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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Summer Classes – New topics, re-do poor grades, or not-at-all?

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Depending on one’s school, summer semester may be the same length as all other semesters, or it may be a compacted semester. For example, some schools offer concentrated classes that do not meet over as many weeks but that do meet for a longer time period during each class session. If one is taking this kind of concentrated summer class there are some decided things to be aware of, particularly if one lives with a disability that impacts his or her learning.

The best strategy for summer classes may be to focus on repeating classes that were nearly passed the previous semester, or that one passed with a very low grade. Improving the grade in these classes will improve a student’s overall grade point average (GPA) which helps a student maintain good academic standing – academic standing impacts a student’s eligibility for financial aid, as well as whether or not a student will end up on academic probation or suspension.

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This also makes financial sense if one considers that it is more cost effective to privately borrow money during a shorter summer semester, should they have temporarily lost their financial aid due to grades. While tuition costs may stay the same, housing/food costs will be lower for the shorter summer semester. By re-taking classes that one failed earlier, during the summer, a student may be able to re-qualify for financial aid by the beginning of the fall semester.

When is retaking a previously failed class during a shorter semester not a good idea? When a student struggles with the material, or the way the material is taught. In these cases a student may benefit from retaking the class during a standard length semester so that they have more time to work with the information, tutors/learning centers, and their memories. Many disabilities impact memory and limit how much a student can memorize in a short period of time. In these cases, taking an abbreviated class in a subject area a student struggles with is often not a good idea.

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Memory, availability of tutors and sometimes limited summer hours in learning centers are also reasons why it is often not a good idea for a student  to take challenging-to-them new classes during the summer. Professors are still required to cover the same basic information, homework assignments, and assigned readings during the shortened semester as they do during a regular semester.

I do sometimes meet students who mistakenly believe that because a summer class might only last half as long during a summer semester as it does during the ‘regular’ school year, that the professor will assign only half as much work. This simply isn’t so. Students need to have the same preparation at the end of the semester for the classes that will follow, regardless of what time of year they took a class. Whether a semester is seven or fourteen weeks long, students need to know the same material and obviously that puts more pressure on a student, their memory, and their anxiety level.

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Summer is often a good time for a change of pace. Students should consider developing their work experience during the summer; this may include apply for an internship with a company. Even if a job is outside a student’s area however, the experience gained through working is valuable for a resume – work with the Career Services office on campus if unsure how to ‘fit’ work experience onto a resume. And remember – “work” does not have to be paid to belong on a resume. If a student has no luck finding a paying job, then the student should find an organization they can volunteer for that will help them build up their work experience.

Summer may also be a good time to take a class through a local community college that is not the student’s primary school. Students can check with their primary school’s registrar’s office to make sure any class(es) they take will transfer. Summer may also be the best time to get some a student’s physical education requirements taken care of with a swimming, rowing, sailing, or golfing class.

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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/