How To Succeed In College With A Disability
Stephen Byrd, 31 Jul 17

Whether you have a physical disability, mental illness or learning challenge, there are strategies to help you earn your degree. Stocksnap

If you’re entering college as a student with a disability, the first thing you should know is that you’re not alone. In a study of approximately 11,000 young adults with disabilities, nearly 20 percent were found to have attended a four-year college or university at some point after high school.

And, like all students, you should have a sense of pride in what the college experience can do for you: You’ve demonstrated self-determination in deciding to take classes, meet new friends and have many exciting experiences. What’s more, you and your family are making an important contribution to your future. Many studies show that success in college is an indicator of success in the work world.

As a professor of education and program coordinator for special education, I teach first-year students and advise students throughout their undergraduate careers. Over my 12 years of teaching, I’ve seen some of the challenges that stand in the way of success for college students with special needs – many of which apply to nearly all students.

These challenges can prove daunting, but there are strategies that can help.

Help your professor understand

Often disabilities are hidden, but that just means that you can’t see them when you meet someone. Hidden or not, disabilities are real.

Don’t be afraid to talk to your professors and help them understand your disability.  Rawpixel/

Many professors don’t know very much about disability or may not have had much experience making changes to their classes. Or perhaps it’s been a while since they’ve had a student with special needs in their classroom.

Providing some websites or simple readings may be helpful.

The important thing is to help your professor understand that you’re not trying to get by with easier work. Instead, you want them to see that your accommodations are there so that you can be successful. Communicate to them that you’re willing to work hard and put in the extra time that’s necessary to master the content.

In my experience, faculty can be very supportive – and your best advocates at college. Know that they’re going to be your mentors and the ones to help you find internships and even jobs. They’re going to be the ones writing your recommendation letters in the future.

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