These are some recurring questions that people have asked me about We Connect Now since its creation in 2008.
1. What made you decide to start the We Connect Now website? Do you have a personal connection to disabilities?
First in high school I had a hard time finding information about college campuses and their services and resources for students with
disabilities. This made it difficult for me to make an informed decision as to where I wanted to go to college. There was some
information out there but at the time it was all scattered and at times it was not easy to compare colleges based on that information.
Once I got to college I saw how there were clubs for different issues but I was not aware of a club that would bring together people with
disabilities on campus to share socially and to discuss relevant issues as part of the college community. I also realized that there
were resources to serve students with disabilities that were not necessarily located on campus but there was not a platform with this type of information readily available for college students with disabilities.
Yes I do have a connection to disability. I have attention deficit disorder and a learning disability.
2. How can this website help college students with disabilities?
The website is a centralized source of basic information that can help the user to find more specialized resources or simply to learn about
the experiences of other college students with disabilities all around the world. It is also a means through which college students can get
involved in helping others and expressing their opinions about issues relevant to the disability community.
3. What’s the main goal of the site?
The mission of the website is dedicated to uniting people interested in rights and issues affecting people with disabilities, with
particular emphasis on college students and access to higher education and employment issues.
One of the goals of this site is to help college students with disabilities to succeed in their studies by getting the information
and support they need, both through resources, links, blogs, latest news, studying existing laws and regulations and through personal
contacts. Through this website people can also share and read other people’s stories as a source of support and comfort. We also want
people using our webpage to take action by writing blogs, hosting an event or becoming involved in politics by knowing about upcoming
4. What has reaction been like? Do students (and universities) give you positive feedback about this resource?
Generally we receive very positive feedback about the website and our efforts. However certain disability offices of particular universities
do not work with us because they view us as a vehicle to lodge complaints about their work or as competition in the role they play
with students with disabilities on campus, because we have always emphasized our independence from the institutions and their
bureaucracy. We also do not receive funding from the educational institutions or the government so that we can maintain our independent
Also we have noticed that most campuses with special programs to work with students with intellectual disabilities do not work with us. If
you will ask me the reason why this is like this, I must confess that I am still trying to figure that out.
5. Do you run this website on your own or do you have staff assist you?
I run the website as a part time volunteer. Throughout the life of the website we have had other volunteers at different times that have
helped us by doing such tasks as research, producing content for the website, translating the website’s content, blogging, hosting movie
6. Where are you based out of/what city/state do you live in?
The website was started when I was a freshman in college in 2008. Once I graduated from LSU in Baton Rouge, LA with a bachelor’s degree in
Philosophy with a concentration in Religious Studies I came back to Puerto Rico. Since then the site has been based out of Puerto Rico.
7. What issues do you see, that are now affecting the community of college students with disabilities, that were not that prevalent when you started your page?
The requiring of a mentor in order for the student to participate in programs that seek inclusion. This requirement may affect other college students with disabilities that are not in the program seeking inclusion, but who are in the regular track of the educational institution. The student having to have a mentor may find it intrusive or patronizing.
8. What are your future goals for this site?
To continue growing our user base and to continue being useful to current and future college students with disabilities.
This blog is the result of a conversation with a retired college professor from a state university who taught full time for almost 30 years and who taught part time at a private college for close to 10 years.
How do you compare the diversity of the student body now with the student body when you began your career as a professor, particularly with regards to students with disabilities.
I believe that students with disabilities are a lot more represented on campus today than when I started teaching more than 30 years ago. When I started teaching you would see a person in a wheelchair here or there but they were mostly male veterans trying to finish a degree. But as we know there are disabilities that are not apparent/evident, so I would not be able to tell you if there were people with some hidden disability attending college at that time that I did not know about, either in my classroom or on campus. But as a group people with disabilities are a lot more represented on campus today than more than 30 years ago.
Did you have students with hidden disabilities in the college classes you taught that the school identified for you or that they identified themselves?
