4 Ways To Traverse College Through The Lens Of Developmental Disabilities

4 ways to traverse college through the lens of developmental disabilities image impact org

Contributed by: Jane Serra, Image Impact International Blog Editor

Did you know that March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month? President Ronald Reagan proclaimed this in 1987, providing an opportunity to spread knowledge and awareness, and to promote inclusion, contributions, and togetherness.

What is considered a developmental disability?

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), developmental disabilities are a group of conditions due to an impairment in physical, learning, language, or behavior areas. These conditions begin during the developmental period, may impact day-to-day functioning, and usually last throughout a person’s lifetime. Examples of developmental disabilities include: Autism Spectrum Disorder, Cerebral Palsy, hearing loss, intellectual disabilities, and vision impairment.

College Students with Developmental Disabilities

Individuals who identify with a developmental disability are not alone. Studies estimate that about one in six (15%) of children ages 3-17 have one or more developmental disabilities. Among college undergraduates, 11% have chosen to report living with a disability (U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics).

Transitioning from the regimented schedule of high school to college can be a particularly tough transition for students, and especially tough for students who identify with disabilities.

Here are 4 ways to traverse the academic hurdles that may arise from developmental disabilities throughout the academic terrain:

  1. If you chose to disclose, then meet with your school’s academic support services department, as well as your teachers, to let them know how they can best help.     

    Acquiring academic support can help get the necessary time, help, academic attention and resources you may need.

    Post-Secondary institutions offer an array of resources at your fingertips. College Choice provides a guide to college resources for students with disabilities.

  2. Build a support team.

    This can be family, friends, a school counselor, study group, or tutoring. You may also wish to find a mentor or coach – someone who has achieved the goals you have in mind for yourself and what you hope to accomplish in the next few years. Many times colleges offer reading and writing centers and academic support centers for one on one help talking through assignments and lessons.

    Find your motivation through a support team and stories that recharge and inspire you. This year, New York’s Office for People with Developmental Disabilities highlights 31 people whose stories make them “One of a Kind.”

  3. Everyone is different – find a routine that works for you.

    When planning your schedule each semester, enlist the help of an academic support advisor. This can be via your school’s Academic Support Services Office. Be sure to register as soon as possible to take advantage of all possible options – some schools provide early registration for students with disabilities. Ask your school if this is possible.

    Some resources suggest scheduling classes across all 5 days, to keep you in a constant routine and to allow time for extracurricular activities. Keep in mind, you can always reduce your course load and adjust your schedule until you find a comfortable balance.

    Be sure to set aside time for homework, studying, and meeting with your support group – whatever you decide is right for you.

  4. Take time to recognize your accomplishments.

    College is hard! For everyone. Acknowledge every accomplishment along the way. Submitting homework on time, finishing a detailed report, passing an exam – these are all achievements to be proud of. Take time to congratulate yourself for every milestone – big and small.

Art by Gary Murrel, via National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD)