MEFA Institute: Prep Students with Disabilities for College

Transitioning to college and finding appropriate support services can be challenging for students with disabilities who have utilized an IEP in high school. This webinar for school counselors and college access professionals feature panelists from Westfield State University & Bridgewater State University as they share details of the resources available to students with disabilities as they transition to post-secondary education.


Please note that this transcript was auto-generated. We apologize for any minor errors in spelling or grammar.

Adam Hartwell: All right.

Again, welcome everyone to this webinar, College Transition for Students with Disabilities. I'm here with Jenna Shales, Ariel Lazar, and my name is Adam Hartwell. It is our pleasure to talk to you a little bit about this very important topic. I'm going to be starting by talking a little bit about MIFA and what we do and why we have the pleasure of hosting this particular event, and then I'm going to turn it over to these extraordinary experts to ensure that we get the most information possible to you wonderful folk who've joined us.

Uh, please take, uh, make good use of this webinar. the, uh, the Q and a and, uh, the, the chat box in order to make sure that we can take your questions at the end. Um, I'm, we've left plenty of time to make sure that all questions do get answered and we'll be keeping an eye on that as we go as well. Uh, all that being said, uh, as I said, I work for the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority or MIFA.

We are a state authority that was created in 1982 to help families plan, save and pay for college and reach their financial goals. I am, in particular, the Director of Attainable Outreach, so I specialize in what are called ABLE accounts, so that's what I'm going to talk about a little today. The Steven Beck Jr.

Achieving a Better Life Experience, or ABLE Act, amended the federal tax code in 2014 to add section 529A. If you are familiar with 529 accounts for saving for college, that's sort of the skeleton on which these accounts were built. The legislation established what are called ABLE accounts. These are tax exempt investment accounts for eligible individuals with disabilities to be used for qualified disability expenses, while still keeping eligibility for federal public benefits.

Federal public benefits include things like SSI, as well as federal housing waivers. MIFA is the state sponsor here in Massachusetts. Fidelity Investments is the program manager, so they're the ones who make sure your money goes to the right place. There are 49 active ABLE programs in the USA at this time.

Uh, you are allowed to open an account in any state that you choose. Uh, a lot of folk open accounts here in Massachusetts from out of state because we have some of the highest caps in the country. Uh, in Massachusetts, accounts from the ABLE Act are called attainable savings accounts. So those terms are interchangeable in this state.

But because there are 49 active programs, they all have different names. So if you want to look in other states, just be aware you're probably going to just look for ABLE accounts, but you'll find that they all have, uh, their own special names. Uh, we launched the attainable savings plan in, in 2017. Uh, in order to be eligible for an attainable account, the onset of the disability needs to have occurred before the individual turned 26 years old.

We did pass the able age adjustment act a couple of, uh, just last year. So that is going to turn to, uh, 46 years old starting in 2026. So it does not matter your current age, but if you are, um, someone who's 70 years old, but can show. from a physician's note or what have you that you've had a diagnosis since birth, you can open an ABLE account right now.

Uh, if you got, for instance, a traumatic brain injury when you were 30, you wouldn't be able to open one now, but you would be able to after January 1 of 2026. An individual should be eligible to receive SSI or SSDI due to their disability. Or they also can self certify as meeting requirements that requires a diagnosis with functional limitations to day to day abilities, such as those in the Social Security Administration's Blue Book.

You can see a lot of the general categories here on the right, also the things in there, compassionate allowances conditions. So we have a very broad definition of disability for the purposes of these accounts. It includes not just developmental disabilities, but also mental health disorders, uh, long term cancer recovery, uh, significant

owner or beneficiary to save above the two Thousand dollar SSI asset limit without attacking their federal benefits. One of the great benefits here is that if you feel like you are owned Sometimes operating on the edge of crossing that amount, opening an account gives you a place to put money instead of having to do unnecessary spending of your funds.

Um, you are allowed to have family and friends contribute to an attainable account just like they could for your college account. They can put it into your attainable account. Uh, beneficiaries can, uh, get access to their funds immediately. I'm going to put a little asterisks on immediately because these are, uh, investment trades.

So it can take 24 to 48 hours for the money to clear from your investment account over to your checking account or savings account. However it is that you choose to spend the money. Um, but you are able to get it yourself at will as opposed to having to go through an attorney or something. Accounts do provide individuals with disabilities, financial independence, and several tax benefits.

We're not going to be going into a lot of those details here today. I'm just giving you a very, very quick overview of what the program is. Uh, there is lots of information out there and I will direct you to places where you can look into that. But just so you are aware, qualified disability expenses from obtainable accounts include anything including education, housing, transportation, employment training and supports, assistive technologies, uh, and their related services, health, prevention and wellness, funeral and burial expenses, basic living expenses, and personal support services.

Uh, that personal support does include, uh, financial management and administrative services, as well as legal fees and expenses for ABLE account oversight. Additionally, food is considered a basic living expense. We have this explicitly cleared up, and that includes any food. We don't have the same limitations of something like a SNAP card, where you can get your, you can buy, uh, McDonald's, you can buy Uber Eats, you can get food delivery, you can get your groceries, anything that's food, you're allowed to spend money from your ABLE account on.

Uh, this is a broad definition, and it should not be illicit. limited to just what is a medical necessity. The purpose of this account is the understanding that living with a disability is more expensive and therefore there should be the opportunity to be able to provide for yourself. Uh, attainable accounts can be opened by the individual who has the disability themselves, a person with their power of attorney, their legal guardian, their spouse, their parent, their sibling, their grandparent, Or the rep payee, uh, whoever it is who opens the account is considered the person with signature authority.

That's the person who has control of the account. This is a hierarchy. So whoever opens the account is, uh, Signing off in the course of that, that nobody above them on the list wanted that responsibility, it should always be considered that the designated beneficiary is the owner of the account, regardless of whether or not someone else has signature authority over it, because we're really talking about education today.

One of the things I wanted to highlight is that you can use your attainable account for education expenses, which includes tuition. And textbooks, and assistive technology, and one on one assistance. Uh, one of the things that I've, I've heard often from some of the excellent people that you're going to be hearing in detail from in just a minute is the point that a lot of supports in college are self initiated and private pay as opposed to in high school when a lot of times the teachers will be seeking these out for you.

So, Attainable can assist people in finding opportunities for education equity. If you want an open account, you go to fidelity. com slash able. Uh, I would recommend reading up on the documentation. Uh, there's also a specially trained team of this massive brokerage firm who, if you call them on their main number, we'll have no idea what you're talking about.

So you want to call the, uh, the attainable trained individuals. The phone number is here at 5 3. Um, that number is available on the website at fidelity. com slash able. So you don't have to memorize it and don't worry. We will be sending these slides out to everyone who registered. Um, for more information, please, you know, seek us out over at MIFA, mifa.

org slash attainable. Uh, there's also a National Resource Center. Uh, Fidelity, of course, has their own information about it. The Social Security Administration works with us. They're very happy about this program because it saves them a lot of difficulty. Uh, so they have spotlights about the program. And we also have an email sign up so that we can give you more details about the program as it has existed and as things change to it because it's only expanded almost every year that it's been in existence.

