At War with a Learning Disability

Our organization came across an interesting article from The New York Times Magazine.  A soldier wrote about her experience as an active duty soldier in the army, navigating her military dream with a learning disability.

We focus our work on developing grit and perseverance. These qualities provided Ms. Zephrine with a strong foundation to realize her dream of joining the army, and obtaining her master’s degree in social work.

We are sharing this story as a way to showcase the life experiences told firsthand by individuals with learning disabilities and other challenges. Please note that this is one person’s experience.

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On Giving Tuesday, Donate to Organizations that Fill the Gaps

Options for College Success provides services and support to fill the gap for individuals with learning challenges and disabilities aging out of the school system and launching into their next journey. These individuals stop receiving services through the state between 18 and 22 years of age.  Where do they go next?

These individuals may not be ready for post-secondary schooling nor have the skills to be employed. Employment rates for those with disabilities are very low, and educational attainment is essential to the success of young adults with disabilities because the jobs of the future require technical training and education. Based on the 2017 Disability Statistics Annual Report from the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Disability Statistics and Demographics, in the U.S. 35.9% of individuals aged 18-64 with disabilities were employed versus 76.6% of those without a disability.

At our organization, we customize an individual’s plan based on where they currently are at in development and what goals they look to achieve. We fill the gaps with hands on, one on one support to provide them with the opportunity to live a healthy, productive and independent life.

Please donate to Options for College Success on this day and as we move into the holiday season.  We want to improve and expand our programming to fit the increasing needs of the population we work with.  Your gift, no matter the size, will directly impact the success of our students.

Please visit www.optionsforcollegesuccess.org and click on our donate button at the bottom of the page or send a check  payable to Options for College Success.

Options for College Success

1515 maple Ave. Suite 190

Evanston, IL 60201

Options for College Success Presents…

By Samantha Kolkey, LCSW

 

Happy Friday y’all!

Options for College Success is proud to inform everyone that we are hosting a free event on planning for now and the future!

We are bringing together Andre Sam from The Special Needs Education and Advocacy Project and Kathryn Jackson from Autism Spectrum Therapies for an evening workshop discussing the logistical and emotional support needs in life transitions for individuals with disabilities. In addition, there will be a special segment presented by staff from Northwestern University’s Neurodevelopmental Disabilities Lab regarding their current research studies on autism and Fragile X.

This event is on Wednesday, February 28th 2018 from 6:00pm-8:00pm at the Segal Visitor’s Center at Northwestern University.

We will have refreshments!

Please let me know if you plan to attend.  Email: skolkey@optionsforcollegesuccess.org.

I hope to see you there!

special needs education and advocacy project image

There’s an App for that!

By Samantha Kolkey

As we all may know, there are literally applications for our phones, tablets and computers that will help with almost anything.

All of our students, as most people can relate to, are glued to their phones.  If I can help them utilize their phones to support the development of executive functioning skills, to establish a routine or habit, to limit distractions, or provide other ways to study for their classes, then I am open to this technology.

I was recently working with a student who has executive functioning deficits and needed support in establishing a more independent morning routine, including a more effective alarm.  A colleague suggested that I look at the app “Alarmy.”  Alarmy allows the person to set their alarm with a choice of settings: Take a Picture, Solve Math Problems, and Shake Shake (where you must shake the phone a specific number of times for the alarm to turn off).  This app helps decrease one’s tendency to snooze their alarm multiple times, and to not stay in bed for a long period of time. https://alar.my

Other apps to explore:

Streaks:  This app helps in establishing habits.  You can choose up to 12 tasks that you want to turn into daily habits. When it is checked off for the day, it creates a streak.  The visual of the streak creates a sense of accomplishment, aiming to motivate the individual to continue with the task.  If it is not checked off, the streak resets to zero. https://streaksapp.com/

Forest: Stay Focused, Be Present: For those who have trouble stepping away from the internet to complete a task, study session, etc.  This app allows the user to create their own forest.  You begin by planting a seed.  Within the next 30 minutes, the seed will gradually grow into a tree. If you end up going to browse websites, the tree will wither away.  You can even put specific websites that distract you most on a “Blacklist.” This app will help to cultivate effective time management, and can also be used to decrease dependency on the internet. https://www.forestapp.cc/en/

Quizlet:  Supports studying on the go.  You can get gentle reminders to study, see how you’re improving, and work in short study sessions.  This allows you to create a study plan and can guide you through what and when to practice. https://quizlet.com/mobile

AudioNote:  This app combines the function of a notepad and a voice recorder to save time and improve the quality of one’s notes. AudioNote will automatically index lectures, meetings, interviews, or study sessions.  http://luminantsoftware.com/iphone/audionote.html

IntervalMinder:  This app can be used to support one’s therapy and self-monitoring goals. It is very effective for monitoring breaks. https://notchlandlabs.wordpress.com/about-2/interval-minder/

 

Happy App-ing!