I do not recall having any student with a disability that would have been identified as such by the university or that would have identified herself/himself as such.
Do you recall how the university granted accommodations to students who needed an accommodation in the past?
Looking back I do not recall the university notifying me of a student with disabilities in my class or of me having to provide a classroom accommodation for a student. During the early years in my career the student with the need would go to the Dean of Students and probably the counseling office under the Dean of Student would make the arrangements with the student needing the accommodation. The university will make the arrangement with a tutor, mentor or company providing the technology to help the student that requested the accommodation. As far as I can recall, as a professor I was totally out of the loop in that respect.
On a couple of occasions I had a blind student in class and I knew about it because the condition was evident, although both times they came to me and talked to me about the accommodation they were receiving in my class. They did not come to me to ask me to make a contact to provide an accommodation for them. In both instances the blind students had been assigned someone to accompany them to class to take notes and read out problems in handouts or books.
During my last few years teaching, I recall receiving a notification from the university disability office (which did not exist at the time I started teaching) that I would have a student that I was to grant extra time to in the tests. I did not receive the identity but it was a notice to expect receiving some paperwork from the student who would then identify herself/himself about the accommodation.
Thinking back to your experiences with students with disabilities in your classroom, do you think they performed the same, better or worse than your students without disabilities?
Thinking back, the two blind students passed the class within the average performance for their group section. They were very responsible, and seemed to work harder and care more about receiving material for practicing at home than the other students in the class. When you have to deal with a personal issue that is beyond the regular issues that you face as a student you have to be highly motivated and resilient to succeed.
I believe that the key factor for any college student (with or without disabilities) to succeed in college is to enter college with the basic skills that will serve as the students’ platform to add layers of knowledge to. I must say, regretfully, that during my last few years teaching in college the students that I received in my classroom knew less of the basic concepts and skills they needed to pass a college level course. Any person aspiring to get a college degree must have some basic knowledge and skills from high school to launch her/his college career.
by Gabriela McCall Delgado, We Connect Now Director
After watching a recent Glee episode, “Movin’ Out”, in which Becky visits a college, and reading reactions to that episode, I decided I wanted to share my views on it. The episode is based on a Think College Program at the University of Cincinnati called the Transition and Access Program (“TAP”). http://cincinnati.com/blogs/tv/2013/11/20/glee-character-wants-to-attend-uc/
In the episode, Becky Jackson visits a TAP class. In that class students with intellectual disabilities who are participating in this program are shown doing different activities but are separated from students without intellectual disabilities. The episode does not show any activity on the college campus in which prospective students with intellectual disabilities are integrated with the rest of the prospective freshmen class. The college tour and orientation presented by the episode was one specifically tailored for prospective students with intellectual disabilities and does not appear to be the general tour and orientation provided to other prospective freshmen. According to information found on the Internet about the TAP program which was used as a model program in the Glee episode, TAP’s students do not live in dorms provided for the regular freshman class but they live in a separate house. The Glee classroom scene was probably a good depiction of the program classroom offering since the TAP program separates its participants from receiving instruction with the rest of the college population 75 percent of the time. http://www.thinkcollege.net/component/programsdatabase/program/467
If parents of students with intellectual disabilities and their children are seeking inclusion through this program, inclusion becomes a real issue to consider. As depicted in the episode, Becky seemed in high school to have more interaction with other people without disabilities, while Becky’s classroom experience at the college seemed limited to a universe of people with Down Syndrome and her inclusion within the general college student population is not shown in the episode. Separating participants from the very beginning of their experience on campus, be it through special courses, or special orientations is certainly a major drawback of the way the programs seem to be structured. Participation in these programs may not necessarily lead to improving socialization skills of their participants.
