County Literacy Council, he resumed his education.

“I found that I could function in an academic setting with some accommodations,” Evans said.

Now, he is the one offering hope to students with learning disabilities.

“I have been told many times by people who knew me as a student, ‘you are special. You have worked harder than the average student and you are an exception to the rule,’” Evans said. “I strongly disagree that others can’t do what I did. I believe that everyone has the potential to be what they want to be when they are afforded the opportunity to learn in the manner best suited for their individual strengths.”

Evans said there are 45 million Americans living with learning disabilities and most have above average intelligence and cognitive gifts, but school systems are not equipped to handle the challenges, leaving students to fail.

“What America needs is a new paradigm in education where all means all,” Evans said. “We need to nourish the belief that all people have value and that all children can learn.”

Evans said he hopes to connect with Concho Valley schools and help them put those concepts into play. Then, other Concho Valley students with learning disabilities will have the benefit of his experience and passion.