Thanks. So that's my really quick spiel about, uh, the Attainable program. Uh, with all that being said, I'm going to move us on to the experts who are, who is what you all came here to listen to. And I appreciate your time and attention.

That being said, passing it off to Jenna.

Jenna Shales: Alright, well hello everyone. My name is Jenna Shales. I am from Bridgewater State University where I oversee the office that is known as Student Accessibility Services. And I am joined by Sarah. Did you want to say hi before we jump in, Sarah?

Sarah Lazare: Yes, my name is Sarah Lazar, and I'm the director of the Binoculars Academic Center at Westfield State University, which houses two disability support programs.

I'm really excited to see all of you here today, and I hope that you learn something from us. So just as

Jenna Shales: a quick glance ahead, um, some of the topics that we are going to try to hit on are just some general information, some current stats about college students with disabilities. We're going to talk a bit about high school versus college, um, because there are a lot of differences, um, based on the laws and philosophy.

Um, We are going to talk about modifications, which are more common in high school and accommodations in college. Uh, FERPA and the role of the student, like Adam said, uh, the college experience for people with disabilities is a lot more self directed than the K through 12 environment. So that's going to be a big topic.

Um, we're going to talk just about the academic and executive function expectations, uh, that you will find in colleges and universities and the ability or the approach, the need for enhancing self advocacy. We'll get into some tips and tricks about selecting and applying to college, and Sarah and I will both highlight the programs available at our universities.

Sarah, you want this one? You want me to do it? Sure.

Sarah Lazare: I was muted. So, uh, generally about 20 percent of elementary and secondary students have a learning disability. Um, And 94 percent we see some sort of help of accommodation in high school. Uh, I must say that disabilities in general in the student population, um, we are everywhere.

We are everywhere. Um, the, the prevalence of students with disabilities in the college arena has risen. And more and more people are very welcome and open and it's become so much more normalized. Uh, so now about 20 percent of college students have some type of disability. I think that is different at our schools.

Mine has a much higher, uh, number. It's probably close to a third of the students. And, uh, Nationally, though only 6 percent of those students received accommodations in 2017. Um, so it's, it's very important to look at the specific school to see, you know, how many students, uh, how regular it is. Um, so that's, that's important to look at.

Jenna Shales: So, jumping into some of the differences with laws and guiding philosophy, um, you will find that in the K 12 environment, right, we are primarily looking at the IDEA, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Um, so that's where you hear things like FAPE, right, Free Appropriate Public Education. Um, And ADA and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act still apply in the K 12 environment, but they are not, they are not what is guiding your students academic experience, right?

Um, once a student moves towards the, uh, college environment, Really, ADA, um, and a different subsection of Section 504, um, come into play. And so the real shift is that when a student is basically experiencing the academic environment in the context of the IDEA, right, the rights that they are provided and the resources that they are provided with are meant to ensure success.

Right? So, successful movement through that K through 12 or aging out at 21 process. Um, a lot of times you will see that there are modifications to curriculum, expectations, um, some pretty significant support services, personal aids, those are all provided to ensure success. Um, once a student comes to the college environment, it's no longer a guarantee of success that we absolutely believe that your student can be successful.

Um, it's about equitable access, right? Equitable opportunity to experience all of the different aspects of the college or university experience. Right? Um, and so how that plays out is really a bit different, um, and we're going to get a little bit more into that, um, especially on the next slide about modifications and

Sarah Lazare: accommodations.

So as Janice said, modifications are to guarantee success, but what it means is that the student might have lowered or altered expectations of standards, and a student might have something like they need to write two pages instead of the five pages that everybody is writing. They might have only two choices on a multiple choice exam from which to choose.

And it allows the student to demonstrate basically that they have knowledge of the subject, uh, however, they're not given as much to do in order to demonstrate that. Um, it might change a learning experience to meet the individual's needs and abilities. And in a case like that, it might be that we're talking about Uh, China, and they only have to talk about one province instead of writing about all five.

So the curriculum might actually be changed for that student. Uh, and then there's provision of specialized and personal supports. So a student in K 12 might be provided a PCA or a nurse or somebody, but when they get to, The accommodation process and when they get to, um, college, that would be considered a personal support that is not provided by the college.

Um, and accommodation is about access. So once a student is accepted to a college, they're expected to perform the same way, not maybe way, but the same amount of work. They, they have to meet the same standards. A C for a student is a C Seeing same C for all students, uh, there's no asterix on their, um, report cards or in their transcript.

So the expectations or standards are equivalent to those for non disabled peers. We want access. We want to remove barriers to the learning experience and the living experience, and it needs to be directly related to the individual's eligible diagnosis or diagnoses. Um, and we cannot fundamentally alter the nature or core components of a program or create an undue burden.

Uh, so students do need to do things like hand things in on time. Um, they do need to figure out a way to have a presentation. Um, it might be slightly modified from, um, or adjusted from what other students are doing. However, they still need to perform at the same time. Level and expectation.

Jenna Shales: So this slide is one that I particularly like when, um, to show when we're talking about modifications, accommodations and access.

Right? Um, so the graphic on the left is equality. All of the students in this class, we're going to pretend are being tasked with writing on the board, um, 10 sentences. Okay, and so the person on the left, they're a little bit shorter, they can't reach the whole amount of the board. So maybe they're going to really struggle getting 10 sentences in the space that they actually have access to, right?

The person in the middle, they have some additional height, right? They're able to reach more to the left, more to the right, higher, lower. So they're probably not really facing a barrier, right? Related to the task of writing 10 sentences on the board. And then you look at the person on the right, who's sitting in the rollator and they can't even reach the board, right?

So when it comes to that idea of modification that you'll see in the K through 12 environment, what could happen in that case is the person on the left might get a modified task, right? So instead of writing 10 sentences, they only have to write five because that's all they can reach. And the person on the right may not even have to write any sentences Um, and they may be given the opportunity to let's say, just talk instead.

Right? Um, so that's making sure that they are all successful in achieving a goal, right? Because the, the actual task is being modified. What we do in the college environment is generally accommodation, right? So we're going to look at what is the barriers experiencing, right? The barrier is, you know, these other two folks really can't reach the board in an equitable way to be able to have a chance of completing that task.

So we would provide the person on the left, and this is now the center graphic. We would provide the person on the left with a little stand, boost them up. We provide the person sitting on the rollator with a ramp and a platform. And now the All have an, an equitable opportunity to complete the task of writing 10 sentences on the board.

Does it guarantee that they all write the 10 sentences? Nope, that's not That's where that self direction, right, and that meeting expectations comes in. Um, but they all have a shot at it, right? No one is facing a barrier, um, related to that task. And then what we're hoping to do as we all kind of evolve, um, both, you know, as society and institutions, is get to that full accessibility model, which is that graphic on the far right, where there's not a need for accommodation, because it's built in a way where right off the bat, it's Everybody has the same type of opportunity to write the 10 sentences on the board.

Why? Because a larger board was used, and it was hung a little bit lower, and it was done in a thoughtful manner, right? Um, there are some cases where you will find that my institution, Sarah's institution, other institutions are there, right? We are there with accessibility. Um, and there are plenty of other examples where accommodations are still needed, so that's why this conversation is incredibly important.

