Some thoughts when advising students with disabilities:
The right to try to succeed
It is important to remember that historically students who have disabilities have been counseled by well-meaning “advisors” into programs and fields that have been thought to be “good” for them based their "disability". The result has been a lot of piano tuners who are blind, assembly line workers who are deaf, miners who are dyslexic, and many other individuals, who have a disability, being on state aid. Since the law now prohibits us to counsel students into more restrictive areas based on their disability we now have blind individuals who have become psychologists and medical doctors, deaf individuals working in the medical field, and learning disabled individuals running businesses.
A responsibility of the CEA is to research all the possibilities for appropriate academic accommodations and attempt to find avenues students can follow to pursue careers which disabled individuals have not historically been able to attain due to discrimination and stereotyping. It is important to know that employers are being asked to do the same thing, and must also adhere to the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Limitations, real and imagined
Students who have disabilities are sometimes unrealistic given their abilities, as are students without disabilities. However, some disabled students have achieved beyond what anyone could have imagined when allowed to pursue their dream. If though, after attempting coursework, the student is not able to be successful as reflected in their GPA, and they are using accommodations, they should be referred to the CEA for Disability Related advising. CEA will look into other options, such as alternative programs of study, outside agencies for support, and disability related counseling.
Students who have disabilities frequently have extensive support systems that may include parents, vocational rehabilitation counselors, caseworkers, community counselors, health and education professionals etc. It will be important to include those individuals at times during the student’s educational process. CEA is accustomed to working with these individuals in a team format in support of the student’s success.
Referring the student to the Center for Educational Access
Students who reveal that they have a documented disability (any diagnosis provided by a medical or psychiatric professional) or who have an obvious disability should be referred. Students whose academic record reveals they may have a disability (despite sincere attempts to learn or complete course work, the student continues to fail) and who have not already been to CEA should also be referred for assistance. Signs indicating that disabled students should seek assistance at the Center for Educational Access should be prominently displayed.
Taking difficult classes…one at a time
Students who have learning disabilities may need to take math and language courses in separate semesters, even if that means that they will need to take a decreased credit load which will result in taking longer to complete their program.
Reduced class load
Students who have disabilities should always give consideration to their class load. They usually need more time to process and learn information than students without disabilities. Unless they have demonstrated that they are successful taking a full load, they should be cautioned about continuing with a full load, or starting out with a full load. Most students are more successful if they take 9 credits or less. Summer session is not a good time for students with disabilities because the pace of the class is so fast. This interferes with their ability to get in enough time working with the material or for some students it may effect their stress level so severely they are unsuccessful. CEA always advises students to consider this before they register for summer courses.
Eligibility for Sports
NIC belongs to the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) and adheres to its policies. Students are normally required to carry a full load if they are involved in sports. However, students with documented disabilities who need to reduce their load, but desire to continue in sports may request to do so through CEA (NJCAA supports this type of request.).
Students who have a disability that is preventing them from successfully completing a course that is NOT considered an essential component of their program of study may request a course substitution. The student should attempt the course with accommodations at least once. It they are unable to be succesful due to their disability, and have the required documentation, they may request a course substitution (here at NIC for an AAS degree, or at the university they transfer to if they are seeking an AA or AS degree at NIC). These types of barriers most frequently arise in math and languages. All requests of this nature for the AAS must be requested through CEA initially.
Students who have been to CEA have been informed that, at their request, CEA will serve as an advisor or team advise with their faculty or staff advisor. Faculty find this supportive as well when working with students who have disabilities. Students may sign a release in the CEA office to facilitate exchanging information.
Accommodations for COMPASS
Students who have disabilities have the right to request accommodations on the COMPASS and should be referred to CEA. If they have already tested and were unhappy with their scores, they may request to retest if they are entitled to accommodations due to a disability and didn’t understand they could have them.
Priority registration as an accommodation
Students who have disabilities can request priority registration IF they have a DISABILITY-RELATED reason to request “cuts in line” so to speak. An example would be a student who uses a wheelchair and needs time between classes to get through ice and snow so they will not be late for classes or wants to find classes located in one building to avoid ice and snow altogether. All types of disabilities could warrant a legitimate request for priority registration. This request must be made in CEA prior to the beginning of registration. Upon approval of the student's request, CEA will facilitate moving the student's registration appointment to the morning of the first day of registration.
Drop rate for students not using accommodations
CEA stats have shown that there is a much higher drop rate for students with disabilities who DO NOT use their accommodations. CEA does not routinely follow the student’s progress. This requires that student's let CEA know that they need accommodation or that they need to discuss their continuing academic struggle despite their use of accommodations.
Anything that is learned from a student regarding their disability should not be disclosed to anyone without written permission from the student.