Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A brief discussion of the role of DSS professionals

There’s an old saying, “Nothing succeeds like success,” which can be aptly applied to the profession of disability support services. Sure this applies to the particular accommodations, but there is more that DSS professionals can provide their students. The students can find the skills to manage their disabilities through on-going dialogue with DSS staff and a comfortable place to discuss the challenges they face.

Take for instance, the recent success story about the
CSUN’s Center on Disabilities.

This article illustrates very clearly that a student’s disability is not a sole entity. There are conpounding elements that accompany many disabilities, such as the case of the woman first mentioned in the article with a bipolar disability.

I particularly like that the article pointed out that the center “guides disabled students into finding a cohesive, effective and comfortable style for managing the difficulties that can grow out of a disability.”

While some may argue that the job of DSS staff is to provide only those accommodations needed to meet the students' needs, I disagree. There are some students who have not learned to manage their disability or their lifestyle with consideration for the demands the disability places on it. As the primary point of contact for a student who has very often just begun life out on his/her own, does it not make some sense for the DSS staff to help provide guidance and education to help the students be more successful in their day-to-day lives when they leave your school?

This is clearly the case for DSS professionals at community colleges, where students who graduate from there will often need to go onto an upper level institution to earn a marketable degree. When those students move up, shouldn’t they have the skills in place to successfully manage their lifestyles outside of the classroom? Who better to aid in providing that foundation than the DSS staff?

I know this is a bit of a tangent, but I truly believe that success breeds success. That was the point of the article and it sparked this train of thought from me. If you agree or disagree, please feel free to let me know by leaving a comment.


Dupa Jasia said...
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Nickie said...

I'm a student, and I find that having help to figure out how to adjust tto college with a disability has been very valuable. I now deal with blindness, which I am comfortable with and a newer chronic pain condition. The people I work with in our disabilities service office have been helpful in helping me find ways to survive college.

They are willing to serve as a sounding board, and help me come up with ways to manage my condition. Technically, it's not legally mandated, but from a student's perspective, it makes the experience much more enjoyable. It also means I speak very well of my college wwhen asked about what's available.

Ron Graham said...

Thanks for the comment. I can truly relate to what you said. That was my experience as well.

It is actually how I got involved in the DSS field. When I was on campus and had free time, I found myself feeling most comfortable hanging out at the DSS office with the helpful and understanding staff. They made it a very personal experience, showing interest and insight to what each student needed.

Over time, I observed what they did and the care they showed for their students, and thought that this was something I’d like to do as well. I began by offering to volunteer to help out in whatever capacity the coordinator thought I might be able to fill. Being I was not on financial aid, I didn’t qualify for work study. He didn’t want me to just volunteer and have nothing to show for it, so this turned into a two-semester independent study supervised by one of my favorite professors. When I was about to graduate with my Bachelors degree and move into the graduate program, it also came time for that independent study to end. However, the director of our DSS office said that I had become such an integral part of our day-to-day operations that she offered me a student worker position, even though it came out of their funds not assisted by financial aid.

I hadn't begun college thinking I wanted to work in disability services, but with time, I realized how important the role of that office was to my education. It was the filter through which I screened the university I eventually transferred to, understanding how important the office staff would be to my success. In the end, they impacted me in ways I couldn't have imagined, all very positive.