The Power of Beyond Access

UConn Foundation
UConn Foundation

3 min read

The Beyond Access program at UConn’s Center for Students with Disabilities is an imperative part of the college experience for students like Jason and Nicole.

Participation in the program could be (and has been) the difference between students reaching graduation or dropping out.

Meet Jason

When I was a student at UConn in 2010, I was diagnosed with Asperger’s after decades of never truly knowing who I am. After my entire adolescence of holding onto this mystery as to why my behavior and personality left me ostracized by my peers, I was finally given that answer in the form of a psychological title. And for the first time in my life, I felt far less alone knowing there were many others in my same position.

But it was a horrifying revelation as well. I may have been given a spot under the diverse umbrella of autism, but what I was supposed to do next? I was given a reason for my idiosyncrasies, sure, but there was no cure, no set instructions on how I can resonate with people any better than I did before. In a way, I felt like I now just had a mental handicap, trapping me with my depression and anxiety with no way to escape.

Beyond Access, then known as SEAD, couldn’t have been offered to me at a better time. It had been mere days since I received my diagnosis when Christine Wenzel offered me a spot in her program. It was a chance not just to learn more about my ASD by taking part in its activities, but also to see how I can learn how to live with my spectrum and still be able to grow into someone who can better communicate with others.

Almost a decade later, I can better see how it had helped. The years haven’t been easy and I’ve felt like a lost cause more times I could count, but now I’m in a spot where I feel comfortable in my own skin. I’m able to go to my stable full time job each day with a smile and I’ve never been closer to my family and friends, using the skills I’ve learned to be more empathetic and engaging with them. Beyond Access taught me that my ASD wasn’t a handicap; it was just another part of me that I can still live a normal life with.

I’m still growing with small social goals I want to accomplish each day, but Beyond Access was the first step that pointed me in the right direction. Christine and her program had offered me a helping hand, and it gave me the boost that lead me to a far greater spot today than I could’ve gotten to just on my own.

Meet Nicole

I am a First Semester Freshman and I am enjoying my college experience so far. I am taking a bunch of different courses in different areas, but my favorite so far is Sociology. I am learning about the study of different groups of people in that class, and that is allowing me to connect with my peers and see how they might be different from me too.

I struggle with anxiety and migraines. Both make it hard for me to get my work done on time sometimes. For me, anxiety makes it hard for me to focus and entering college made me struggle with it even more, especially with the large amounts of homework. Sometimes, I struggle with staying organized and knowing deadlines too.

Beyond Access has helped me keep track of all the work I have to do, and helps me stay focused. Every meeting, we go through my syllabi, and write it down in my planner class by class. It is helpful to have somebody to help me to stay organized.

When I’m feeling overwhelmed, my strategy instructor helps me identify the source of my anxiety, and then works with me to talk me through it. We also talk about different learning strategies that help with studying, test-taking, and stress management.

Lastly, Beyond Access lets me find answers to questions I have about schoolwork. My strategy instructor encourages me to meet with my professors even though sometimes it’s intimidating. Sometimes she helps me write emails to them too.

 

Small scholarships are available to students, but the program is in need of support. A gift of any size to the Center for Students with Disabilities can support any of their programs, including Beyond Access, and will make a large difference to a student working to succeed with a disability.

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