How to Access Your School’s Disability Resources

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Disability is a broad term – it can range from physical disabilities, learning disabilities, and mental health, that all can negatively affects a student’s education. Asking for help in a university setting can be daunting, so here are some tips on how to make that process a little easier.

1. Go to Your School’s Access Centre for Students with Disabilities (ACSD)

While some universities may have a different name for this service/department, every university in Canada will have some sort of program set up to provide support for students with disabilities. While most ACSD’s are willing to help any student who comes to them, most provinces require a student to complete a recent psychoeducational evaluation in order to receive full disability benefits from the school.

2. What is a psychoeducational evaluation and how do I get one?

A psychoeducational evaluation is an assessment done by either a psychologist or psychiatrist (NOT your general practitioner) that essentially evaluates how one’s disability (be it physical, learning, or mental health) affects their education. The evaluation assesses a student’s working memory, processing skills, perceptual reasoning, and verbal comprehension. The evaluator also provides recommendations for extra resources the school should offer to the student in order for them to succeed academically.

It is important to note that a psychoeducational evaluation can be quite costly to undertake – on average, it costs between $1000 and $2000 in order to have a full one completed. However, there are many options for students who cannot afford this cost – for example, many centres focusing on ADHD or other learning disabilities will provide the evaluation for free in exchange for students participating in monthly surveys or support group meetings. Some universities will offer the evaluation to students in need, and many insurance companies will cover the cost of one.

3. What disability resources can I ask for?

There are a few common resources universities offer to students, including:

  • Extra time on quizzes, tests & exams: the most common resource offered. Students can be given anywhere from 25% to 75% extra time on evaluation.
  • Use of Computers in class/in assessments: students are allowed to write tests & exams on computers opposed to by hand, and students are exempt if professors do not allow laptops in lectures.
  • “Stop The Clock” Breaks: whilst in an assessment or examination, students are allowed to leave the room to take a quick stretch break, with this break not counting towards their time limit for the assessment.
  • Extensions on Assignments: though this is always up to the discretion of the professor, they are more open to allowing extensions on assignments as needed.
  • 4. I can’t get a psychoeducational assessment done but I still need help… what do I do?

    Many students who utilize their Access Centres are unable to obtain a full evaluation, and they are still able to receive benefits and resources from their university. Students without an evaluation will simply have more limited access to the resources available – for example, being allowed to use a computer during an exam, but being given no extra time is one possibility, but this can change from school to school. In addition to this, if you have a psychoeducational assessment scheduled for the future, most ACSD’s will allow you to access their full range of resources while you wait to complete the evaluation. And even if you don’t have an official diagnosis, you should still reach out to your professors and talk to them about what adjustments you will need to make in order to do well in their class.

    5. How to talk to Profs about your Disability

    If you think you are going to be requiring resources from the ACSD for the academic semester, it’s a good idea to speak to your professor early about what you will need to succeed in their class. You are in no way required to reveal the details of your disability, and no professor should ever ask you for details. Don’t hesitate to ask your Prof for what you need – if the idea of randomly being called upon in class to answer a question gives you terrible anxiety, talk to them and tell them that, while also reassuring them you will still actually participate in class.

    6. Most important of all… ADVOCATE FOR YOURSELF!

    Figuring out exactly what you need in order to succeed in school is one of the biggest challenges students with disabilities face in their education, and once you know what works for you, you shouldn’t be afraid to speak up and say it. Don’t wait until you’re already struggling, be proactive in acquiring the resources you need, or reaching out to Professors to discuss. Take advantage of every possible resource your school offers. Make the learning experience better for yourself – find out what’s available and figure out what’s the most helpful to you.

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