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I suppose what I would say to any student who has a disability or a medical condition or a specific learning difficulty is that they should go to whatever college they want to go to, they should do whatever course they want to do. They shouldn't let their disability or their medical condition hold them back. So when you're making a decision about what you want to do, decide first of all what's in your heart to do. What course you really want to do and just as a matter of good career advice you should check out the ins and outs of that career. What the options are? Where it can take you. What kind of money you can earn. What kind of hours you should work. Where that career can take you and put your disability second. Don't put it first, don't pick a career around making decisions based on well I have this disability so I can only do this, this and this. Decide first of all what you want to do. And don't decide to come to Maynooth just because it has an excellent Disability Office, come to Maynooth because it's the college that you want to come to. Because you've come out to see it before, because the location is right, because the course is right, the quality of teaching is right, and you can be assured that the quality of supports offered to students with disabilities is excellent and that you will be provided with as many supports as are necessary in order for you to show your academic ability and we try to take into account the fact that your disability or your medical condition or your learning difficulty that that can have had an adverse impact on your education performance in the past and what we try to do is to mitigate those effects to give you the opportunity to show your ability. That's the whole purpose of the Disability Office, so choose the course and then choose the college and then make sure that whatever supports that you need, that you get them from wherever the Disability Office is located. Yeah Having seen other universities, I think one of the key advantages of Maynooth is its location. It's in a really central location, close to town but outside of town. And it can often be very important for students with disabilities to be in a smaller university, particularly because of the fact that the kind of difficulties that you might have can be mitigated by being in a smaller college. And you tend to know more people, you tend to build up more connections and I suppose a number of the things that are different about the Disability Office here is that they offer a kind of co-coordinated package of kind of really top of the range supports that can help you to put your disability to one side and you can just go about what every other student wants to do which is to enjoy college and do well academically. So some of the key things that I think that are different about NUI Maynooth is first of all access to a one week residential program and I think that is absolutely critical. A lot of students would feel that their disability can isolate them, that it can make them separate to other students and that orientation program which does everything from an introduction to the subjects, good study skills, to learning how to cook. It helps you to build up those social kinds of connections which makes that entry to university much more seamless kind of a move from second level education to third level education and a good start is half the battle. That’s really critical, a lot of universities offer a supplementary admissions route for applicants with a disability and
Maynooth will commence with that supplementary admissions route for the academic year 2007/2008 and that’s a very important route into this university for students who perhaps feel that their disability or their specific issues has prevented them from performing to their academic potential at second level. So it’s very important that students know that there is a supplementary admissions route which can help them to get a place on the course of their choice. Now getting in is one thing, and being here is entirely different. So what Maynooth offers is a co-coordinated, tailored program of supports recognizing that each student with a disability is an individual and what we try to do is to tailor a package of supports for each student. So that could be everything from access to financial support through the fund for students with disabilities, the availability of specialist tuition, access to the learning support tutor, who will look at your learning style and try to work out improved ways for you to learn which will make you a more independent learner. Looking at things like study skills, your note taking skills, revision techniques, exam techniques, spelling strategies, reading and comprehension strategies. All of the things that can help you to become a more independent learner. And that’s in my opinion with most students with disabilities want. They just want to be independent. And our role is to give you the skills necessary so that you can blend in seamlessly with every other student having these kinds of skills with you. One of the key assess of the Disability Office is that we have an assistive technology centre which houses a range of cutting edge assistive technology and this is the future for students with disabilities as regards again mitigating the effects of your disability or your medical condition and I think one of the keys aspects for us is that is based in the student services building so it’s a central location where students are always milling around anyway and it’s wonderful to be able to access that service at times that are good for you. And you can have an individual, tailored package of training looking at the kind of services and the kind of technology that are most appropriate for you. It’s also our aim to make sure that students are assessed as early as possible when they start so that a package of assistive technology supports can be put in place as quickly as possible. Other services are things like addition academic tuition where students can find that because of their disability that they fall behind in their course and for them it’s wonderful to know that we carried out a needs assessment early enough for the academic year where we might have anticipated that this situation might arise so that when you do feel that you have fallen behind that it is possible maybe to arrange for one to one academic support where you can look at where you are with that particular course and I think what I would usually say to students when they come into me is that my job is to look at the worst possible scenario and to put in place the kind of supports that they might need. If the don’t need it, that’s wonderful but really what you need to make sure is that when they do need it that you’re able to put those supports in place as quickly and efficiently as possible so that students don’t feel that because the academic year is so condensed that they don’t find that their under tremendous pressure and then when they identify that this is where the pressure is that it takes the Disability Office eight or ten or twelve weeks to puts those kinds of supports in place because that time simply isn’t available. So our aim is to look at a tailored package of supports, to identify what a student might require over the course of that academic year and to make sure when and if they do need that support that we’re ready to put it in place for them. The assistive technology centre is obviously critical as our examinations supports, which will offer you things like extra time or the use of a reader, or the use of a
