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Sharing Your Disability


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For parents of college bound teens...

 

http://www.going-to-college.org/campuslife/sharing.html

 

 

 

I shared this on my Facebook but also wanted to post it here because it is such a good resource. This is a video tutorial on how to talk to professors about disability accommodations. There are a lot of students who have accommodations approved but then never use them because they struggle with self advocacy.

Edited by Barbara H
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Actually, that's what my friend who works at a university was telling me this summer, that they WANT to give accommodations and help kids and the kids WON'T come. It wasn't so much, at this school, that the kids were unaware or had unwilling profs. They simply were unwilling to be a bit different. (miss class so they could receive the test in a limited distraction environment with less time, etc. etc.) And when the child won't accept the accommodations, there's nothing the university can do for them, kwim? It's a really ironic position to be in, where they're back to the issues of peer pressure and self-confidence and willingness to be different.

 

But that was one university. I suppose others are different.

 

So if your kids have been to college and used accommodations, how did that go? Were profs unwilling and your kids had to fight for the accommodations? Or the kids needed the accommodations and could have had them but there was a social stigma? Or the kids tried to use them but the methodology was cumbersome? Some other outcome?

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Our ds never had any problem receiving accommodations or having profs that had problems w/him receiving them. However, the last semester ds went to school, he refused to seek accommodations. It had nothing to do w/the school or social stigma (peers have no idea that you have accommodations unless you tell them.) For our ds it was completely and totally an internal battle he was having w/in himself about who he is and what he is capable of achieving.

 

And, if they don't seek the accommodations for themselves, there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. (For our ds, he already had accommodations established. The only thing he had to do was simply walk into the disability office and pick up the accommodation letters to give his teachers--a 30 second process. He didn't have to "do" anything. He just simply refused to accept them.)

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Some issues from the other side of the ivory tower:

 

*Some (by no means all or a majority) professors are not educated about special needs, and see it as simply a pain in the t*sh, and are therefore recalcitrant about cooperating. Here, the proper place to call would be the campus ADA office.

 

*In some universities, extra time testing is done at a separate testing center, but tests are begun at the same time as the classroom test, and coordinating time is difficult. It can, however, be done. It may require the entire class syllabus to be rearranged a bit, but it can be done. This is why paperwork has to be filled out on time, and generally in advance and last-minute requests are a problem.

 

*If specialty testing equipment is required for a class (a computer with specific software for a subject) the professor may be concerned that the student will not have access to the same technical support at the testing center that the students in class will have. This is actually a concern the professor has for the benefit of the student needing assistance; there are many professors who genuinely care and want their students to succeed and have every chance to do well without roadblocks.

 

*Despite very clear rules spelled out, sometimes SN kids fail to fill out the required paperwork in advance of deadlines, then make appeals to professors directly for make-up tests that fit their specific needs after the regular test has been given. Creating an equivilant make-up test, particularly for advanced classes, is harder than it may sound, and grumpy professors are concerned that they not unintentionally create bias against a SN student by creating a far harder test. When I was in school, the norm was for a make-up test to always be deliberately much harder than the scheduled test.

 

*Parental interference in cases where the adult student is actually competent to handle his own affairs. A special needs student who does not show up for class or do his homework and then fails a test probably deserves his failing grade no matter how many times you call the professor. The parent should probably be calling the student, not the professor, to discuss.

 

*Ultimately, if a student is in college, it is up to the student, not the professor, for the student to pass the course. Parents calling the professor will not change this fact.

 

*Most professors are willing to help any proactive student, special needs or not, to succeed in his studies. Proactive means prepared with good questions, meets deadlines, attends class, notifies ahead of time rather than after the fact about missed deadlines except in extreme emergencies that truly could not have been forseen ahead of time, and who plan ahead and plan their time well so that if they must miss time, they can hand stuff in early rather than late, and who come to office hours with questions when needed and who ask questions in class and hand in homework. When students work hard, professors can tell and are often willing to do a little extra to help them out, because students who care are really exciting and stand out, regardless of whether that student is an A or a B student.

 

*Professors are utterly dependent upon the student ADA office to understand the needs of the special needs student. It is not realistic to approach the professor directly to ask "I need you to do this," because professors are not equipped to evaluate such requests for validity.

 

*Particularly at a research university, teaching is only one of the professor's responsibilities-- he is also juggling committee work, helping to run the university, participating in departmental decisions, may be responsible for running either the undergraduate or graduate program for the department, advising students, organizing talks by international visitors, interviewing new faculty, participating in reviewing graduate applicants, editing journals, writing papers, writing or reviewing new textbooks, participating in review panels, supervising undergraduate activities, working with students who are doing research, traveling to give talks and share new ideas with other researchers, writing grants, and of course, the bulk of his job on which he is evaluated, conducting original, peer-reviewed research. I didn't even ask my husband for a list of what he does in a day . . . those are just things I know he does off the top of my head. Come to think of it, it's pretty amazing he has time to come home for dinner at night . . . LOL. Yet when a student shows up during office hours or sends email with a good question (or even some not-so-good questions) he will make time for them and take their concerns seriously, even if it is a basic question in elementary calculus about what is being accomplished when taking the first derivative, because he wants his students to succeed, and it does not matter whether that student has special needs or not.

