Is this book for you?

Do you have an invisible disability?
Does someone in your family live with AD/HD, dyslexia, Asperger’s Syndrome/Autism Spectrum Disorder, a learning disability, or an affective disorder like depression?
Are you or an invisibly disabled person you know in college or preparing for college?
Are you the parent of an invisibly disabled child whom you would like to eventually prepare for college?
Are you an educator or support staff for disabled students?

These are the people who are the primary audience for this book.
While the title might indicate that only those who are going to study science, technology, math, or engineering might find the book useful, this is not the case. STEM fields are singled out because many of the invisibly disabled students who study in these fields are very intelligent and may not have developed study habits prior to leaving high school. Regardless of if a student has or needs to develop study habits though, this book provides guidance and information for invisibly disabled students, their families and supporters.

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This handbook can help families prepare a younger student years in advance of the child’s entering college, by giving insight into the changes in academic expectations a student will face, and changes in legal status that a family will face. It can also help teachers and aids realize the kinds of independence that a range of disabled students need to develop prior to graduation.

If a student is already in college, then the book will be helpful in knowing who students and families can talk to for different types of academic and emotional support. Families may for example, know about the disability support person on campus but are they aware of the learning centers? Do they realize the importance of the Housing staff? Do families know when is it appropriate for parents or caregivers to intercede on their student’s behalf? How can a family assist their student in obtaining the support the student does need?

For those working in higher education there are insights provided regarding the challenges different disabilities present for students. Medications wear off, brains function differently when processing the same types of information, while the majority of disabled students live with multiple disabilities.

Containing some of the ‘insider’ knowledge of how higher education works, this book is a handy reference for students and families. It also provides insight for educators who may not realize what families are facing in preparing their invisibly disabled student, or the particular challenges that invisibly disabled students face when learning and living.

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http://www.jkp.com/search/index.php?s=christy+oslund

Available now directly from Jessica Kingsely Publishers or through booksellers.

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How MOOCs can assist disabled students.

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There is increasing buzz about the potential of MOOCs (massive open online courses) to making education available to everyone. As MOOCs are offered by schools like Harvard and MIT, some people have proposed that this is the future of education. Students need to keep their feet firmly planted on the ground however, and remember:  no one is yet offering, 1) MOOC degrees or 2) jobs to people educated through MOOCs.

MOOCs do offer university level instruction to people who due to distance, cost, or interest in only very specialized topics are not able/willing to enroll in full time study at a university. MOOCs have another potential value, which I am not seeing people discussing. Invisibly disabled students could potentially use MOOCs as study tools before enrolling in and paying for a class for credit.

Consider for example a student who needs one math class for their degree, but who struggles with math. Taking a MOOC class like college algebra would allow the student to prepare. There are also pre-college algebra classes offered, if a student needs more foundational work before taking their for-credit university class. The MOOC class will not count for degree purposes, however, the practice the MOOC class would give in learning and working with concepts might be the precursor to success that a student could use. MOOC classes can also be repeated without cost, so that a student could repeat a class until they are comfortable enough with the content matter to take the class for credit.

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This is an area of educational preparation where MOOCs may prove to have something valuable to offer to invisibly disabled students who are seeking degrees. Enrollment in the MOOC classroom is unlimited, just as there is no limit to how many times a student reviews an open source class. In other words, a student can repeat the same class if needed to prepare for content matter they struggle with. This obviously is not a way to prepare for an entire degree, however, it can be useful when a student struggles with a specific class.

If you are a student who struggles with certain types of learning, then consider looking into the availability of MOOC classes which would allow you to work with concepts before you take a similar class for credit. And for families who have a student who desires a college education but who still needs to practice social skills before leaving home, MOOC classes provide access to educational practices that can be used at home, before the student relocates to a university or college away from home. MOOCs real value is in continuing education and in educational preparation. Once we recognize their value for what it is, we can see how MOOCs can be another tool in preparing invisibly disabled students for college success.

