DRC caters testing accommodations to individual needs

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Amanda Delgado/Contributing writer

additional reporting by Cayla Bush

 

Committed to guiding and supporting students with disabilities during their college experience, the Disabilities Resource Center at FIU “provides the resources to facilitate a smooth transition to university life,” as stated on their website.

According to Stephen Loynaz, access consultant manager at the Modesto Maidique campus, a student may become part of the DRC in various ways.

If students are coming in through a high school or another organization that has accommodated their needs before, then the University can match up the resources they had in previous institutions. Those students usually already have documentation or a letter from previous schools confirming the information, and are walked through the registering process since forms tend to be slightly different.

Some students that are enrolled in FIU get tested for disabilities a little later on.

“We do have other students that come in, and because of many variables, whether it’s culture [or] it’s socioeconomic status, they [might’ve never] had the opportunity to test themselves or get evaluated for disabilities. And it’s a sad thing because we’ve had a lot of students come in with narratives that sound like ‘everyone said I was stupid’ or ‘everyone said I was lazy’ or ‘I wasn’t able to do certain things and I always knew I could, but I just needed an extra support,’” said Loynaz to Student Media.

Students are given the opportunity to use psychological services at FIU, and are also offered testing at the fraction of what they cost outside of the University, in hopes that students learn more about themselves.

In some cases, temporary accommodation can be given if disabilities are apparent while doctors or physicians fill out paperwork.

The DRC also works with students with psychological disorders such as anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder.

“A lot of those diagnosis require medication management and that medication can have side effects that would affect the student … Ig may cause drowsiness, may cause a bit of memory loss, may [affect processing abilities], so because of those things, we do have accommodations in place for students that take that type of medications or have those disorders,” said Loynaz. “They can vary from being able to get extensions from assignments, being able to makeup exams if they’re absent, or maybe not get penalized for absences.”

Students only have to register once with the DRC and every semester they must go back to fill out a Notification of Academic Adjustment Form –Notification Form for short. By filling out the form, students authorize the DRC to disclose information to their professors, which includes the accommodations the student is approved for, and in turn allows the DRC to let students know if classes are compatible with their accommodations.

For example, in a foreign language class, it may be difficult for a student to keep up with the class material if they miss a lot of classes caused by switching medication.  

Once an access consultant determines that the student needs testing accommodations, the student’s professors will be notified of the academic adjustment, but not what the student’s disability is. Next, the student completes an exam proctor form with their professors so the professor can note the testing conditions and time and date of the test. Kimberly Hunter, a testing coordinator for the DRC said.

The exam proctor form must be completed each time and with the increase in students accessing the DRC, completing this form ahead of time is critical.

“Back in 2006, we only had maybe 300 students that were actually registered with the DRC,” Martha Wong, the assistant director of administrative services said. “Now we have 2,400 students. Let’s say we get 50 to 60 students a day testing, with them getting two hours of testing, in only three testing rooms, we do not have the capacity to be able to accommodate all these students without the necessary preparations ahead of time.”

Testing accommodations are given based on the student’s need and range from minimal distraction testing rooms, zoom technology for the visually impaired and scribes.

“Depending on the case, some students, because of their disability, may not be comfortable having anybody in their testing environment, so they would have a private testing room. Some students that have test anxiety or a traumatic brain injury, and they need a bit more time to process things and answer questions, they’ll have the accommodation of extended time on an exam.” Hunter said to Student Media.

Testing accommodations will be undergoing some changes, as the DRC hopes to involve faculty in the proctoring process.

“What we’re trying to do, because of funding, staffing and spacing challenges, is have more of our faculty involved in the actual proctoring process. We haven’t started it yet, we’re just getting Student Affairs Division involved. We’ve reached out to Student Affairs staff and let them know that during our busy time, which is usually midterms and finals, we need some assistance from all of our professionals in Student Affairs to come and help us procter our students,” Wong said. “The volume of testing is so high during finals week, we receive about 120 students testing on average per day and we only have three front desk staff members, and three testing rooms.”

DRC has partnered with Advising, Center of Academic Success, and the rest of the academic departments to offer students the best possible services in tutoring.

“FIU has over 150 different academic program – it would be impossible for any one of us to know [everything] in the depth required to give proper advising. So what we do is let the student know what their needs are, disability-related,” said Loynaz.

“What classes they need to take, sequences they need to do to do their prerequisites, that all sits in advising – those are the experts in their programs.” Loynaz said. With tutoring, tutors have been trained and have been exposed to disabilities, according to Loynaz.

Students can work with OneStop to complete a medical appeal if a medical, family or military-related situation comes up and they are required to drop classes. However, accommodations are not retroactive – meaning that if a student’s grades suffer due to a medical disorder, grades can’t be adjusted. A medical appeal can be put into place at any point in the semester, up to six months after the last day of class in a semester.

Through the DRC, students are also eligible for three scholarships: Dr. Fareed Jah Scholarship Endowment, Johnson Scholarship Foundation, and Accessing the World Scholarship. Students may contact drc@fiu.edu for more information and for applications.

There’s a replication of the DRC on Biscayne Bay Campus and FIU Online’s set up allows easy incorporation of services needed by students registered with the DRC. I-75 and Engineering Campus still don’t have replications because of their small student body, but if numbers go up, services will be extended there. In the meantime, students can seek services at MMC or BBC.

“We have over 2,000 students registered,” said Loynaz, “We are a department, so you are not alone in the university if you need services. Some of our students feel a little intimidated [because of] stigma or a bad experience. I would encourage students to come in as early as possible, whether you know your situation or you just have a question about your situation.”

The DRC is always looking for volunteers in the form of scribes, note-takers, readers, as well as volunteers for the administrative side of the DRC. Students with special talents that can help DRC students are encouraged by the DRC to volunteer.

 

Image by Linda D, retrieved from flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/linderrox/5324201344/in/photolist-97tVyU-6Fgbwg-Jpv2tW-9ZFEYb-FfcBJ-bEALcL-6E4s1u-4YnCX6-q4Mwxs-3KdhM-6c1FGQ-hjVe9j-4xJfKJ-bv7vmv-9cQKAj-7dLqnc-vXMAm-4Fyqoc-8bBZW2-7wRa8t-KC6AT-8s4PDi-4LWEKf-qxXgzB-7YjPqw-FWjfrL-84YCCt-5xiLNu-6bWwvk-83vpg8-bnirUT-aozeD-6cXRho-81r7Xk-8YiiGZ-6zrveY-byCBQ-B1fti-k4YTkP-gxXFAS-nRa6HE-5omCgz-7cS4jZ-gkvM2B-9RW7Jy-gQpaF-cTg2vS-4Qah72-7PtpDg-bnjQ8D

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