Sarah Lazare: So one of the protections that, uh, people have in K through 12 is FERPA and FERPA when in high school, um, or until the age of 18 is a right attached to the parents. Um, or guardian. However, when students get to college, that right attaches to the student. The student has the right to the records. Um, the parents do not.

And this is often very difficult for parents because what they're used to is being involved in everything. Um, there are many students though, who come in and they have not had the support of parents or guardians and who have been doing this for most of their life, or, um, they have a social worker helping them out.

Uh, so it, it varies. However, what's really important to know for students when you get to college is that we cannot call up your parent or guardian and say, Oh, you didn't show up. To class. We can't give that information, um, freely, and we actually do not want to. So there's both FERPA and then there's the reality that we are working with students for them to become citizens of the world, citizens of Massachusetts.

Um, and we'll talk a little bit more about self advocacy later. Uh, so colleges can share information at its discretion and it might do so in cases of emergency. Um, there is, uh, At every school, there should be some sort of FERPA authorization form. Some people call it a waiver, some people call it a release of information.

Uh, that still means that we may share it at our discretion. It, it's not our job to work with the parents directly all the time. So again, we're not calling you up and saying, this happened today. We, we work with the students. It doesn't mean that we don't want you to call us up and say this is going on.

I'm concerned. We want to hear that information, but we cannot share information, um, except for like policy and practice so that that's important to know what should happen in a situation like this. So, again, we want the students to leave the communications. Uh, we want them to be effective citizens. Um, I see it happen all the time.

I know many parents are afraid of this. What? I cannot tell you how amazed I am at how much students grow when they're in college and they're living on campus and they're taking care of information. Um, so remember FERPA.

Jenna Shales: Absolutely. Um, so another big shift in that, like, high school to college, um, you know, time of evolving, right? Um, are changing acts of academic expectations. Um, so compared to most high school kind of courses and curriculum in general, the volume of coursework is significantly more than what it was in high school.

Um, the readings and the media, if you have to watch videos or supportive, you know, documents. For your class, they may not be reviewed directly in class, but you're still responsible for knowing what that is And so that takes a level of kind of self direction and motivation that doesn't necessarily happen um in in high school or isn't necessarily required in high school because More stuff is reviewed in the classes, right?

Um, there are higher standards for evidencing mastery, right, or the quality of work. Um, in general, in most cases, you need at least a C to be able to move forward in a series of classes, right? Um, and sometimes that can be an even higher letter grade requirement. Tests are less frequent, and because they're less frequent, they often cover more information, um, so, you know, being able to not only kind of memorize and be familiar with more information, but being able to demonstrate a deeper understanding of more information can be a challenge, right?

Um, I know that my kiddo, um, has had like an app, right, that, um, gives me all of the updates on their schooling since preschool. Daycare? Daycare. Um, and that is probably not going to be the case in college, right? Um, we all have like blackboards and learning management systems, but that immediate grade, immediate feedback, always being able to, Check in and see how you're doing.

That may not be the case. Um, and so you as a student, right, need to kind of figure out how to manage your own feedback or how to get feedback when you need it. Um, Makeup work is pretty rare, right? So if you miss assignments, you miss assignments, and it's gonna impact your grade. Um, so, you know, that's another pretty big difference between high school and college.

Um, and not all graded assignments are weighed equally in the final course grade. So you may have one exam that's worth half of your grade, and a bunch of smaller assignments that are worth half of your grade. 10 percent of your grade, right? And being able to figure that out, um, can be challenging, right?

Um, the other thing that is a really big kind of wow moment for a lot of students with and without disabilities, um, is that expectation for self directed study outside of class. So, I'm going to pre warn everyone. I'm going to show you a graphic next that kind of breaks down Um, what that two to three study hours per credit hour of class looks like.

It seems really overwhelming, right? And it's not meant to overwhelm. It's meant to start these conversations about time management and about habits, right? So that your student can be prepared for this. Also remember that students are generally in high school from Um, eight to three, right, nine to like, depending.

So there's already a lot of hours. It just looks a little bit different in the college environment. So Sarah, you've done a great at explaining the graphic. Um, if you want to go for it,

Sarah Lazare: I do want to add one more thing to the two more things to the expectations. And this is what we're seeing a lot of lately.

Uh, is that the expectation to write is high and it has increased since more and more. Professors and instructors are going to course management systems like Blackboard because what they're asking for often is a post every week by you about the readings or about the content and then a response to somebody else's post.

And it's not, I like this. It needs to be substantive. It has to have. Good information in it and relevant information in it. So the expectation of writing has increased, um, which will make the next slide very important too. The other thing that is what I, what I've been seeing, what a lot of people see now, and I think this is nationwide, is that students have been able to hand in their homework or assignments at the very end of the semester, not meeting deadlines.

That's not happening very often in college. So start practicing now figuring out how to manage your time and manage your coursework in order to get things in on time. It is not an accommodation that works well for a lot of people and sometimes it's not approved by like a therapist for a student who has anxiety and has a lot of difficulty getting things on time because they don't find it Therapeutic for the student to have everything backed up to the end of the semester.

Alright, so let me tell you about time. Alright? Normally students have 12 to 15 credits, which is four to five classes. And I'm telling you, my students who have disabilities are doing that load. It really helps to manage the courses, what you're taking, what the demands of those courses are. Um, and that happens with advising.

So the general rule is that for every credit a student has, They will be in class for about an hour. So a three credit course equals three hours of class time. However, for every credit a student takes, you're expected to have at least two hours of study time. I normally suggest three. And this is all about planning.

When you plan your week out, when you're going to study, what study time you have available, what play time you have available. Um, it's, it's important to plan that. You might not study for two to three hours for each class, but if you're not, You should be figuring out what else could I be doing? Could I be seeing the tutor?

Could I be working with a professor? Could I be doing a study group? All of that is studying, reading the assignment, doing the assignment, reviewing the assignment, reviewing all the notes that you have for the class, making some sort of study guide for the course, that's all studying. So for a three credit course, you're expected to study about six to nine hours.

during the week. Um, but that means that if you're taking four classes, which is 12 credits, you have 12 hours spent in class, 24 hours spent studying, which is totaling 36 hours per week for school. Make sure you do this on the weekend also. Um, it's really important to make sure that you spread out the time that you're studying so that you can remember it better.

So you can recall it better. So you can practice in small bursts of time instead of like five hours. I'm going to spend five hours on this math homework right now. You got to listen to your body, what's happening, and if you find yourself getting hangry, you know, the hungry and angry word, don't study during that time.

You're not going to recall it. You're not going to remember it. You're not going to process it. Okay. Now, a student who takes five classes, which is 15 credits, 15 hours in class, 30 hours spent studying, a total of 45 hours per week for school. If you are someone who needs to study for, Three hours for every, um, hour in class.

That's gonna end up being 60 hours, but you'd be surprised how easily it actually can come when you get yourself in the habit when you plan out that time is so crucial to do that. And to find a support on college campuses to help you do that. We'll talk about those kinds of supports later.

