Friday, September 14, 2012

Advocating for a disabled student

I'm currently using a lot of time advocating for a special needs student that was an advisee of mine. Yes, was. He had his heart set on going to a professional school, and those are the students I advise. It became clear that professional school, at least at the doctoral level, was not going to work out for him, so he needed to change majors in order to graduate in four years. Even though I'm not his official advisor anymore, I am accepting the role of his advocate because he's been with me (intensely) for three years now.

I am not a disabilities specialist by any means, and he has one of those. He also has an advisor in his new major who knows what his new requirements are. But I seem to be the coordinator for all his "advisors" and between him and the registrar's office. My big task now is to help him get all the rest of his courses in two semesters and a summer. Problem is, we have a requirement that he is going to have a helluva time accomplishing. Just for arguments' sake, let's say he has a Spanish disability, and we require Spanish of all graduates. We are working really hard to find a way for him to participate in "Spanish" within his ability. Moreover, the "Spanish" he is enrolled in currently is not working, and there's NO WAY he'll pass. So I spent time today calling profs to see if he could get into their class very late in the semester so he can drop "Spanish" and can maintain his full time status.

 An additional issue is that part of his disabilities are social. He can be an arrogant, aggressive ass sometimes. He completely dominates conversations, so trying to get his needs met and get on to something else requires me to be verbally forceful with him. I don't think he has an Autism spectrum diagnosis, but he can definitely be insensitive to social clues.  He DOES thank me on occasion, and I believe he appreciates my extra work. I respect his tenacity, and despite what I've written I like him quite a bit. I care deeply about his current and future success. Otherwise, I wouldn't spend so much time trying to help him. When he graduates-and he will, dammit- I'll miss him. I'll also wonder where the extra time came from (not spent helping him).

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