Managing College When Chronically Ill Part 2
Last week I shared experiences with college this semester and how I am learning to balance both education and health. I encourage you to read that post if you haven't already.
For this week, the focus is on finding help and support.
As a student and someone with a disability, I have worked on being vocal about the assistance and help I need. This changed slightly when all of my classes were online, and I only needed a couple of accommodations. When I started attending college in person again, I have realized I'm needing more accommodations because of the progression of pain and fatigue.
That is why I have taken advantage of the resources that are at my college. If you are a student, I encourage you to reach out for help. Take that step of courage, and you will be able to accomplish even more. Don't let this chronic illness or disability define you. Even though it may seem hard at times, you matter. By receiving help at your college, university, or any school you attend, it will be worth it.
1. Student Affairs and DSPS
I wanted to start by sharing where you can ask for help on your college or university campus. Depending on where you are or will be attending, you will have some form of student affairs or Disabled Student Programs and Services (DSPS).
When I attended community colleges in person and online, I was connected with the DSPS. The process involved getting a doctor's note, filling out paperwork, and an appointment to talk with a counselor. After each of these steps, I was then given a sheet of paper that listed my accommodations. I would then show this to each of my professors when requesting accommodations for their classes. If you happen to be online, sending a copy to each professor through an email is needed.
To be honest, at first, I was a little hesitant when requesting accommodations. I didn't grow up with a disability and when I started college, living in chronic pain was still new to me. But, after going through my first year of college without any extra assistance I knew a change was needed.
Now, attending college in person at a different campus, I have gotten to know most of the individuals that work at student affairs. They are there to help me with questions related to my academics, resources, and anything else I may need.
They are there to help students. I would encourage you to reach out to your college when requesting accommodations. They will help you through the process of figuring out what works best for you.
Accommodations are there to help students that have a learning, or physical disability. Such as extra time for exams, a separate room for less distraction, note-taking, and more. I think of accommodations as tools that are meant to help a student who is struggling with a disability.
When I started using my accommodations there was a sense of guilt. I felt it was unfair to other students, and I thought to myself "I should be able to do accomplish everything at the same speed." That negative thought changed after taking an exam at my colleges' testing center. Instead of panicking because of the time limit, I was able to relax because I was able to focus and take short breaks when the fatigue worsened.
Since then, I have used accommodations for the past few years. One of the more recent ones is using an audio recorder for lectures. This is very helpful on the days that my pain or fatigue is severe. I'm able to click on the start button, and then pause or stop the recording at any time. Then I'm able to listen to the recording when I need to rest or drive home. It's a helpful resource to continue reviewing what I am not feeling well physically to open a textbook or watch a video of the recording.
If you are a student with a disability, I highly recommend getting accommodations. Even if you don't need them for every class, there are still available when you do.
3. Communicating With Professors
One of the best pieces of advice I could give to anyone in college, and especially those that have a disability or chronic pain, is communicating with your professors. Until you share with them what you need, or ask for help, they won't know.
This doesn't mean you need to share all of the details, or your diagnosis, but is important to explain just the basics. They are obligated to give you accommodations if you are coming through DSPS or Student Services.
There was this one professor I had last spring. This was a communications class, and I didn't seem to have any reasons to use my accommodations. Or at least this is what I thought until I found out one of the speeches required folding an index card. Then I would turn it over when using it to do my speech. I knew this would be a problem because of the weakness in my hands.
I ended up talking with this professor over zoom. I explained to her the reasons why I would struggle with folding the index card. I was able to fold the card in half (instead of in fourths), and it made a difference.
Now, I have continued to communicate with my professors. I explain to them if I need extra time for quizzes and tests, assignments, or note-takers. Each of my professors has been very understanding. In return, the extra help has allowed me to feel like I will succeed in my classes.
I hope you enjoyed part 2 of Managing College When Chronically Ill. In the future, I will most likely continue to write more related to attending college and having a chronic illness. There is more that I am learning as I am walking through obstacles and challenges. But even though it is all, God is still there. He is helping me to not let this circumstance with my health define me.
As you go through this week, I encourage you to reach out for help in the areas you need it most. For some, it may be related to college, and for others, it could be with work. And if there is more that I didn't cover in this post related to college and having a disability, I welcome you to comment below. I would love for you to share other suggestions or resources.