So, uh,

Jenna Shales: This is incredibly important because it plays into our next slide, which is about expectations or community communication and executive function, right? Um, so executive function, I tell folks to kind of think about the CEO that lives in your brain, right? The executive who is, you know, managing your schedule and prioritizing tasks and checking in to make sure things are done.

Um, I don't know, Adam, did you advance to the next slide and is my. Thing frozen. Sure. Sorry. Perfect. So, um, So, you know, that's where these, uh, kind of start to come in. So students need to be able to communicate with faculty and staff in a respectful or professional manner, right? Understanding that they may not receive an immediate response.

Um, a really big example is that, um, we'll have students that email at, uh, you know, four o'clock in the morning. And then by five o'clock, they're like, I haven't heard anything. And we're like, yeah. four o'clock on Saturday morning and your faculty is probably not checking their email, nor are they obligated to, right?

Um, so, you know, kind of adapting to that and that lack of immediate feedback, um, is really important, right? And understanding that there are other ways to get in touch with folks. Office hours is a really kind of confusing, weird concept in college, um, but a lot of faculty will post it. Set office hours every week where students are welcome to come in, chat, review material, ask questions, um, and that's a bit different than that high school model, right?

Um, students have to seek assistance. Can

Sarah Lazare: I add something to that? Go for it. Uh, one of the things that a lot of students do also is they just, when the professor doesn't respond, they don't resend the email. I strongly encourage students to, to resend the email and just say, I'm following up on the email I sent.

earlier, but don't do that until like two days afterwards. You know, give them appropriate amount of time, but definitely follow up. That is seen as adult behavior and that's what you are when you are in college. Um,

Jenna Shales: You know, similarly, reaching out just in general, that's the student's responsibility. Um, they need to identify when they need help.

They need to be able to ask for help. And ideally, they need to know the right places to get help, right? Um, and that can be a big learning experience. Um, students are responsible for building their schedules and understanding them, tracking their progress towards their degree. Um, and yes, they get assistance during this, but a lot of that responsibility is held directly by the student, right?

Um, it's also their responsibility to understand what work is due when, how to submit it, And what it entails, right? And they have to independently manage that workload. So like Sarah was saying before, you know, it's not a thing where just turn it all in by the end of the semester, you'll be fine, like probably not going to happen, and so when you're taking.

Three, four, five classes, and one of them is hosted on Blackboard, and one of them has a professor who likes stuff to be handed in in print, and then the other one says, email me, you know, your assignments. You've got to be able to manage all of those expectations, understand them, and meet them, right? Um, and then going back to that time management piece, right, we talked about 45 hours of, you know, Blackboard.

of academic study, um, and preparation, but you want to balance that with friendships, right? Social interests, clubs, activities, wellness, rest, right? We don't rest, but yes, rest. Um, sports, if they're in sports, jobs, a lot of students at Bridgewater State. Also work full time. Um, you know, or they care for family members or they have other just, you know, life responsibilities.

And so that's a lot to piece together. Um, and the sooner students can start kind of thinking about what those time obligations are and how they want to manage time and developing the skills to manage their time, the better off

Sarah Lazare: they are.

So when students come to Get their accommodations. They will go to the relevant office on campus at Bridgewater. It's called Student Accessibility Services. We are currently called Disability Services. There could be other names. What's important is that they know how to put the word disability in the search bar for their website and find which office will provide that service.

Very basic things can go a long way. So they must self identify. And they must request the accommodations directly from the Student Accessibility Services or Disability Services. Uh, no one is tasked with the responsibility to identify the student who has a disability. Um, students need to submit required documentation to the designated office.

Uh, sometimes when they submit their IEP or other documentation, It is, it's not automatically forwarded, like if you send it to admissions office or to health services, we've had that happen a few times. It's not forwarded to our office. They have, uh, health services has HIPAA requirements, so they can't.

So students must submit it directly to the correct office. We then have an interactive process where we sit down, we talk with the student, we ask what their needs are, we ask about their experience, um, we look at the documentation that has been sent to us, and we determine with the student what accommodations will be reasonable for the college level.

So like before, it will not be a modification where you do less work. I still have students asking, can I have fewer questions on my homework? And I have to say, no, you may not. Um, but you may get the information earlier so that you can process it better. So we might work on a different type of accommodation.

We are very interested in a student success. And when we look at accommodations, we will look towards. Um, and we're very proud of our students, too. So we will then determine the accommodations, um, depending on which school a student goes to the student either distributes the letters of accommodation.

Directly to the faculty, or they will have the, um, letter of accommodations sent to the faculty by the office, which determined the accommodations with a student. Um, and that's something that students should check out beforehand, regardless. Everybody is encouraged to speak directly with the faculty member about the accommodation so that there are no surprises, uh, say on.

Uh, uh, uh. The day of the test when if in our at Westfield State, we have a center where students can take the exams. And I believe Jenna, you have something similar. So no surprises like the test isn't there because no one told disability services or the student hasn't requested. It doesn't just happen.

And I've also seen that happen where seems like, well, how come this didn't just happen? It just happened in high school. I didn't have to do anything. So it's your responsibility as a student to make sure that you know. Request the accommodation. Know that the information has gotten to the faculty. That is, that is a student's responsibility.

I'm going to emphasize here that while parents might forward information to us, such as documentation, um, they are strongly encouraged in my office to sit outside the office. While we talk with the student about the accommodations, um, we will definitely let a parent, you know, send information to us.

That's fine. However, it is the decision of the student and the disability services provider, um, about what accommodations will happen. Even after a student has gotten an accommodation, they need to tell us if they're not working, if the professor isn't doing something, um, or if it, they don't need it. And that happens a lot.

It happens. Well, I don't need this for this class and that's fine. Or this type of note taking assistance is not working for me with this class. Tell us what's going on so we can address it, and we're happy to address it. Anything to add there, Jenna?

Jenna Shales: No, it goes right into that next slide though. Excellent.

This is scary, right, for a lot of parents and a lot of advocates because we are used to doing that work for our kids. Right? Um, we're used to kind of checking in and monitoring and when something's going wrong, we speak up. I know I do. My principal probably is over it, right? Um, that's the life of a parent of a kid with a disability, right?

Um, we need to work as early as possible to help our kids become the best Um, good self advocates as students, right? Um, so self advocacy is really just the ability to communicate one's needs to others. Um, and for a student to become a self, a good self advocate, they need to begin to understand who they are, what they need and how to get what they need.

And then I'll just do the next slide too, if you don't mind, Adam, um, because this touches a little bit on your role, right. On what that looks like. Right. So when it comes to the, who start talking with your student about their strengths and weaknesses, right. Um, help educate them about their diagnosis. Um, for a while we were seeing students coming in that didn't know what their diagnosis was.

They said, I have an IEP or I have an IEP. Uh, 504. Um, you know, that's, that's a, that's a big starting point, right? Um, and then helping students not only know their diagnosis, but understand how it impacts them, right? And to develop the language to be able to communicate that. The what aspect, right? Invite and encourage your student to attend or lead their IEP meeting.

