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Suffolk’s Office of Disability Services Helps an Increasing Number of Students

With a rise of disabilities in college students, universities are finding that these disabilities can hinder students’ learning. Suffolk University Office of Disability Services has been working closely with students to accommodate them and provide an equal learning environment.

According to the director of disability services, Kirsten Behling, there has been an increase in the number of students in this program. According to Behling, there were 380 students in the program last year and there are currently 450 students from the College of Arts and Science working with the office of disabilities.

Behling defines a disability as “anything that affects the person’s ability to stand, walk, sleep, concentrate, read or digest food.” More students are coming in to the program with chronic diseases and mental health disorders, according to Behling.

Two Suffolk students with different disabilities have worked with ODS and have said that the office has helped them cope with their disabilities.

A Suffolk student with seasonal depressive disorder, asthma, generalized anxiety disorder, depression, and post-concussion syndrome described her experience with ODS as friendly and helpful. The student said that they check in with her to see how she’s doing and that her initial meeting was like “a therapy session that was laid back and welcoming.” The student said that the accommodations provided help. “The professors are understanding and give me extensions on papers when I need it,” she said.

Another Suffolk student with Type One Diabetes said that when she first reached out to the office of disabilities, she was unsettled because she didn’t like thinking of her condition as a disability. However, the student said that the office was friendly and helped her find the accommodations that would best work for her. She said, “The office has been helpful, they inform the professors and it’s nice to know that my teachers are understanding.”

The office of disabilities works with students to accommodate their needs in order to help them learn. Maya Smith, a work study student at ODS, said that the program does not give students an advantage, rather it provides students equal access to education. Smith said, “Imagine it as a six foot wall and everyone can see over it. ODS provides students with a ladder so that they too can see over the wall.”

Behling said that it is up to the students to reach out to the office. Behling states, “Diagnosis are becoming better, and certain disabilities are becoming more normalized so more students reach out for help when they need it.” Behling said that this helps out students because they are no longer afraid to ask for help which can lead to rise in students’ GPAs.

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