According to the Glee episode, one positive aspect of joining a program like TAP is that it may help the participant (Becky) to get a job. I looked at some information and statistics available on the Internet and the effectiveness of programs similar to TAP in getting program participants a job is questionable. For example, in a press release put out by the Massachusetts Task Force On College Inclusion For Students with Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities, it is claimed that “[i]n just two years, 792 students enrolled in 42 participating colleges. Of those enrolled, 236 held jobs, …” http://susansenator.com/blog/2013/11/new-massachusetts-task-force-disabilities-in-higher-ed/ This means that around 29.7% held jobs. But according to the data contained in the Task Force press release, “Prior to the TPSID program, 45 percent of those students had never held a paying job.” Id. This means that students apparently had a higher employment participation rate (55%) before they entered the program than after they entered the program-when 236 out of 792 held jobs. A major weakness that TAP has in helping participants to get a job is that TAP does not lead participants to acquire a college degree. http://cech.uc.edu/education/tap.html If Becky joins TAP she will not get a degree as the program is structured presently. Moreover, it is not clear whether she will even receive a certificate if she joins the TAP program. http://www.thinkcollege.net/component/programsdatabase/program/467.
Finally, I found that the episode was mostly a superficial way of endorsing the program through Becky’s fellow high school student Artie Abrams. This was what in fact piqued my curiosity and I ended up researching the program on which the episode was based. Lessons learned from my research is that it is important that objective information is made available through people like transition counselors, teachers, school district officials, etc. As with most important issues in society, it is important that there are voices in favor and against a particular point of view, and not only one voice repeating the institutional point of view out loud. Becky needed more than just a few brochures from Artie to make an informed decision.
By: Nandita Gupta
It was late again; I was waiting at the shuttle stop for my bus. I was getting impatient as I was already running late for a meeting. I glanced at my cell phone and saw I had an incoming call from my friend. “Hello? How are you doing?” was how this conversation began and we went on to plan our workout schedule. I constantly worry about every pound I gain and had made a resolution to begin working out again. “I don’t look pretty, I need to get the perfect figure” is a common ‘girl’ syndrome that can be seen in every girl, and I am no exception to the rule.
After five minutes the shuttle arrived and everyone got in. Just when we were about to leave, someone else climbed into the shuttle. He was a middle-aged man, wearing black Ray-Ban glasses, carried a stick to support his slight limp, with a small backpack on his back. We finally started, and I reached my destination. As I was getting off, I noticed that man standing off to the side, looking about, as though waiting for someone. I didn’t give him a second glance, but when I walked past him, he caught hold of my hand. I turned to give him an indignant look and demand an explanation for his behavior, but before I could say anything he spoke, “Please could you help me? I seem a little lost, could you walk me to my apartment gate?” That’s when I realized that he was blind.
I felt guilty for assuming things and I readily agreed to help him out. We had an interesting conversation on agriculture and different agro-farms in the area. He was a visiting student and seemed quite knowledgeable on the subject. I dropped him off at his apartment gate as requested, and then went my own way.
As I was walking home I thought about this incident. Minutes before I met this man, I was complaining about my looks, about how I may appear to be physically, but on the other hand there was this individual who had lost his eye-sight but had not only accepted it, but was also adapting and accepting himself the way he was. One could just sit at home and complain about one’s misfortune at losing one’s eye-sight but he was trying to live his life, and give himself another chance. I not only felt guilty, but felt very ungrateful for all those things that I had been blessed with. So what if I was a little plump? God has gifted me with a normal functioning body, intelligence, loving parents and caring friends – so many things to be grateful for.
I feel that everyone has some disability: it may be mental or physical. No one in this world is perfect, but one should not brood and complain about these things. One should accept them, move on, and try to figure out ways to deal with those disabilities. This man I met was an example of someone who still looked at the silver lining in a dark cloud, and this incident shall remain in my memory forever.
The rates of children being diagnosed with an Autism spectrum disorder and other special needs (whether they are medical, mental, or psychological) are on the rise. This fact has been well documented by the media, the field of medicine, and by the realization that almost everyone we come in contact with has or knows someone with some sort of label or disability. Likewise, the services for these children are growing and developing into high quality care due to the passion and diligence of parents who demand it from society, the government, and the world.
