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Characteristic #1: Knowledge and Acceptance of Disability
This article will focus on the first characteristic: knowledge and acceptance of disability. A focus group made up of college students with disabilities revealed that they believed knowledge of their disability “was critical to their success in college” (Getzel and Thoma, 2006, 35). It was the first step in their ability to advocate for themselves and seek the resources they needed to be successful.
So how do you gain knowledge about your disability? If you have lived with it for a while, you probably have a good sense of how it affects you. However, you may find that college life or college academics present a new challenge. If you have been recently diagnosed with your disability, you may not completely understand yet how it affects you. As an adult, it is essential for you to have the opportunity to read the diagnostic evaluation report, or any other relevant report, that diagnoses your disability and discuss the results with whoever conducted the evaluation. Be sure to ask any questions you have. Your case manager at DRES is also a good source of information. Family members and friends, especially those who have experienced what you are experiencing, can be good sources of support.
The next step, acceptance of disability, can take longer to realize. As an example, taking longer to do things, like read or get from one place to another, can make you feel different from your peers. However, once you accept that you need to allow more time for these things in order to accomplish them, you can plan ahead and still accomplish the same things your peers do. You may even achieve at a higher level than your peers do because of your time and dedication. It is important to recognize that you are not solely defined by your disability. All of us have strengths and weaknesses. Acceptance of disability means that you understand and accept that you have a disability but this is just one part of who you are. Even more important is that you know your strengths, academic or otherwise. Without this knowledge, it is hard to accept a disability as you may feel shame or that you are “stupid”.
* Getzel, E. & Thoma, C. (2006). Voice of Experience: What College Students with Learning Disabilities and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorders Tell Us Are Important Self-Determination Skills for Success. Journal of Learning Disabilities, v. 14, n. 1, 33-39.