Aarhus University

The site visit to Aarhus University in Denmark from September 26th until September 30th, 2010 marked the start of second major activity in the project and that is the writing and editing of a future series of handbooks for working with students with disabilities. The series will be divided into nine separate but related booklets that will offer a comprehensive guide from basic characteristics of particular disabilities to making necessary adjustments in teaching materials and space accessibility. The series is intended for university teaching and administrative staff, but we realize that, with the scarcity of available materials on the subject, it may be used outside of university setting. Editors of each section of the handbook and representatives of Croatian universities/project partners participated in the site visit and were particularly interested in learning how Aarhus University in particular and Denmark in general address some of the issues we intend to cover in the handbooks. The full program of the site visit is available by clicking on this link. Underneath is a brief summary of site visit activities.

A four-day visit included a city tour narrated by prof. Willy Astrup, Director of Counseling and Support Centre of the Danish School of Education at Aarhus University. City tour was followed by a series of presentations by the Counseling and Support Centre staff and they included intake and assessment procedures; process of communication with the ministry that has jurisdiction over financial and structural assistance for students with disabilities; a brief demonstration of latest assistive technologies used by Aarhus University, and a detailed introductory workshop on the development of learning skills for students with dyslexia. During this presentation we learned of a unique occupation in Denmark named lectiologist. A lectiologist is a specialist trained and certified expressly in diagnosing and working with dyslexia. A person who is interested in becoming alectiologist may come from any academic background and undergo additional, special training. As far as we can tell, this title is unique to Denmark.

Particularly instructive was the careful distinction that the Danish approach makes between educational counseling for students with disabilities and counseling for emotional issues or psychological disorders. Even though a student’s particular disability may be of psychological nature, the Counseling and Support Centre provides services related exclusively to academic achievement. Prof. Aastrup emphasized that the ultimate goal of the Danish educational system, and therefore of the Counseling and Support Centre, is employability of graduates. Therefore, prof. Aastrup and his staff work diligently in helping students develop skills and have access to equipment that will help them achieve successful employment upon graduation. Of course, the Counseling and Support Center works closely with a separate unit on campus, which provides traditional, short-term counseling free of charge for students who experience emotional difficulties.

Members of the Croatian delegation wish to express utmost gratitude to the staff of the Counseling and Support Centre of Aarhus University: Mr. Flemming Berg, Ms. Vibeke Fischer, assistant professor Maria Holler Hune, Ms. Karen Kjær Odgaard and Lise Kallestrup for sharing their work and knowledge with us so generously. We are particularly grateful to our host, prof. Willy Aastrup, who, despite his enormous international engagements, made the time to guide us through the beautiful city of Aarhus himself.