This is huge, right? A lot of students have gone through the entire K 12 experience without ever really being a part of it. Um, and sometimes it can be really overwhelming for students and there are absolutely kind of like therapeutic reasons why it might not be appropriate. Um, but any level of involvement starts kind of dipping the toe, if you will, into that pool of self advocacy.

Start working with your student to identify tools and resources that your student finds helpful. Um, if a student comes to college and they say, Listen, I have had this one particular piece of technology and it has made night and day difference. That's really good information for us to have, and it doesn't have to be technology, anything, right?

Um, and then identify challenges or anticipated challenges. The more your student knows and can communicate about what is tough for them or what might be tough for them, The better off that conversation and that interactive process is gonna be. Um, and then the big how, right? Modeling appropriate, um, communication.

That's a really big one, right? Those expectations like Sarah touched on as far as like sending that follow up email. Right. And when is the right time to send a follow up, checking in on something that you feel remains unsolved, um, educating your student about a DA. Right. The a DA law is going to be their friend for the rest of their life.

Um. Who's good to start kind of getting familiar with the concept of it? Because it is a civil rights law. Um, discuss the differences between high school and college. Maybe not this full presentation, right? But pieces of it that are relevant, a little bit at a time. Um, and then again, know and reinforce the resources at your student's college.

This is huge. So once your student does decide to come to college, they find the right college for them, they enroll, and they call them and they say, Oh my gosh, I'm so behind on my work. I don't know what to do. Can I just come home, right? If you know that they can go to the Binocos Center or the Academic Achievement Center or whatever and they can get, um, academic coaching, right, which will help them in that particular area, you can throw that back at them and you can help them to find that resource.

Um, so it's really good to get familiarized, um, with the specific resources that are available at the college. I'm going

Sarah Lazare: to say one of the things that I do now with my children is when we go to a doctor's appointment. Or therapy appointment. I make them check in and my 14 year old is resistant. My 8 year old is like she's got it now.

So little things that you can do have them fill their med box. Now their pill box for the week. So they understand that responsibility and have a better grip of what's going on. So some of you might have already applied for college. Some of you are going to be doing that soon, or maybe in a few years.

The earlier you start thinking about it, I think, the better. Um, if a student is going to a Massachusetts University, then they need to meet the same standards as other applicants. I mean, in general, people do. The, uh, requirements are available at www. mass. edu and you can, uh, find the, uh, I think it's basically just the admission requirements, I think is what it's called.

But you can see, what classes are the students supposed to be taking now? What college prep classes do the modified classes that your student is in right now? Are they going to qualify or not? I have seen too many people get to the application level and find out that they did not have the correct college prep courses.

And that is scary and sad. It really gets me when I see that. So I want to tell you now, You go in, you talk with the guidance counselor at ninth grade to make sure that your students are taking the proper courses for admission into the state universities. Um, are there school specific admission requirements?

So if it's not a state university, what's different, what's different, uh, that a private university might be looking for? Uh, I would say most colleges are on the common app right now. However, a lot still are not. So making sure that. Uh, you're using the right application. There might be, uh, some expectations that people take the SAT or ACT.

Or there might be a waiver. There might be some expectations, and there are expectations for the state universities for a foreign, to take a foreign language. Except there are exceptions. So, figuring out what those exceptions are, are important. And you can call up the admissions offices to figure that out.

And then identify the supports. And resources. The school offers for free. What is what is there no charge for? Um, and that, you know, compare that to what your students needs are next, please.

So this is very important. A school should never consider disability in its general admissions decisions. So when you apply to a college, they should not consider that you have a disability. Uh, in the past, people would. They would say, oh, this person is deaf and hard of hearing. They're going to cost too much.

We're not admitting them. That is illegal, and they cannot do that now. Uh, in Massachusetts, if a student is requesting a waiver of the SAT or foreign language because they have a disability, and that is allowed in, Massachusetts, then they need to, you know, disclose that, um, if a student raises the, you know, the fact that they have a disability for positive reasons, that's fine.

Absolutely fine. I mean, that it's sometimes it is, you know, one of the main things in our lives and it talks about our character and it can be a positive example of who you are. Uh, so that's, You know, that is also important to know you can write it. That's fine. That's your choice. And most schools, I would say, are not or they're past that discrimination aspect of someone having a disability.

Um, really important to know is that. In college, and in admissions especially, because we're not supposed to be looking at whether someone has a disability when we make decisions, that if someone tells you, well, we're moving you from an IEP to a 504 because it's going to be better for you to get into college.

No. No. We work with students who do not have, never had an IEP or 504 because their ADHD had never been diagnosed. Or they acquired a condition that is a disability when they were in college. So we do not look at IEPs and 504s when considering admissions in the general admissions process. We do not look at the accommodations.

Yes, Jenna. I

Jenna Shales: want to hop in here, too. I think a lot of the confusion about that, like, let's switch to a 504 in that last year, comes from that overlap in what laws apply in what environment, right? And I said at the beginning, 504 law does apply in K 12, but there is a different subsection that applies in the university setting.

There is a general misunderstanding that if you have a 504 plan in high school, it automatically transitions with you to college so everything that you had written on that 504 in high school is now guaranteed in college. That is not at all the case. Um, I know it kind of, You know, detracts from the significance of a 504 plan.

But as you know, a silly example, I think of it as cell phone service, right? Um, so cell phone service from this first provider, right, is going to be roughly the same as cell phone service. From the second provider, right? Like you will be able to use your cell phone for calls and texts, right? But it may cost different and the bells and whistles may be different, right?

And maybe you have an iPhone in one plan and you have you know, uh, uh android in the other plan, right? So it doesn't just switch right between the two, you know, you're still gonna have cell phone service, right? But what it looks like and how you access it, um and how you experience it It depends on the provider.

So it's the same with like K through 12 to college. And even within colleges, you may find that different colleges offer different accommodations, different supportive resources, um, different approaches to accommodation, um, even within that college environment.

Sarah Lazare: Thank you, Jenna. Next slide, please. Okay, so SAT or ACT waiver, and I'm going to go through this quickly because you can go and read it and talk to guidance about it as well.

So most Massachusetts universities right now do not require the SAT or the ACT. You just need to check with admissions at each school. However, if a student has a professional diagnosis and documented learning disability, then they're exempt from taking the standardized test for admission to any public institution of higher ed in the Commonwealth.

There are other requirements, the applicant must complete all required academic courses and have a minimum GPA of 3. 0, or, and this is important, present other evidence of the potential for academic success, and that is determined by the admissions office. The foreign language waiver is allowed, uh, if a student with a learning, this is very confusing, actually, a student with a learning or other disability can substitute two academic electives.

For the two required foreign language courses. If the high school has determined that the results in evaluation completed with the last three years indicates a specific diagnosis of a learning disability that affects the ability to learn a foreign language. In my school and in Jenna's school, we let the high school determine that.

So if for whatever reason, your high school does not have a foreign language requirement where they would have received a foreign language waiver, try to somehow get that into the IEP or 504 plan, because then we don't have to follow the exact language of this rule here. Next,

Adam Hartwell: please. I did want to just throw a quick, uh, note in here, um, my own personal history is I remember back in the early two thousands, uh, there was a shift over that allowed, uh, institutions to accept American sign language for the foreign language waiver.