scribe. And what I would recommend that you do is that I would review with each student what their previous examination supports were. I’d often find that students would indicate to me that they got something at second level but that they were never particularly happy with it. So I’d look at those kinds of supports again and maybe give them training in using things like whether it’s a scribe or using a pc to take their exams, decide what’s best, give them training in it, make decisions on it and then hopefully they can go on ahead, the same intention being that a student at the course of their exams should be able to reflect their academic ability rather then knowing they have that information in their head but they have that critical gap between having in their head and being able to put it down on paper. If they want to go to Maynooth, I suppose one of the first things they have to decide is whether or not they want to disclose their disability and a lot of students would have particular issues about disclosure. When I said before that all students want to be is independent, all that students want to be is anonymous. They don’t want to be affectively tagged as they would say in any particular way. They don’t want to be known as that’s the student with a disability. But what you have to realise by disclosing that you have a disability, it enables us to put in place that kind of tailored programme of supports that I would have mentioned previously. And if you don’t disclose its sets in motion a train of events which means you didn’t disclose early enough. When you do disclose as students inevitably find that they have to at some stage, it may mean that your documentation isn’t appropriate. You might have to go away and get maybe an up to date consultant’s report which as you know can take six or eight weeks. When you get that back its February. You’ve already completed your first semester exams and what I’m always afraid of is that by not disclosing that you have set in motion a train of events which work against you. By disclosing it means that we can assess your requirements, apply for funding on your behalf, put in place the kind of supports you might need, have in train maybe supports that you might need during the course of the academic year. It just means things run relatively seamlessly for you. I would strongly encourage every student to disclose because a secondary advantage of disclosing is that you can become eligible for what is known as a supplementary admissions process. And this is a process which is run this year by the National University of Ireland Maynooth but also by a number of other universities and third level colleges and it allows the documentation that you submit, the evidence of your disability to the CAO to be assessed independently by the third level colleges. If they feel that your disability which is supported by your documentation has had an adverse impact on your academic performance to date, it allows us to consider you affectively for a place at the university without reaching the cut off points which the CAO would have automatically generated an offer for you. It’s critical that you be aware that that kind of supplementary route is available in a number of colleges. It’s critical that you are aware that in order to avail of it that you have to have ticked the disability/specific learning difficulty box on the CAO. You have to have returned your supporting documentation directly to the CAO though and when you have done that, it allows you to be considered affectively for the supplementary entry route. And it means that if things didn’t go for you as it should have at third level, if you didn’t get the results that you should have at second level because perhaps your leaving cert results didn’t
reflect your ability because of the kind of difficulties that you had, it allows you to still perhaps get a place on the course of your choice. Ok Ok Ok If you want to apply to the supplementary submissions route just remember first of all that lots of students with disabilities/medical conditions or specific learning difficulties get the place in the college of their choice on the course of their choice by meeting the points requirements. But if you feel that you have a disability and you believe that you’re not going to make the CAO points for the course of your choice due to the impact of your disability then you can apply for what’s known as this supplementary admissions route. Now in order to apply for it, first of all you have to disclose that you have a disability. The CAO will then send you out a second form which has to be completed and that application will ask you for details of your disability, the kinds of supports you got at second level, the kind of support you’re going to require in third level. It will ask you for a school academic reference and it will ask you critically for disability related supporting documentation. Now in the case of an illness that would come from a medical consultant. In the case of we’ll say a learning difficulty like disability or dyslexia or dyspraxia then you’ll have to have an educational psychologist’s report. When that supplementary information form is returned to the CAO that documentation will be considered by all of the colleges so if you are deemed eligible for it, you will be deemed eligible for it by all of the colleges. And your application for that college course will be considered in the first round of CAO offers. You can change your mind using the change of mind form as regards the particular course that you are going to pick but you will get your offer with the CAO the same as every other student, it just means that some background work has gone on behind the scenes considering whether your disability had an adverse impact on your academic studies. If you are accepted by NUI Maynooth for a place the standard CAO process continues. You will get an offer of a place on your Oh right good point Oh right
