By Tim Kalinowski on January 12, 2017.
When it comes to aiding students with special needs, Medicine Hat College offers a lot of accommodation options to help students be at their best academically and psychologically, says Accessibility Services co-ordinator Tara Watkins.
“We want everyone to be successful, and success looks different for each person,” explains Watkins. “I think our greatest job is really listening to students and trying to figure what is your greatest barrier. What are the things that are going to be the best for you? We work really hard to tailor our accommodations to fit that student.”
The college has everything from quiet rooms allowing students with concentration issues to focus better on their exams, to grant funding through the province for specialized computer software and classroom recording devices to help students in lectures and in their studies, says Watkins.
“We have a number of students who have concentration issues, reading issues, comprehension trouble … What we would like to do is provide services to schools that have documented disabilities to empower them and help them become independent. That way students aren’t so much reliant on us, they are able to go out and take care of themselves, be independent and feel empowered in their learning.”
Brenna McGillion has been diagnosed with ADHD since she was in Grade 3. She has a good handle on what her needs are but was concerned coming into MHC the supports she was used to would not be there. However, the accommodations offered have exceeded her expectations, she says.
“Without those supports, sometimes it can be challenging, especially when it comes to the evaluation period. Besides having to deal with questions on the paper, I feel like I am being questioned in my abilities sometimes because of the noise, which can be distracting, or I get stressed and my anxiety kicks in, too.”
McGillion says she uses a recording device in her MHC classes and a specialized software program to help her study in her residence, but the biggest thing is being allowed a quiet space and extra time to write her exams.
“In that quiet space I can think. I can stand up and walk around. I can even think out loud, which I appreciate.”
All the accommodations she has been allowed have made her time at MHC thus far a success, and have taught her some important life lessons as well.
“They are always pushing you to be more independent, which feels great,” says McGillion.
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