I wanted to check with you guys, see if that was still true. And also, I thought that was good information for people to have if it was,

Sarah Lazare: uh, in my school. I'm pretty sure the answer is yes. I

Jenna Shales: couldn't unmute fast enough. Yeah. Um, Bridgewater State University absolutely recognizes ASL as a separate language.

Sarah Lazare: So that's something to call the admissions office and ask about. Definitely.


Jenna Shales: um, we'll give Sarah a break from the complicated slides. Um, so, you know, as I was saying before, the way that different disability or accessibility service offices, um, act different. Colleges, universities, um, there's a lot of different approaches, right? And a lot of different opportunities. Um, even if you're looking at state institutions of Massachusetts, right?

We're all very unified in a lot of the stuff we do, but there are very different intricacies between each one of us as well. Um, so really important part of moving towards success, right? As a student with a disability in the college environment is finding the place that fits you and your needs and your interests.

Right. Um, and so looking into the different services and the different approaches is really, really important, right? Some stuff is baseline. So by law, everyone, right? Well, Everyone will just say everyone is required to provide reasonable, appropriate accommodations for students with specific learning, physical, psychological, or medical challenge done, right?

So accommodations, bare minimum check, right? Um, they really should provide support for negotiating with professors where appropriate. However, what that support looks like can be very different, right? Um, they should provide referrals to other supports on campus, right? Again, how they provide those referrals may be different, and what those other supports are on campus may be different.

Um, students are expected to register with the office and request their own accommodations. That's another baseline experience, right, that you're going to find in college, university, whatever. However, what that process looks like may be different between different institutions, right? And students must provide current documentation of their medical or mental health conditions for determination of disability.

This is something that I can guarantee you. Um, so these are some of the questions you want to start asking or when you're perusing like the websites for disability or accessibility offices, that's some information you definitely want to get familiarized with

Sarah Lazare: the important thing about the current documentation of medical and mental health conditions that it does vary a lot.

However, when you are talking with a provider, you know, starting to get that documentation prepared. If a student has a condition that is chronic, that is never going away, or might, um, be degenerative, that information should be put in that documentation so that the provider knows that I don't need to go back to you next year and ask you for more documentation.


Jenna Shales: One more note about that too is depending on um, what kind of career path and academic path the student is going to be taking, it is often a wise decision to make sure that the student is leaving high school with some full current recent assessments. Um, so if your student is on that every three year cycle of evaluations and they're like, well, you know, they're about to graduate, you don't really want to do this, do you?

Yes, you do. Okay. You absolutely do, right? Um, get those assessments done, especially because it's probably on the school department's dime, um, and any way to save a penny, do it, right? Um, but that's one of those things that you should, uh, certainly be aware.

Sarah Lazare: Uh, some people adhere to if someone is diagnosed with ADHD or learning disabilities, sometimes, uh, autism spectrum disorder, that those assessments are done.

At the age of 16 or when they have adult normed testing, uh, which is important to know because if they want to be a nurse, if they want to go into other fields that are very strict. With their requirements, the tests that they need to take in the future need to be based on the most current documentation that you can get for that person.

Um, and, and it gets really frustrating. This is one of the most frustrating parts of working. In this office is that we often have providers who don't provide enough information. They don't follow the instructions. Make sure that you know what those instructions are for that particular office and that you speak specifically about them with the doctor.

This is not like getting documentation for HUD or for. A job sometimes that our information that we request is much more specific. Uh, one of those reasons, because we want to help your student get the accommodations that they need. And they do not always know what they will need when they're in college, but we have a very good idea of what students need.


Go for it, Jenna. Yeah,

Jenna Shales: this slide just shows, um, some different diagnostic categories, um, and examples of specific diagnoses that may fall within those categories. And it ties into that documentation concept, because we want to know Not only what the diagnosis is, right? Um, but how does the student experience their diagnosis?

And for eligibility purposes, we need to know how it substantially limits one or more major life areas for them, right? And those major life areas, a lot of people think of like seeing, hearing, eating, walking, right? But reading is a major life area. Learning is a major life area. Um, so the more comprehensive the documentation is in describing that, the better off that interactive process with your student is.

Because we use kind of a three pronged approach. Where we consider the documentation, right, what the student is telling us and our own professional observations in that interactive process of determining eligibility and what are the most appropriate, most reasonable accommodation. Um, the other thing that I just like to highlight here is, um, we have a lot of students at Bridgewater and I assume, Sarah, you've got the same experience.

Where students are coming in, they were found ineligible for an IEP or a 504 in high school, and they clearly are eligible for accommodations, um, in college. So just because you've gone down this road in K through 12, and it maybe hasn't ended, like on a super happy, productive note, doesn't mean not to pursue that request in college.

Um, my other thing is, you know, if you're like, oh man, this, this would be really helpful, but there's no way I can get documentation, talk to the office directly, talk to the institution's disability or accessibility office, um, and, and have that conversation. Um, I know that, you know, kind of the, how much specific institutions, uh, way, the value of documentation is shifting.

Um, at Bridgewater State, we are very cognizant of the fact that there are marginalized populations where, you know, getting a full neuropsych eval, you know, in the last three years. is probably not plausible, right? And so we don't want to create an inequitable experience in that, right? So we will work with students to, you know, come up with other options, find ideas, etc.

Um, so it's always worth asking. Don't let your student or yourself go without what you need, um, solely because you don't have documentation within the last three years.

Sarah Lazare: We've also been able to help students find ways to get documentation, um, or make sure, just really asking about what's going on to see if there are other services that are available that can assist you.

Um, we also have a social worker on campus who helps people find resources to see doctors to, um, well, she also works with homelessness and food insecurity. Uh, but to find resources. So looking at the Voc Rehab to see if they can pay for that assessment. Uh, so, so talk. I always tell people have the audacity to ask.

Um, do not sit on your hands with this. Just, just ask. Tell your story is one form of asking.

Take the next slide. Yeah. And look, the support services on campus. There are so many. Some that every student with a disability would be eligible for would be TRIO Student Support Services. Uh, they're available on several of our campuses and they provide an advisor for a student. Um, they are eligible if they have a documented disability, if they are, um, Um, a first generation college student, meaning that neither parent has a bachelor's degree.

They might have an associate's degree. They might have started their bachelor's going to college, but didn't finish, but they don't have it. So that's one eligibility and a low income is the other one. So look for TRIO student support services or similar support services on your campus. We also have something called our lead scholars program.

Which works with first generation college students, provides a bridge program, and, uh, supports students from matriculation, which means when they first start school, to graduate, undergraduate, uh, graduation. A lot of students will think that, oh, I can't do honors, I have a disability. I've heard people say that.

Oh my goodness, no, that's not the case. Not the case at all. We have so many students who are registered with our offices in The honors program, and I'm sure Jenna does too. So look for those opportunities. When you're in an honors program, you get smaller classes, you get to talk more, you get more attention.

It's important to look at the honors program and you get opportunity to be successful, to share your research, to do research with professors. So look at honors programs. Uh, the resources on campus are many and I cannot read what the first one says because I have Something blocking it, but we have tutoring.