Ok. You’ve a number of opportunities to meet the Disability Officer before you ever accept your place at NUI Maynooth. I would strongly encourage every student, first of all to go to the Maynooth open days. There is an information day which runs in April and the Disability Office will make a presentation at that information day and you have an opportunity to meet the Disability Officer then. And in fact every student who is indicated on the CAO that they have a disability or learning difficulty, I would write to them individually giving them a reminder of the fact that the information day is taking place and telling them to come along if they want to get more information and if they want to meet me. Before the CAO process kicks in, I would also write out to them giving them information about the fact that the orientation programme would be running and just telling them that they should block that kind of time out in their diary. Once they get the CAO offers goes out, you will get an offer at that stage through the standard CAO process and at that stage particularly if you feel you’re going to have very significant resource requirements, it’s really important that you contact the Disability Office at that stage because usually as myself as the Disability Officer I would meet at huge number of students with disabilities before they would ever actually register as full time students at Maynooth, just to kind of get a good idea about what kind of supports they would require and to make sure that if there’s something very significant that I have enough notice just to get those kind of supports organised. Yeah, the students who can register with the Disability Office. One of the things that students are put off by is the word disability and students would often say to me particularly registering late and I’m giving out to them, that they didn’t realise they could access supports from the Disability Office and one of the things that I want you to be aware of is the kinds of disabilities that will allow you to be considered for supports through the Disability Office. And really it is students with a wide range of disabilities but any student with a disability or a medical condition or a specific learning difficulty which would primarily be dyslexia, if they feel that that condition is having a significant adverse impact on their academic studies then they can come to the Disability Office. I will tell them whether they are able to register with the Disability Office or not. But if it is having a significant adverse impact on their studies they almost certainly should be registered with the Disability Office. The disabilities which are really eligible are students which have physical or mobility disabilities, students who would be blind or visually impaired, students who might be deaf or hard of hearing, students who have a significant ongoing health issue. So you might have a medical condition and it could be anything from arthritis to chronic fatigue. Where this illness is having a major impact on your academic studies it could be students who have significant mental health difficulties, it could be students with learning difficulties like dyslexia or increasingly it could be students who have disabilities like ADD, ADHD or Aspersers Syndrome. All of those students can register with the Disability Office and we can look at the kind of impact that your condition is having on your academic studies and try to put in place where you would tailor package supports to mitigate that condition.
Will I just tell them what documentation, how they would register? No Ok One of the difficulties for students is how they actually register with the Disability Office. And I suppose one of the key pieces of information that I want to give you particularly if you’re a student who’s thinking about coming to study at NUI Maynooth is get yourself organised. Get the documentation that you need in advance and have that ready. Speak to the Disability Officer in advance, come out to the college in advance. Have checked out the kind of supports that are available to make sure that you are able to provide the documentation necessary so that you can access these supports. Be aware that if you are a student with a specific learning difficulty like dyslexia that you will have to have been formally accessed by an educational psychologist and you will have to have a copy of that report available with you. Really the assessment should be no more than three years old and what I would advise is particularly if you’re in second level, if it is older than three years what I would often find is that the report from an educational psychologist makes recommendations which are really only relatable to your second level experience so it will talk about things like remedial hours and maybe making other teachers aware. Really what you need at that stage is to have your educational psychologist update your report, preferably early in sixth year. So that your report can now reflect the fact that you’re moving on to third level. Your report can be updated and your psychologist can make a series of recommendations which are appropriate to third level and we would put huge weight on the recommendations made by the education psychologist. So if I was to tell you what are you to do in those months while you’re waiting to do your leaving cert, contact your educational psychologist? Tell them that you’re now thinking of going on to third level and that you’d like to have your report updated and that the recommendations that they might make at the end of this report might be really specific to third level. So it might make specific examination recommendations. It might make recommendations about note taking in a third level environment. It might make recommendations about the kind of learning support you should have in a third level environment. For all other students you have to have your disability verified by a medical consultant and one of the things that I would find that really delays the process of registering for students is that it can take you a number of weeks to get an appointment with your consultant and it can take them a number of weeks then to produce a report so use the time before you come to Maynooth to contact your consultant, tell them that you’re going to third level. Tell them that you’re going to require a report from the consultant in order to register with the Disability Office and it’s really important that the consultant doesn’t give you a report which consists of three lines. What you want is a detailed report outlining the history and detail of your specific disability. The impact that your disability is likely to have on you as a student as regards to the demands of the academic programme and finally any suggestions of any reasonable accommodations or supports which your consultant in
consultation with you might deem to be appropriate for you in the context of your future higher education experience. And when you get a really comprehensive report from a consultant like that, setting out that kind of detail information, it makes it very easy for us as a Disability Officer to target and identify the kinds of supports that you’re likely to require. And when those kinds, that kind of documentation’s submitted to us in advance, it makes it very easy for us to register you with the Disability Office and that sets in train a programme of events which means that quite seamlessly those kinds of supports should be able to be put in place for you and you should really just be able to go ahead and enjoy your third level experience.
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