Thousands of students struggle with learning disabilities and unique learning situations. I have the good fortune that my challenge, a mild form of ADHD, doesn’t generally get in the way of my work and my learning, but it certainly has its moments. The biggest impediments for me are numbers (I never had a particular talent for calculus) and my natural awkwardness.
Every disability or learning challenge has its own unique set of problems and solutions. While this article will try to avoid generalization, it can help set out a common path to first identifying you have a learning disability, and then ensuring you get the proper support that you need.
Step 1: Figuring Out You Have a Disability
The biggest challenge with having a learning disability is identifying it and taking it seriously. Too often, people who have fantastic brains with additional challenges will simply write themselves off as stupid or make up excuses. One of the most common reasons for not getting a learning disability assessment is because they cost a massive amount of money (starting prices are nearly two thousand dollars). However, the Government of British Columbia has allocated funds to help people get assessed and to connect them with resources to have the diagnosis recognized and supported. Reach out to StudentAid BC to see if you are eligible for a learning disability assessment bursary. If you decide to book an assessment, be aware that the assessment process can take up to six hours.
Step 2: Reaching Out to Those Who Can Help You
Accessibility Services at BCIT has dedicated employees to process disability assessments and help set up accommodations for students with disabilities. Once you have an assessment you need to get in touch with these folks ASAP, otherwise you are going to be slogging along without the extra support you could be receiving. The process involves submitting forms and having a short conversation with someone from the office to help design a plan for you. Once you are done, you can also apply to the province and the federal government to fund supports like a notetaker or a tutor.
Writing support through the Library and Student Advocacy through the Student Association are invaluable tools for those with a disability. Writing support can look at your written assignments and tell you whether you are on the right track. If you feel like a grade is unfair, or if you messed something up because of your disability, then make sure you reach out to Advocacy. Student Advocacy can help you decide how to approach your instructors professionally, and help you understand the policies at BCIT that might relate to you.
Instructors can also help you. By reaching out and letting them know what you are dealing with, you are choosing to make a connection and communicating to them that you will take full advantage of the accommodations you have been granted. They have a responsibility to help you overcome your struggles in the classroom.
Step 3: Do Not Be Ashamed
There is a manufactured social mindset that having a disability is something that is “wrong” with you. This isn’t true, but it can make those people who are struggling to overcome a disability feel embarrassed or out of place. When they start to believe these negative ideals, that negativity becomes the barrier. It becomes easy to think that “the work is too hard,” or “I am never going to get this right.”
The first thing you can do for yourself is to embrace your differences. You don’t have to shout it from the rooftops but make your friends and family aware of your condition. That way when they screw up and say something negative, you can be direct with them and tell them how their actions made you feel.
You have a right to a safe and accessible campus. If you feel like you cannot access a service, make sure you reach out to the responsible department, and they should be more than happy to provide better accommodations. If you need assistance, contact Advocacy or the BCITSA.
Jonah van Driesum is the senior editor of Link, and co-host of our the MicroLink podcast!