Olivia's Story: Five Years as an SAS Student
READ THE ENTIRE September 2022 EDITION OF INSIDE EQUAL ACCESS
This article originally appeared in the September 2022 edition of Inside Equal Access.
As I am finishing up my final stretch here at Kent State, I have been reflecting a lot on my educational career. I have always struggled in school because of my learning disability which allowed me to receive an IEP (Individualized Education Program). I've had an IEP since middle school, which caused a lot of anxiety about going to school throughout my high school years.
I had a lot of insecurities growing up and one of them was having an IEP in high school. I never really had full control of my accommodations which were receiving extra time on tests and a separate testing room. Having to get up in the middle of class and leave the classroom always gave me severe anxiety. You can call it a privilege if you want, but personally, it just made me feel like an outsider and dismayed.
“Is everyone looking at me?”
“Do they think I’m stupid because I have to leave?”
“What if they ask me why I left the room during the test?”
“What do I say?”
Once every year I had to attend a meeting with IEP directors, my special ed teacher, my counselor, and my mom. I felt like I never had a voice during these meetings because it was always them discussing what works or doesn't work for me. I see all of these papers out in front of me, reading them word by word and not having any idea what any of them means. Then came around the time to start sending in applications for college and I had no idea what I was doing.
“How will my IEP transfer over?”
“Will I still have extra time on my tests?”
“What if I don’t qualify for accommodations in college?”
These are common questions that I would ask myself when I was in the process of sending applications. Having an IEP in high school is a lot different than having accommodations in college. Once I got to college and registered with Student Accessibility Services (SAS), I saw that things would be different. SAS was more than helpful because they made it very easy for me to understand how to access my accommodations during the semester.
For the first time in my educational career, I never had to worry about getting up and leaving the classroom during exam time. I didn’t have those yearly IEP meetings that would have me crying. I was in control of my accommodations, not anyone else. Having accommodations in college is totally different from having an IEP in high school because no one is telling you what you can or can not do. I was able to schedule my own exam times and instead of getting up in the middle of class, I would just simply head over to the library where I would take all of my exams. I was able to decide if I wanted to access my accommodations or not for certain classes. Everything was more private and accessible for me.
I wish my high school self was not as hard on herself for having more trouble in school than others. Just because I had an IEP does not mean I am less capable of achieving and accomplishing my goals. I believe that the biggest problem with high school was that everything was so public, rather than in college where I felt more comfortable in myself because my accommodations were more private. Also, over the 5 years here at Kent State, I have finally accepted the fact that I do have some learning difficulties and I am no longer embarrassed to speak up about it and share my personal experiences.
If there is one thing that I could tell my younger self, it would be to stop being so hard on yourself. You are capable of doing anything you set your mind to and don’t let anyone else's opinions change that.