We have writing assistance, um, academic strategy support. A lot of students, a lot of programs now, or a lot of schools now have, uh, like an academic mentor who will sit down and talk with students about how they're studying, how they're managing their time, et cetera. Research librarians are a gem.

Research librarians, especially for someone who has ADHD and has a lot of difficulty organizing their material. Or gets overwhelmed by all the words that they see on the screen. The screen's too big for them. I'm seeing a lot of that. We're so used to talking on our phones and reading from our phones that a computer screen is now too much information at once.

Anyways, research librarians will help you research your projects. They love doing it. They love working with students. They are so interested in anything that's brought to them. Find out if they're there. Most colleges have them and use them. We have math centers. We have definitely the professors and instructors.

Um, we have spaces. If you go sit down at a math center, you might be able to just jump up and get your question answered. Or we at Westfield, we have our care center, which has tutoring and our reading, writing support. Yeah, just go academic advising is something that all students should go to because it is overwhelming to look through what we call a degree evaluation to look through the courses that you need to take the courses that you have to take.

And the ones that you want to take and can take and what meets core requirements and so on and so forth. Get guidance. Don't do it alone. Counseling services is available on all campuses as well. Check in to see what they are looking for and how much they can give you. So some have, we can meet, you know, for six hours a semester.

Some have, well, if you have a, If therapist already, go see your own therapist, but check in with us. Make sure that we know who you are on campus and do an intake. Know that you can come to us for crisis situations. Uh, so many different supports. So Res Life staff, the student activity staff, um, yeah, there are just so many supports on campus.

We all want you to be involved. We all want you to be healthy academically, healthy with your mental health, um, wellness. Res Life. It's on, we even have, uh, you know, stress, uh, relaxation coaches at our counseling services and you can go make an appointment with them. Check, what, what are the little things at the colleges that you're interested in and what's being offered?

Look it all up. Go to an Accepted Students Day.

Jenna Shales: That's good timing because, um, now Sarah and I are going to do a little bit of a showcase of how our offices approach services. Um, so again, my name is Jenna. I'm from Student Accessibility Services at Bridgewater State University. Um, our mission and vision is posted on this slide, but really, ultimately, um, our goal is to empower students.

advocates, right? Um, and to make sure folks can have a really, truly meaningful access to the college experience. Um, so we are part of, next slide, Adam, please. Um, we are a part of a, uh, larger team, which I'll get to in a second. Um, but through our office and that larger team, we do all of this stuff, right?

So we are responsible for all of the academic and community accommodations that students need at Bridgewater State. We do referrals to campus organizations and resources. So like Sarah said, you know, wellness center, we have a huge overlap with Um, our honors program with our pride center, right? Um, we coordinate different programs and events, which I'll showcase in a moment as well.

Um, we do a lot of self advocacy work. Um, we have a massive, uh, you know, campus wide, uh, kind of visibility demonstration for supporting students with disabilities or community members with disabilities. Um, we offer trainings and in services for students, faculty, staff, and other community members. Um, so we're, uh, a little bit of everywhere, which in my opinion is awesome, but it may not be the right vibe for your students.

So that's where finding out this information is really important. Next slide. So as I mentioned, uh, Student Accessibility Services is part of something bigger, which is the Academic Achievement Center. Um, so similar to what Sarah has going on, and she'll, um, go over that as well. Um, but we offer testing services, academic advising, um, other services.

Learning assistance with academic coaching, which is that executive functioning skill as well as learning assistance through Tutoring Central, which is that more one on one content specific, um, assistance and my office, Student Accessibility Services. Do you want to talk about yours, Sarah, now or do you want to wait?

Sarah Lazare: I actually talked a little bit about it. Yeah, so we have the center for student success and engagement and in it we have our academic advising. We have our care center, which has our tutoring and our reading, um. And writing program, uh, my offices are in it. So Binoculars Academic Center has both disability services and a learning disabilities program that I'll explain later.

Um, what else do we have? We have our, our LEADS scholar program for first generation college students, our TRIO student support services. Uh, and I don't think I'm missing any. I think what's really important though, about our centers is that we work together. And that's that. We are looking for success. Um, we want our students to be successful.

We want them to be supported. Um, and that's what we work together to do. We also have a case management team, which I think Jenna also does have at Bridgewater, where if when something is going on with a student, we're going to talk with each other about what's going on to see how we can support the student.

And I'm responding to the question. Perfect.

Jenna Shales: Um, so this next slide is just, uh, some more specific programs that we offer or initiatives that we have. Um, Access Advocates is one of our newer programs that we established. We've been doing it for a few semesters now, um, where students Uh, learn some general leadership skills, and they use those leadership skills to do an advocacy project on campus.

Um, and then they have a couple other requirements, and at the end of it, if they do it all, they actually get these amazing hot pink and black honors cords to wear at commencement. Um, and there's nothing like seeing our students crossing the stage with those, and their honors regalia, and you name it. Um, we have Access Extravaganza, which is a kind of transition program right at the end of the summer.

Typically, they were sort of re envisioning it this year, um, to help just orient students that are new to BSU, uh, into that college environment. Um, we also have a really comprehensive peer mentoring program for similarly, um, qualified students as well. Um, and then we've just got some photos of a lot of the different things that we do.

Hot pink is our official SASS color here at BSU, so that's what that's all about. Next slide. Leave next is just some more photos from our different events. So we really, um, we do a lot outside of the basic accommodations. Um, it's all optional, obviously. And the important thing to note, and we'll get to this as well.

Um, is this is all just available to students. There's no additional cost for any of these experiences. Um, but again, my office is set up differently than some of the other offices where we're able to do this. Um other offices at other institutions just honestly aren't. Um, we're really lucky that we are at BSU.

Next slide.

That's the Access Advocates program. You can skip past that. Keep bragging. It's my brag wheel. Um, some of the smaller events that we have, and these are ones that are, um, available not only to students with disabilities, but any student in the community. And the reason we use this approach is because it.

Students with disabilities sometimes don't necessarily feel comfortable entering these larger campus wide events for a variety of reasons. So these are a little smaller, a little more controlled, and quite honestly, if you're a student that is choosing to go to a SAS event, you know that you're going to be entering a diverse, Fiesta, event, gathering, whatever it is, right?

Um, and so there's this automatic kind of like understanding that there may be students there that are stimming. There may be students there with interpreters. There may, right, and it's a that much more of a comfortable experience for everybody. Um, next slide, please. There.

Sarah Lazare: So I'm at the academic center.

Um, we actually now are housing disability services and learn disabilities program. Forgot to do that. But we have been working with students for since I think it was 1979 um, and, um, We have a long history of success with, uh, both working with students have disabilities. Um, the learning disabilities program started this off, uh, when we were 1st, the tutoring program became learning disabilities program.

Um, we were identifying very early on about the time that the rehabilitation act. Took effect might've been past the 74, but didn't really start happening until 79 or so. And because of that, the, the school is very welcoming to students with any sort of disability at all. Um, they look to us, they ask us questions.