 

 

I don't know if the above has helped anybody or not. It doesn't really directly address the OP's question to parents. However, maybe when dealing with college and their kids, maybe it will help parents see and understand the system a little better "from the other side of the fence." I also have a good friend who heads an ADA office at a different university elsewhere in the country . . . I could, with permission of course, forward the original question to her, and get her response to the question as well to add to the discussion.

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So if your kids have been to college and used accommodations, how did that go? Were profs unwilling and your kids had to fight for the accommodations? Or the kids needed the accommodations and could have had them but there was a social stigma? Or the kids tried to use them but the methodology was cumbersome? Some other outcome?

 

I can only speak from the point of view of a university professor. I have students with accommodations every semester. They go through the disability office, and the office issues the letter with the requested accommodation which they then hand to their instructors. We are legally required to accommodate the students; I have not seen any colleague trying to deny a student the accommodation - students have rights, they do not have to fight, and the faculty members are well aware of this. BUT, as Jen pointed out: they must go through the office, and not request individual accommodations from the instructor.

 

I am not aware of any social stigma. In most cases, the classmates are completely unaware that a student is receiving accommodations. If they take an exam, the last thing they are thinking of is to check which classmates are absent because they take the test at the testing center.

Most students only get accommodations for exams; the most typical in-class accommodation is usually the permission to record lectures. Students who do get more in-class accommodations are usually students with severe physical disabilities which are noticeable anyway. Last year, I had a student who was almost completely paralyzed and had to attend class with an aide who opened the book for him, took notes for him, etc - it did not single him out any more than his obvious condition already did.

 

Students are not required to disclose the nature of their disability to their instructors; only the disability office will have that information, because they require a doctor's diagnosis. I find it very helpful, however, if a student volunteers information about the nature of his disability and his special needs; it helps me to understand the student better and to come up with ways of making his class experience better that may not be listed among the accommodations.

For example, a student's letter of accommodations may list extra time on tests and a distraction free environment only. If this student tells me that he has graphomotoric problems that slow down his writing, I can make in-class work easier for him by bringing him a printout of a figure the others are required to copy from the board. If a student has visual problems and tells me that, besides the large print accommodation on his letter, a lightly colored paper would make it easier for him to see, I can print all his handouts not only enlarged, but on yellow paper.

 

So, please do encourage your students to talk not only to the disability office, but to the individual instructor. We treat this information confidentially.

Edited by regentrude
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Our ds never had any problem receiving accommodations or having profs that had problems w/him receiving them. However, the last semester ds went to school, he refused to seek accommodations. It had nothing to do w/the school or social stigma (peers have no idea that you have accommodations unless you tell them.) For our ds it was completely and totally an internal battle he was having w/in himself about who he is and what he is capable of achieving.

 

And, if they don't seek the accommodations for themselves, there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. (For our ds, he already had accommodations established. The only thing he had to do was simply walk into the disability office and pick up the accommodation letters to give his teachers--a 30 second process. He didn't have to "do" anything. He just simply refused to accept them.)

 

Yup, that's what my friend was saying happens a LOT, and it really ties the hands of the university when they *want* to help them, see them having issues, and can't. I've wondered what I could do to help head that off...

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As a kid going to college in the early days of the ADA (and in the vanguard of kids who had gone through school under PL 94-142, so therefore used to getting classroom accommodations/pullouts, the biggest obstacle I found was me. I'd gone through so many years of being "special" in school that when I got into college, I didn't want to be "special" anymore. The result was that, while I was willing to take some accommodations (no problem with having a single room because my neurologist suggested it), others I really disliked asking for, and while I'd give my professor the accommodations letter at the beginning, often didn't do anything after that point. And unlike K-12, where once my teachers had the IEP they had to follow up with it, in college, the onus was on me, so if I didn't follow through with it, and let it drop, that was MY problem.

 

 

I made it through-but it wasn't until about my junior year that I started to realize that, honestly, none of my classmates CARED whether the professor was getting me a copy of the class notes or not, or whether I took the test in the testing center or in the classroom, and started actually asking for what I needed from the list on my paperwork, and working with faculty to figure out what accommodations were important (for example, for me, it wasn't taking the test in the testing center that was important-it was not having to fill in bubbles for computer scoring-so as long as the professor was willing to provide an alternative answer sheet or simply grade a copy of the test, there was no need to go through the trouble of a separate test time or using a scribe). By grad school, I'd gotten pretty good at knowing what to ask for-and what wasn't important.

