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Prepare for College: Partner with the DSO

Categories: Blind or Visually Impaired

Kristen Witucki, Learning Ally’s Community Coordinator for Students who are Blind or Visually Impaired, shares her best advice for how to make the most of summer break.  Student Disabilities OfficeThe drama of acceptance, waitlist, rejection is over. High school is ending, or it’s becoming a distant memory. Time to sit back and relax, right? Not if you’re blind or visually impaired. Maybe not ever. But if you’re blind or have low vision, there’s so much to do! Learning Ally wants to help you prepare for college this summer. Over the summer we will talk about what you can do now to ensure success later on. Why prepare during the summer? Because you’ll be preparing for the next four years, if not for the rest of your life. You will need to get used to doing things ahead of time, even when no one else around you seems to. So we are releasing a series of blog entries which talk about all of the types of preparation you will need. Partnering with your Disabilities Services Office Or whatever this office calls itself at your school. Chances are all of your friends with disabilities approach a similar office which identifies itself by a unique name. But regardless of what it’s called, the disabilities service office on campus can help to connect you with resources and will set up any accommodations you may need to learn successfully. As you set up your accommodations, keep the following tips in mind: Start early. Ho hum. Just like my last blog entry. Well, preparation is the key to college life. Do not wait until the semester starts to meet with your DSO. Meet as soon as you possibly can! Know what works and what doesn’t work. Before you enter a meeting with this office for the first time, think about the accommodations you used during high school. How did you take notes during class? How did you study for and take quizzes and tests? How did you write research papers? In answering these “how” questions, think about your process, but also think about the equipment or programs you used. Do you learn more effectively with print, braille, audio or with a combination method? The disabilities services office will be able to help you more effectively if you know which accommodations have worked for you so far and which ones absolutely will not work. Be proactive at your meeting. You may be used to IEP meetings, in which you either had a huge role or no role at all. You were surrounded by a team which included your parent or guardian, your TVI, at least one general education teacher and other professionals who were relevant to your education. Each of these people was responsible for putting your accommodations together into a package you could use. That was high school; this is college. Your parent or guardian may or may not accompany you to this first meeting; some disabilities offices prefer that you meet alone. It’s up to you, not only to know what you need but to communicate it to the disabilities office in a way the people there can understand. Be positive. You may have heard that honey is better than vinegar. With people you don’t know, this is about 99% true, and your disabilities office is likely to be in that majority. Be firm about your needs, but communicate in a way that encourages cooperation and respect between you and the office. Ask the office to help you connect. When you meet with your DSO, talk about your upcoming semester in concrete detail. If at all possible, decide what courses you need and want to take so that you can continue all of this wonderful early preparation by connecting with your instructors. Stay tuned for my next blog article to learn more about connecting positively with your professors. Kristen Witucki Kristen Witucki is the community coordinator for students who are blind or visually impaired at Learning Ally and is excited to be working on the College Success Program. Her past roles at Learning Ally have included member, advocate, intern, product support representative and product tester, among others. She loves to teach and to write and lives in New Jersey with her husband and their four-year-old son.
Mentor Hoby WedlerStart the next school year strong by getting advice from our amazing College Success Program mentors. Like Kristen, they are all individuals who are blind or visually impaired and have succeeded in college. To learn more or request a fall 2015 mentoring session, visit www.LearningAlly.org/CollegeSuccess.