With these high quality programs on the rise, why then is a Life Coach an important addition to the Autism and Special Needs network? A good place to start is with the child. What happens to a special needs child once he becomes an adult? The high quality care and environment he has had access to his entire life quickly vanishes and he is thrust into a society that is not necessarily tailored to every individual’s personal needs. It is apparent that services for special needs adults are lacking greatly in today’s society. This is where a Life Coach, such as myself, can be recruited to assist in the very specialized needs of this population.
In my experience, I have found that the desire to obtain the qualities of organization, motivation, and focus are some of the most common reasons people seek out the services of a Life Coach. Interestingly enough, these qualities are what many in the special needs population require support in developing, by a person who knows how to effectively communicate and integrate with the unique learning methods of a special needs individual.
For instance, some real life situations where a special needs adult may need support is of course the transition to college, followed by choosing a career path, starting a family and becoming a parent, and general planning for the future. These are very broad categories that most adults navigate through successfully with hard work and a strong support system. However, a person with special needs may greatly benefit from an advisor who can help them break down these monumental life events into small, easy to accomplish goals. In addition, another related aspect of adults with special needs entering the real world is the task of establishing and maintaining proper social relationships in these various stages and areas of our lives. A Life Coach can be an excellent guide in a potentially confusing and rule laden environment.
It is equally important to mention that people who reach out to me are not only those on the Autism spectrum or have issues with attention, organization, or social understanding. I have worked with the parents of children with Autism and other special needs, as well as their siblings, and in some cases close friends. It is very easy for a parent who is dedicated to her child’s life to lose sight of her own identity. Having a Life Coach who understands the frustrations and difficulties, as well as the joys, of having a special needs child is essential in assisting the parent in whatever goals she wishes to set and strive towards as an individual.
Furthermore, I have worked with individuals and couples who are in romantic relationships where one or both partners are on the Autism spectrum. These types of romantic relationships can become very complicated and have a different set of circumstances as compared to a typical couple’s relationship. A Life Coach can assist in helping this type of couple create goals and solve problems as well as bridge a gap in potential communication difficulties due to the different way each person in the relationship thinks, learns, and feels.
Currently, there are very few Life Coaches in the United States who are specialized in Autism and Special Needs. One of my goals is to change that by making my services and experience available to all those who want assistance. I also hope to encourage other Life Coaches and professionals in related fields to see the importance and very great need for these services in the world today. Autism and Special Needs do not simply disappear when a young adult graduates high school. It is my belief that we should continue to fight hard for these people by offering our support now, and for the rest of their lives.
@asnlifecoach on Twitter, AutismAndSpecialNeedsLifeCoach on Facebook
By Joseph C. Geronimo
Seven years ago, Joey Travolta decided to share all he knew about filmmaking with special needs children and give back to the community at the same time. His point of focus: guys and gals with autism and developmental disabilities. Its name is: the Inclusion Films Workshop.
With the curriculum focused on all things to do with film concept, script writing and development, story boarding, filming and production, post-production and final product, Joey Travolta’s leadership and industry professional team of teachers, have taught the fundamentals in every level of how to make movies happen.
Having been a former student myself, the experience left me knowing more about what I already know of filmmaking, being that I’ve been a fan of great films from all genres, since even before I came to the workshop. The knowledge and experience passed on to me by all the teachers, inspired me to make all the short films I had done, in the best way I did them. Currently, I am working with Inclusion Films head of public relations, Ivey Van Allen.
After learning all there is to learn from Inclusion Films, bigger and better is expected from the graduates. Each project is put forth for all students to achieve, but to also take what has been passed on out into real world application.
