A Disability Services Officer Helped Me Out
Before enrolling in a BA course at USYD, my parents made an appointment for me to see a Disability Services Officer. I explained my difficulties and that I really wanted to study Japanese. The DSO organised for me to meet a lecturer from the Department of Japanese Studies, to have my level of Japanese assessed. I found out that Disability Services offer support to students and the ways that this could support me. Enrolment day was very stressful but made much less so when the DSO was able to fast-track the enrolment process for me. In the first week of classes I felt I had died and gone to heaven because the USYD campus is such a great learning environment. The lecturers were all very kind and tried to accommodate my special needs to the best of their ability. I really enjoyed my classes and meeting other students especially those from other countries. I have difficulty taking notes and listening at the same time, and disability services were able to arrange for a note-taker for most of my courses. They were also able to liaise with my lecturers to arrange special provisions for exams and tests which also made this difficult time a bit more manageable. Last year I finished my Japanese major and really enjoyed studying the language and about Japanese Literature, Culture and Society. By far the most challenging aspect of these courses was group work, which was particularly difficult for me. I also find the travel really tiring as the number of days I needed to attend varied greatly from semester to semester. The extracurricular activities associated with learning Japanese were very enjoyable, as was meeting students from Japan. Now that I am a third-year student I find I am feeling a bit more used to studying at USYD. I have been studying part-time up until now, but this semester I have taken on an extra course. I am hopeful that I will be able to manage it but already I am finding it difficult to manage my time and get through all the readings. It is good to have the choice of dropping a course if necessary, but hard to make the decision to do so. More information on the Disability Services Office can be found at http://www.usyd.edu.au/stuserv/disability/index.shtml
A Parents Perspective
Almost three years ago our son emerged from the school system with the offer of a place at Sydney University. As with school, there was no rule book or instruction manual as to how best to support him at university. Instinctively, we knew that our son would need a support person, at least at the beginning, and at the start of each semester. As there is no such person available, I support my son at Sydney University by attending his lectures and tutorials for the first few weeks of each semester. I do this in order to help him adjust to the new routines, to observe what is happening in his classes and suggest strategies for coping. Often I am able to see what my son can not, as he has great difficulty reading body language, understanding social situations, processing auditory information and isolating important details. I work closely with the wonderful staff at Disability Services who are able to liaise with university staff to provide special consideration and supports, raise awareness and engender understanding. It is really a team effort, and it is a combination that has worked for my son as he has attained outstanding results and is now beginning his third year. The lecturers in the faculty of Arts have been particularly kind and eager to do whatever they can to support him. In return they are rewarded, as only the other day a lecturer who had taught my son in his first year, welcomed him into his class once again, describing him as a "dream student". For me though, it is an honour and a privilege to be able to support my son towards academic success and fulfilment, and to meet and work with some special people along the way. More information on the Disability Services Office can be found at http://www.usyd.edu.au/stuserv/disability/index.shtml
Learn about Australia through the Student Leadership Program
As an Australian Discussion Group (ADG) Leader, I have met many new people from all walks of life and discovered new things about the mysteries of Australian culture as I discussed with other team leaders and students participating in the ADG program! This is an excellent opportunity for local and international students to get together, exchange ideas and make new friends. Last but not least, the ADG tour in the Blue Mountains was an exciting experience for everyone, and unexpectedly, the rainy weather made this trip a refreshing experience. - Charles Au / ADG Leader For more information on the Australian Discussion Group (ADG) please contact
Learning@USYD with a disability
've found with a disability that if I want to maximise the outcomes of my learning at university, I'm often best to evaluate the services by what I cannot live without venous accepting all the services available that match my disability. This is due to my belief that the relationship between the disability access office and the student is collaborative and thus careful evaluation of what I truly need reduces my load. It is naive for a student to turn up and expect everything set up and ready to go for them. The face of disability access is hugely dynamic and needs to be tailored to the individual.
Learning experience at the University of Sydney
- It seems that intellectual disability are still stigmatised at the university. There seems to be a presumption that smart (i.e. Sydney University) students are not affected by dyslexia. - As a tutor I encourage students to come forward and let me know if they are affected a disability or if they are struggling with the process of reading and writing. No student comes forward. Under-diagnosis and lack of experience and practical knowledge around diagnosis seems to be a problem. - Upon identifying a student with what appears to be a dyslexic style of writing, the course co-ordinator implied that it might not be appropriate to suggest to the student that they think about what they are finding difficult and whether it would be worthwhile getting tested. It seems the course co-ordinators are not always clear on how to proceed if students are struggling as that there is some anxiety around discussing disability with students. This is surely a hurdle to giving student the best support. - As a doctoral candidate I expected more of a individualised support structure, particularly around access to books, photocopying and printing; these are just my particular needs. I am from the UK and we have a different system there – one that offers more support for postgraduate dyslexic students, including a book allowance, IT support (a desktop computer), as well as photocopying. Financial strain continues to adversely affect dyslexic students. The Arts offer some provisions to offset the particular difficulties associated with dyslexic learning styles, but they could offer more.
My time at Sydney Uni has been the happiest year and a half since sustaining my brain injury in high school. Instead of feeling like I am way behind everyone else, negotiating adjustments on my own and feeling a ’real drain on everyone’ , the disability services has made studying so much less stressful: it is now a learning experience, rather than a private battle. I feel so much more competent, confident and independent now without all the old ‘hassle’ to deal with, I have time to participate in extra-curricular activities and meet fantastically diverse people.
Problem 1: after my brain injury, I get headaches and have real difficulty reading dense blocks of text.
How disability services (DS) have helped: Kurzweil reads to me! ? Instead of Mum reading to me like she did in the HSC or just taking a lot of painkillers, I can get a lot of reading done this makes me feel more competent and independent.
Difficulties that remain:
- When tutors hand out material in class to be done IN that class: this can be stressful as it seems like I’m being lazy/not bothering to concentrate. Also, as my condition varies (when I’m tired/stressed) and I can read sentences/small bits of text OK, tutors can’t see the problem. This also applies to when I’m doing group work. Also when asked to read something out to the class.
- When I haven’t been given textbooks/notes in an accessible format yet. I seem like I’m not doing my reading out of laziness and there’s no way of letting tutors know without seeming I’m making up excuses (and I don’t want to say it in front of the class)
- As I seem normal, tutors aren’t always particularly sympathetic to extension request//exam adjustments and now I am reluctant to ask for these as I feel my mark has been affected in the past.
- Now to get to the assistive technology room, you have to walk past all these people and the windows are see-through. I usually don’t tell people (not wanting to go into the whole story of how I got my brain injury) but this year it’s harder to hide.
Problem 2: fatigue/ physical problems: I fatigue very quickly and have difficulty with some motor tasks (eg getting down stairs/crouching/standing for long periods of time)
How (DS) have helped: Providing rest rooms, Timetable adjustments to spread out classes throughout the week.
Difficulties that remain:
- There are only 2 rest rooms, both of them far away from my classes. If I’m exhausted, there’s no way I’ll walk that far to rest-if there are no seats, I’ll usually just close my eyes in the bathroom for 20 mins.
- Giving presentations, particularly in groups. Tutors/other students usually don’t realise I get so tired standing up because I look fit & strong (if my muscles atrophy, I lose control of movement) and don’t want to go into the whole story of etc so say nothing and suffer a little.../ being asked to help out by holding something, etc.
- Classrooms are still really far away from each other and DS are limited in how much they can move classes around. So are food outlets and other services.