If they see something going on with a student, they will call us up and say, I'm not sure what's going on. How can I work with a student best? So it really is the, the university is really very welcoming and supportive of all types of students. Uh, our, um, you can move on to the next. Our disability services program is like every other disability services program with a nuances among the colleges.

Um, so we're providing support. We're working with any student, any point in time in their academic career to look to see how we can provide accommodations for that student. Uh, the learning disabilities program, however, is a program for first time, first year students. It's an admission based program. The students must have a diagnosis of either a learning disorder or ADHD.

Um, What's unique about this program is that we have one point person follows a student from orientation to graduation. We meet with the students once or twice a week to help them with how to study. We don't do the studying for them, but maybe how to study, how to organize information and find resources.

Um, the point person really is so important because we get to know the student. And as we get to know the student, uh, and as the student shares more information with us, we can actually provide them with a lot of opportunities. For more information, visit www. FEMA. gov So, learning about their desire to go to Florence, Italy, and helping them achieve that goal, uh, is something that doesn't happen for a lot of students because they don't have that one point person.

So, wherever you go, look for a program like this, like the TRIO Student Support Services can help with that as well. Um, in the LDP, we work with, uh, first and second year students with early course registration. So they get to register for courses before the seniors do. And that helps a lot. We know that. I think every single person in our program has some sort of an exam accommodation where they will have to, you know, get double time or time and a half for their exams, and we need to schedule it so that they can take it without interfering with other classes.

It also helps figure out how to balance their workload, their case, their course load, so that they don't have three heavy reading classes and a reading disorder. Yeah. So we try to figure that kind of stuff out. Um, we are also their disability services provider and work with them to figure out what accommodations are reasonable and appropriate.

And then we reach out to students regularly and monitor their academic progress. This is something that normally a disability service office cannot do. They normally do not have enough time to sit down and meet regularly with students every week. We actually have So I looked yesterday as 956 students who have identified themselves to their off to our offices, both the Disability Services and the LDP.

As someone who has a disability, it's a lot of students. It's impossible to meet with that unless you have a staff of probably 30 or so. Our priority deadline is February 1st, but if A student still wants to apply to the LDP this year, they are free to do so, um, before the Westfield State admissions deadline.

So, this

Jenna Shales: slide is really important because, um, as we've been saying, every school approaches this really differently. Um, and so, you will find, um, schools that meet that kind of like bare minimum requirement. And maybe that's what your student needs. Um, you have schools that go a bit better and, or not better, a bit more, right.

Um, yeah, sorry. And, uh, you know, those can sometimes be just like what they offer to everybody. Um, and then there are some that. You have to apply for like Sarah's program and then there are some other ones where at an additional expense you can get some additional supports that fall outside of the scope of reasonable accommodation.


Sarah Lazare: I like to point out the differences between, uh, like we do have a more bare minimum program and we walk alongside the student. We are also at no extra cost. So it's a free program. Um, paid for like athletics is paid for with, you know, tuition and fees of everybody. Um, and, and then a, a big opposite to that would be something like Landmark College where it's a school for students who have, um, either ADHD or LD, or they're on the autism spectrum.

And this, it's, it's a fabulous college and I just sent somebody there and they're coming back and they're like coming back strong because Landmark can go much more in depth. Into what's going on with a student. They have their systems in place. All students learn the same systems except it's very individualized at the same time.

Everybody on the campus is trained about what goes on with students who have LD, ADHD, or on the autism spectrum. So very different approaches. Um, PAL program has a program where the student must take some classes. As well, uh, and they must meet with their advisors. Um, ours, we don't have any classes, so very different levels of support, very different types of supports, really important to look into each one to see what is helpful for that student.

Do you want to talk about Excel? Sure.

Jenna Shales: So Excel is outside of my office at Bridgewater State University. It is a program that has kind of three options, and they do cost extra. So one is the partnership program which other folks may recognize as the Macy program, which is kind of dual enrollment between high school and college.

Um, so that's Excel partnership. Then there's Excel certificate. Um, where generally a student will get a lot of job supports, developmental supports, and they can take classes at Bridgewater State auditing them so they don't have to necessarily worry about, um, a degree attainment and the pressures of like earning that grade.

Um, but they get the experience that's associated with that. Um, students are also welcome to live on campus. And at the conclusion, Of that program that they get a certificate of completion. So not a diploma, not a degree, but a certificate that really they can use as they pursue their career or whatever it is they're going to do afterwards.

And then the third version of the Excel program is the Excel transition program where students start out with a lot of extra support. Um, But with the ultimate goal of fully matriculating or enrolling in a degree seeking program at the university, um, and that can take a while for them, but they're getting that support through the Excel program during that time.

Sarah Lazare: So as you can see, very, very different. Focuses and practices. So ask about them all that are relevant for you, of course. What's next. That's it.

I've had a fun time here with Jenna and Adam, and, um, I hope you get your questions answered. You are free to write to any of these email addresses and ask us questions, please. Please ask questions, share your stories.

Adam Hartwell: We want to thank everyone for, for attending our webinar. If there are any last questions that want to be thrown into the Q and A, we'd love to take them real quick before we move on up when we have one popping up now.

Oh, no, it was just a big thank you.

Jenna Shales: Thank you all and please do you know, keep in touch if anyone's in the area of Bridgewater on April 18th. We're doing our big be seen event and it is absolutely open to the public. So we've got events happening, mostly from 9am to 1pm but throughout the day and into the evening, and that's April 18th.

Adam Hartwell: Yeah, go

Sarah Lazare: ahead. I think it's the I think it's the last weekend of April. We're having a it's both an accepted students day and a junior week event. Um, my students will be talking about our program. Uh, it's really important to go to the college to look at it to feel it. Does it feel right? Is it yucky? Is it welcoming?

What is it about the college that you like? Go to the colleges that you want to attend, um, and, and feel them out, definitely.

Adam Hartwell: Um, and I just want to mention that, uh, we do do frequent trainings about the Attainable Program. If you ever wanted to attend one of our webinars, please get in touch. Keep an eye over on us over at MIFA.

MIFA is also offering quite a few, uh, events over the course of the next several months. We do a lot of stuff about, uh, the new, uh, FAFSA and how to access it and how to fill it out. We do a lot of trainings with a lot of both high school and college counselors. We work on a lot of financing assistance and we also do a lot of the programs.

That assists people either from birth, where we have things like baby steps, where, you know, uh, you can apply for it from the hospital, uh, where you can get a little bit of a step into, you know, saving, uh, for, for the future, as well as other programs. So, uh, please, you know, go over to mifa. org. We'd love to, for you to look through what we're, what we're offering and we hope that you can join us in the future.

Uh, I see a couple of more things popping up in the, in the Q and a here. I think it's just more, uh, more of a thank yous.

Jenna Shales: Adam, would you mind stopping sharing so we can, like, thank folks? Sorry. Absolutely. Thank you all so much. Appreciate it.

Adam Hartwell: Thank you, everyone. And it seems like that's all our questions. And so I hope everyone just has a wonderful day. I want to say thank you again to both Jenna and Sarah for joining us, offering your expertise. We really appreciate it. And hopefully we can do more of these in the future. Thank you for

Sarah Lazare: having us.

Thanks. Take care, everybody. Take care.

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