 

I do think learning to advocate for yourself was probably the most important lesson I'd learned in college. Even as a kid of the 1980's/early 1990s, the difference between an IEP and a college 504 was dramatic. I expect the transition is worse now (and is definitely going to be different for a homeschooled student vs a PS student, not because the HS student is less capable, but simply because mom is more aware of a student's needs than any classroom teacher or IEP is ever going to be-and is a lot more likely to make accommodations proactively than any college professor.

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Actually, that's what my friend who works at a university was telling me this summer, that they WANT to give accommodations and help kids and the kids WON'T come. It wasn't so much, at this school, that the kids were unaware or had unwilling profs. They simply were unwilling to be a bit different....

 

So if your kids have been to college and used accommodations, how did that go? Were profs unwilling and your kids had to fight for the accommodations?

 

http://www.going-to-college.org/campuslife/sharing.html

 

First I am just reposting link because it wasn't working properly for some and the information is good.

 

Your friend's experience is quite typical. There are students who really resist seeking out needed accommodations. Sometimes it is because students don't really buy into the diagnosis or what will help. For other students it is because they feel uncomfortable drawing attention to themselves or asking for help.

 

I do think it is really important though that students understand that professors want them to be successful and most really appreciate being given the information they need in order to allow a student to have what he or she needs. The process is set up so their personal information is going to the disability office and they determine what is appropriate in the way of accommodations. So, it isn't the case that students have to hash through all their info and ask each professor to make a determination.

 

It is important that teens start to get experiences telling people what they need. It is great if there can be opportunities with other teachers, mentors, etc. during the high school years to work on some of those skills. At home we can get used to little work-arounds that are so seamless we may not even realize they are happening.

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I won't say never, but at this point it doesn't look as though my dd will be able to seek help for herself, because she doesn't want to be different in anyway, because she's overcome so many of her earlier issues that she's borderline in terms of needing any accommodations, and finally, because she is one of those Aspies -- and there are many -- who are unable to initiate that kind of interaction even by walking through a door and requesting paperwork.

 

I recently heard John Elder Robinson, author of Look Me in the Eye, give an interview in which he said that he now in his fifties recognizes that he will never, ever be able to initiate social interaction of any kind. What he's done instead of work on making himself receptive to the initiatives of others. Cynthia Norall, who runs an autism clinic and social skills groups in my city (and who diagnosed dd at age eight) has written a book about Aspies, Quirky Yes, Hopeless No, in which she says it is highly unlikely that a large number of people that go through her clinic will ever be able to initiate anything that requires social assertion. Like Robinson, she says that being receptive to the overtures of others is what they CAN do.

 

I know several Aspies who can walk into a disabilities office and request help, be assertive about their needs, and find it all unproblematic and matter of course. I know several others who not only do not wish to, but who simply can not. All the training and seeing such behaviors modeled and walk-throughs make zero difference. I know if dd truly needed anything a college could offer her, particularly emotional support once she's away from home, she would need her parents interceding and initiating the process for her. Once it was initiated by someone else, she could follow through independently. I also know that the way society is set up legally and in terms of cultural expectations right now, this isn't considered the thing to do, or even a possible thing to do in some cases. A social disability like that which can come with Asperger's, particularly the inability to initiate a process if that requires social assertion in any form, complicates the process of getting accommodations for learning differences in ways that colleges have not yet been able to figure out.

 

So "won't ask for help" may stem from a desire not to stand out in any way or acknowledge difference, but it may also come from a real inability to take the initiatory steps that are required, on one's own.

 

This has not been our experience at 2 different schools as well as multiple others we have contacted. The disability offices we have worked w/have been very open to our being w/ds at the meetings and helping him communicate w/them. We actually pd for an on-campus advocate that would go w/him to meet professors and talk w/them about his disability as well as if he was not understanding assignments, etc for the advocate to go to the professor's office hrs w/him. Again, complete reception from both the school and teachers.

 

What cannot happen (and imho, I agree that it shouldn't happen) is parents interceding on behalf of their student w/o the student actively engaged in the process himself/herself. So, for example, last semester when our ds refused to accept his accommodations (after 3 semesters of having accepted them), we could not go to the disability office and ask for them for him. (nor would we have)

 

From our experience, the staff in the disabilities office are incredibly kind and patient and want to do whatever they are legally able to do in order to help students succeed. But.....students have to want their help.

 

FWIW, some schools have fabulous programs already established. The Kelly Autism Program at Western kentucky Uni is a model I really like. Other schools like Marshall Uni have different models but are equally trying to help students achieve success.

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