Hollywood has taken notice of Inclusion Films talent by hiring the students to work as production assistants at the ‘big’ commercial and television studios. The following organizations and studios shared their enthusiasm for their Inclusion Films hires:
“I have been so impressed with the level of expertise of the graduates you sent me for our television pilots, one of them is staffed on a show now in series production.” – Aaron Kaplan, creator of ABC-TV’s series, “The Neighbors”
“We just wrapped our first commercial shoot where we employed Inclusion Films’ graduates and it will definitely NOT be our last! I’m happy to recommend Inclusion Films for employment to anyone in the entertainment industry and beyond. The collaboration was great for everyone involved.” – Uber Content, producer of national “Wendy’s” commercial campaign
“We are proud to have been worked with Inclusion Films over the years and the quality of the work your graduates provide is top notch.” – Chicago School of Professional Psychology
“Not only is Inclusion Films producing our PSA campaign, your team is helping with our marketing and public relations efforts for our upcoming red carpet event.” – 211 LA County
Student Success Stories
I recently interviewed a few of the students who have been employed by a few of those mentioned above; some of whom are currently on the job.
Uber Content Wendy’s commercial
Q: What’s it like to work there?
A: First off, on a set, it’s amazing. It’s always amazing, especially on the bigger-budgeted commercials. The crew is always at the top of their game, the environment is welcoming and familial, and the food is great, it’d be a shame not to mention that last point. Über Content was great to work with, I’d almost go so far to say it was my favorite work experience.
Q: How are you using the skills you learned at Inclusion films in your job?
A: There was one guy there, who really took it upon himself to take me under his wing, beyond even the already extremely welcoming attitude of the rest of the crew. He took us around set and quizzed us on things, showed us tricks to working as G&E, like ratchet straps. Of course, we knew the answers to his quizzes because of Inclusion, but we did learn some neat things.
Q: What time did you report in?
A: As for reporting in, we were the first ones there, I believe it was 6:30 for an 8am call. Then we worked until 8. It was a pretty short shoot day.
Q: What advice would you give to students who are currently looking for work?
A: One of the most important pieces of advice that I just have to reinforce myself, keep your personal life off the set. Producers don’t need to know if your dog is sick, what your mother-in-law thinks of you, or if a girl broke your heart. You should act in a consistent manner on set no matter what happens off of it. If you’ve worked with another P.A. before, and he stole your lunch money as a kid or something, producers do NOT want to know. And if you tell them, they’ll think less of you, not the other guy. And don’t go up to the guy and argue with him about some crack he made about your mother the day before in a bar or something. If you DESPERATELY need to settle it, pull him aside after work, not even on break, and do it in a civil, professional manner. You’re there to work, not be friends, at the end of the day.
Chicago School of Psychology shoots
Q: What’s it like to work there?
A: Arriving at about 6:00 a.m. for a 7:00 a.m. call time, I made the adjustment rather quickly, along with my colleague Quinn Wright. It was a wonderful experience all around, and we learned a lot about how on the job camera work is done.
Q: How were you using the skills you had learned from Inclusion Films in your job?
A: I was assistant cameraman.
Q: What advice would you give students who are currently looking for work?
A: Know what it is you want to get out of Inclusion Films before you even start the class. Once there, practice at it along with other skills the give you, and always follow your dreams.
Q: What’s it like to work there?
A: Interesting, hard working, accommodating. I had a wonderful team of people to work hard with, and they were very impressed on seeing how enthusiastic I was from the beginning.
Q: How are you using the skills you learned at Inclusion Films in your job?
A: I hooked up with Variety’s movie promotion department, the help promote all types of movies.
Q: What time do you report in every day?
A: I work from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Q: What advice would you give students who are currently looking for work?
A: Know what you want to do and do it the best that you can.
Continued success INCLUSION FILMS CREW!
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: JOEY TRAVOLTA
CREATIVE DIRECTOR: RAYMOND MARTINO
EDITOR POST PRODUCTION: SETH SHULMAN
And all the students: past, present and future.