 

 

 

Joining a Band…Autism Style

 

Image result for pictures of musical instruments

By Marcella Mackowiak

While blogging should be a rather easy thing for me, this week, it’s not. I found on Saturday that my 20 month old nephew has been diagnosed with ASD. While I am exposed to ASD everyday, and have many years of experience, I guess that one is never prepared to hear such news. It didn’t hit me until now, until working on this blog, that he will face so many challenges and perhaps a cruel world, and that has me crying even though I am supposed to be cheery for my students coming in today.

All of that being said, on Sunday a coworker sent a wonderful story (not even knowing my news) about a music teacher in Queens, NY who has taught students on the spectrum to play musical instruments using iPads! What made me break down in this video was hearing about the non-verbal student who started talking-even singing! Thank you to Adam Goldberg, at P.S. 177, who struggled to get his students to break through, then found a way.

I know that we are living in a time where there is more help for those living with ASD, but that doesn’t take away the fear that I have of my nephew being stigmatized or having no one in the world to care for him outside of my family. However, Adam Goldberg gives me hope. Please watch and enjoy the video below…

Advocacy, awareness and action

By Samantha Kolkey

Despite us being one day late, I want to recognize the importance of the United Nations’ International Day of Persons with Disabilities.  Below is a message from the Secretary General of the United Nations, where he also identifies the theme for this year:

Secretary-General’s Message for 2017

“Transformation towards sustainable and resilient society for all”

Resilience is central to achieving sustainable development. In its pledge to leave no one behind, the 2030 Agenda embodies a commitment to building the capacities of those who face marginalization and exclusion, in order to reduce their vulnerability to economic, social and environmental shocks.

In recent years, the international community has achieved notable progress in advancing the rights of the world’s one billion persons with disabilities. Disability is recognized as a cross-cutting issue in the 2030 Agenda, the New Urban Agenda and the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction.

Yet, persons with disabilities remain too often excluded from the design, planning and implementation of policies and programmes that have an impact on their lives. Too often they face discrimination in labour markets and in access to education and other services.

To overcome this challenge, the path towards inclusive, accessible, usable facilities, technologies, infrastructure, services and products must be ensured by, for and with persons with disabilities. We must build on their agency, working together to design, develop and implement affordable and innovative solutions to realize equality for all.

On the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, let us remove physical and cultural barriers, build resilient societies and create opportunities that truly leave no one behind.

António Guterres

Ensuring appropriate funding, technologies, medications, therapies, education, accessible spaces, and inclusive vocational and living opportunities are imperative issues at hand.

I will shamelessly promote my organization, Options for College Success, as we are a small part of the U.N’s agenda and 2017 theme. We provide an array of services to all individuals with learning challenges and disabilities for them to develop the confidence, courage, and skills to live independently, to live their best lives! We develop unique and personalized ways to support the individual in achieving their goals and following their passions. We advocate strongly for our clientele and those who are not part of our Options family.

In celebration of the day (even though it was yesterday), we encourage everyone to advocate for improved special education services in schools, for improved post-secondary options for those with disabilities (please see H.R. 3199), to think about ways to be inclusive and recognize where we are failing to do this, donate or volunteer for organizations that dedicate themselves to ensure that those with disabilities are not neglected in any way and are helping individuals become as self-sustaining as possible, and resilient members of our society.

Please check out the U.N.’s website on this day.  They lay out their plans and committees, the work they are doing internationally for this cause, and for more information:

http://www.un.org/en/events/disabilitiesday/index.shtml

 

 

#AutismSpeaks Transition Toolkit

By Marcella Mackowiak

Autism Speaks logo is a very resourceful organization. Typically, I would not use another organization’s logo in my blog, but I think that it is warranted to give credit where credit is due. See, we’re all in this fight together, the fight of building awareness for those who live with ASD and the loved ones who are affected by it. We all promote the love, success, and equality for those living with ASD, so I am happy to post a blog giving #AustimSpeaks credit for being very resourceful.

This particular article contains a free, downloadable toolkit that was assembled by #AutismSpeaks that is meant to “assist families on the journey from adolescence to adulthood.” This toolkit reminds me of the steps that we take to prepare our students for  life after high school. It is organizations like #AutismSpeaks and #OptionsForCollegeSuccess who are making the difference for those out there living with ASD, and we are certainly proud to do it!

Checkout the link for the toolkit below…

https://www.autismspeaks.org/family-services/tool-kits/transition-tool-kit?utm_source=email&utm_medium=text-link&utm_campaign=espeaks