Saturday, September 19, 2009

DePaul program innovates hope for students with chronic illnesses

The School for New Learning might share the same initials with Saturday Night Live, but there's nothing funny about what they're doing at DePaul University.

This interesting and innovative
is targeting students with chronic illnesses, giving them opportunities to work through episodic, debilitating outbreaks of their disabilities, which, in any other circumstance, would have been the end of the students' class, semester, or, quite possibly, their entire academic career.

In this
Associated Press article,
you can read about some of the students who are achieving through this opportunity when they would have been otherwise academically frustrated and stymied.

I've had several friends who were classmates that appeared to have no disability on most days, but when their days turned gray and their recurring disability, like severe chronic fatigue syndrome or rheumatoid arthritis, flared up, it was totally incapacitating and caused them to miss class and assignments. Thanks to patient professors granting extensions, they were able to keep up with most classes. However, there were some times when these missed classes and assignments would force them to drop the class or take an incomplete, just because they weren't physically able to keep up with the pace due to their disability.

If more colleges and universities had programs like SNL, the occurrence of academic failure due to a disability would become a footnote in history, much like other disability related access problems prior to the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"I'm a person with a disability. I'm not less of a person because of that. I can DO less because of it, but coming to that acknowledgment was painful

Patrick Holaday , SNL student with severe chronic fatigue syndrome.

As with the student cited above, there are aspects in the different student stories highlighted in the news article which have a common theme of working through denial and, finally, acceptance. I've been a big fan of applying Elizabeth Kubler-Ross's grief theory to disability and feel encouraged to see others are like minded.

Congratulations to DePaul for putting their faith in their students' abilities and seeing beyond their disabilities.