Can anyone study STEM?

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STEM studies — science, technology, engineering, and math — are often said to be the fields of study of the future. There has been and continues to be demand for people educated in these fields and these fields offer a broad range of possibilities. Students at the university where I currently work study ecology, biodiversity, chemical engineering, computer science, networking, and administration, forestry, physics, psychology, technical communication, nano-technology, packaging and marketing, pre-medicine/veterinarian, alternate fuels…the list is only as short as one’s imagination.

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What kind of students study here? All kinds! We seem to particularly attract students who self-identify as being the ‘geeks and nerds’ of their high schools. These are students who may have several invisible disabilities at once, and who prefer opportunities to work hands-on while learning. Some are very shy, some belong to half a dozen organizations, a few know everyone on campus. Just like every campus, we have a range of personality types.

Who isn’t happy here? Usually if you would rather be doing something else than learning, then a STEM school is not a good fit for you.

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If you want to kick back, sleep in, and quit listening, then a STEM education is not a good investment for you or your family. If you hate math too much to get through a calculus one class – which everyone has to take – then STEM education probably isn’t right for you, and you might not like college at all. If you can, however, work your way through one or two classes that you don’t love, in order to move on to the information that excites you, then you have the potential to be a STEM student.

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I’m always happy to answer questions when people want more information about STEM education. I also encourage readers to post their own experience with studying STEM; what fields excite you?

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What does it mean to be “invisibly” disabled?

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You may hear the term invisibly disabled and wonder, what does that really mean?

This term refers to the difference between those disabilities which a person can observe in another person, due to the accommodations a disabled person uses, and disabilities which are not visible at a quick glance. For example, we can “see” a wheelchair, a service dog, or a personal assistant which makes the fact that a person has a disability ‘visible’.

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Socially, we expect to ‘see’ when someone is disabled and it is not uncommon for people to assume that when they cannot ‘see’ a clear sign of a disability, then the person who for example, parks with a disabled placard but walks away from their car “isn’t really disabled.” Disability comes in many forms and the majority of them cannot be seen by glancing at another person.

[note: accessible parking placards are not given to everyone who is disabled; if they were then closer to 20% of all cars would have them – http://www.hhs.gov/od/about/fact_sheets/prevalenceandimpact.html  .]

Invisible disabilities which are most common among college students tend to include the following: autism spectrum/Asperger’s; attention deficit/hyper active disorder; anxiety spectrum disorder including obsessive compulsive and post traumatic stress disorder; affective disorders including depression;dyslexia; dyscalculia;  language processing disorder;  learning disability.

Additionally, universities are seeing increasing numbers of students living with Crohn’s disease, closed head injuries, diabetes, epilepsy, and multiple, sever allergies.

Of course, this is not an exhaustive list of all invisible disabilities – just the most common among the population of college students. There are two reasons I point this out.

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First, having any of these disabilities does not preclude a person from being successful in college. And secondly, it is helpful for students with these disabilities to realize that they are not alone on their campuses — other students live with similar disabilities and disability service providers, professors, and administrators are learning about how best to accommodate the range of learning styles in a classroom or dormitory hall that students will have.

This remains a challenging but exciting time for students with invisible disabilities. Every year new opportunities develop, new support technologies are made available, and public awareness grows a little more. College continues to become more accessible for more people.

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Please join a new community!

Announcement of New Book

Announcement of New Book

This site will provide opportunities for families of disabled students, and disabled students themselves, to ask questions and learn more about preparing for a college education. It will also aim to provide information to the public, and to educators and administrators about the concerns of disabled students, as well as information about disabilities. It is hoped that this site will also develop to become a place where people can ask questions, share experiences, and ideas.

Everyone who wishes to participate respectfully, realizing that we are diverse in our opinions and experiences, is welcome to start or join conversations here. Thank you for stopping in and we hope to see you back to share your own point of view!

For more information about the book please visit: http://collegedisability.com/