IDASL Highlights

Disability awareness course seeks to bring in students from all over campus

News Flash
(Provided by the Center for Persons with Disabilities)

The disability awareness course housed at the Center for Persons with Disabilities already hosts a variety of seniors and graduate students. They represent family and human development, music therapy, social work, speech pathology and audiology.

Still, course facilitators want to bolster the diversity of their students. Any senior or graduate student could benefit from taking Special Ed 6500, offered through the Interdisciplinary Disability Awareness and Service Learning Program at the Center for Persons with Disabilities.

The course has a three-pronged approach to learning. In addition to classroom time, students learn by working in the field and by performing research.

"They [students] are going to come away with a better understanding of what disability is," said Jeanie Peck, one of the course's facilitators.

In addition, the students could use the stipend option that comes with the course's service learning.

Kristy Price has gained more than a stipend. Now in her first year of graduate school in speech and language pathology, she said the course has helped her to take a broader view about disability. "It's really expanded my horizons," she said. For example, she understands that a disability in speech and language affects more than communication in the life of a person who has it.

The class has also helped the community programs where students gain their experience in the field. "We rely on volunteers to run our programs, so they [the Special Ed 6500 students] are extremely helpful," said Sammie Macfarlane, executive director of Common Ground Outdoor Activities. The program's focus is in encouraging outdoor activities for youth and adults with disabilities.

"Before they come out and volunteer, they come and learn about our program, our adaptive equipment," Macfarlane said. "I think they get a lot of hands-on experience as well."

During classroom seminars, students learn about disability issues, often directly from people who experience them. This year people with visual disabilities discussed the good and the bad about trying to navigate through Logan. People with mental illnesses talked about the day-to-day experience of managing their mental health; about setting goals, making friends and finding support.

The service learning component sends students out into the field to serve programs like Common Ground, Options for Independence, the Up to 3 program, the Bear River Activity and Skill Center, the Assistive Technology Lab and the Child Care and Nutrition program.

The course also offers research opportunities. During a recent class, a team of students reported on their research regarding a screening tool used by the Up to 3 program. Though the tool helps Up to 3 staff determine which children might need early intervention, it takes one to two hours to complete and uses a lot of staff time. The team designed a survey for parents and staff to find out if the tool's benefits outweighed its costs. Their conclusion: Despite some limitations, the screening tool should stay in place.

In addition to firsthand experience and research opportunities, the course also adds a bright spot to a graduate's resume, Peck said. In today's workplace, understanding disability issues can be a valuable thing.

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