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Mike Westwood
Noodle Expert Member

April 09, 2020

This article will detail my insights and suggestions for how to self-advocate for disability services in college. It will be told solely through my perspective.

For any college student with a form of a disability, self-advocating is a very important social and communication skill to learn and improve upon. Every person is responsible for their own success in life and being diagnosed with any condition will present an extra barrier or disadvantage that a person must cope with. For the individuals with higher-functioning conditions, where they can accomplish their goals with some self-determination and a bit more effort than their peers, that extra work pays off in the end.

I was in a position of having to self-advocate for disability services in college, which allowed me to progress as an independent person by a lot. Granted, my diagnosis affects me socially rather than academically, but the point still remains that I matured by getting the support I may have needed for my courses. I was very uncomfortable with having to self-advocate at first, but I became adjusted to it after a while. One of the most vital aspects of self-advocating is being self-aware of what your strengths and weaknesses are. This self-awareness can be more of a struggle if the disability impacts your perception of how things are typically done, such was the case with me. However, if the student is open-minded and willing to improve their skills, the disability services personnel are more likely to work with the student to provide the appropriate academic accommodations.

Certain students with disabilities benefit from a varying set of accommodations, such as extended time on exams and taking exams in a noise-reducing environment, having a note-taking guide and recording lectures to take notes on later. For one semester in my Junior year, I requested a note-taking guide and it helped me with understanding the material. Taking notes was not one of my strengths and knowing I had that option made me feel very relieved. In my first college, I recall reading a document from that college's disability services office stating that if the student receiving services wants to succeed in college, they have to accept that they must work harder than their peers for the same reward.

When I read that sentence, my first thought was, "I know that is a true statement, but how unfair is that for the diagnosed?" However, life is not fair and that sentence in that document was accurate. As the saying goes, these conditions do not define the person. It is up to the person to either get the support to overcome the condition or do the best they can while living with the diagnosis, as I have accepted as a person with autism. It is important to be optimistic, because the symptoms of these disabilities can be re-framed as strengths for the students to channel. It is also very important for the students to figure out which accommodations work best for them and how to communicate well enough with the staff to help them understand.

Any disability can be frustrating to deal with, but they are a part of how a lot of people live. The diagnosis may be a presence, but the student can choose to rise above it and accomplish their goals. My college career, along with many other students around the world, is proof that a disability, whether it is developmental, physical or learning can be supported and the students can make it work for themselves.

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