Tips Archive

Disability Self-Determination BreakThru Points

BreakThru Points

As a student with a disability, you face unique challenges as you plan for college. Students with disabilities that are successful in college demonstrate self-determination skills. Self-determination involves:

  1. Understanding your rights
  2. Understanding your disability and how it impacts your learning
  3. Setting goals
  4. Knowing how to communicate your disability and academic-related needs

Students who understand themselves and their disability and have the confidence to act in their own best interests can create a successful college experience.

1.Understand Your Rights

In order for you to have an equal opportunity for success, you need to know what you need to do and what the college is required to do.


Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
  • Statute entitles children (kindergarten – 12th grade) with disabilities the opportunity to receive a free appropriate public education.
  • School is responsible for identifying students with disabilities
  • School is responsible to evaluate the child at no cost to the family
  • School is responsible to arrange and implement accommodations and special education services
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act
  • Civil rights legislation to prevent discrimination against persons with disabilities under any entity that receives Federal funds.
  • Law requires colleges to make reasonable and appropriate accommodation to provide access to the college programs and activities.
Americans with Disabilities Act
  • The purpose of this law is to provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities.
  • The ADA applies to all institutions of higher education regardless of receipt of Federal funds.

If you believe your rights have been violated, colleges have informal and formal methods to resolve the issue.

  • The disability provider at the college can assist you in resolving disability complaints informally by acting as a liaison between you and the college.
  • If the issue cannot be resolved informally, you can access a formal Tabela to have grievance procedures related to discrimination.
  • You also have the right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

2. Understanding Your Disability

Being self-determined in high school will help you succeed in college. You have to know about your disability so you can ask for assistance in college. These practices will help you learn about yourself and practice self-determination skills:

Review Your High School File. Meet with your Individual Education Plan (IEP) team and your parents to discuss your disability and learning strategies. Ask the following questions:
  • What is my disability?
  • How does it affect my learning?
  • What is my learning style?
  • What accommodations and strategies help me learn the best?
  • Can I have copies of my IEP and evaluation reports?

Activity # 1: Disability Worksheet. Complete the Understanding Your Disability Worksheet to help you better understand your disability and how it affects your learning

Meet With Your Evaluator
  • Ask the same questions above so that you get a complete and clear understanding of your disability.
Take An Active Role In Your IEP Meetings
  • Participate in discussions to practice communicating your disability-related needs.
  • Learn about your strengths and limitations.
  • Gain valuable knowledge that can influence your services in high school and those you request in college.

3. Communicating Your Needs Through Self-Advocacy

An essential component of self-advocacy is communicating your needs so that you acquire can the necessary accommodations and supports to be successful. The ability to talk about your disability and academic accommodations is important in the college environment where faculty are unaware of your learning needs. Practice communicating about your disability begins in high school with taking an active part in your IEP meetings.

The following communication tips will assist you in taking the lead in your IEP meetings:

  • Complete Understanding Your Disability Worksheet to the IEP meeting as a way to remind you of your talking points
  • Listen to the discussion
  • Express your desires and goals
  • Ask questions
  • Actively pursue your goals in the meeting

4. Activity: Practice Requesting Accommodations

Pair up with another avatar (your mentor or a member of your peer mentor group) and role-play requesting accommodations and using your script. Reverse roles so that you play the part of the student and the teacher.

Becoming a student who is self-determined can improve the transition from high school to college and improve success in college. When teachers and faculty are fully informed, they will be more helpful in anticipating issues, accommodating requests, and making modifications to tests and instruction methods.

Taking Quality Notes & Note-Taking Techniques

Taking Quality Notes

Listening and note-taking go hand-in-hand. Mastery of these skills can help you earn higher grades. Taking an active role in your classes – asking questions and participating in discussions- will help you listen better and take more meaningful notes.

Listening exercise

Ever wonder why it is easier to learn the words of a song yet you may find it difficult to remember the important ideas from a class lecture? We remember songs more easily because they follow a rhythm. Class instruction generally is not set to music. Most forgetting takes place within 24 hours after you see or hear something, so how can you enhance your ability to retain class information? Follow these steps before class preparation, during class, and after class review.

Before class preparation

Take these active learning steps to make your listening and note-taking more successful.

  • DO the assigned reading – Completing the assigned reading will help you better understand and listen to the lecture. Your notes will also be more organized because you already have the background information.
  • Conduct a pre-class review – review prior notes and read the chapter summaries of the required reading assignments. Look for sections you have highlighted as well as main headings.

During class

Be ready for the message and keep an open mind.

  1. Listen to main concepts, not just to figures and facts.
  2. Listen to new ideas.
  3. Minimize distractions. Sit in front of the class, away from doors and windows.
  4. Decide if the concept is not important, important, or very important. If the concept is not important, don’t write it down, if the concept is very important, write down and put a star or other symbol to designate importance.
  5. Ask questions.
  6. Be alert to repetition.
  7. Watch the board or overheads.

Note-Taking Techniques

he format and structure of your notes is more important than how fast you write. The following techniques can improve the effectiveness of your notes.

Cornell Method

  • Draw a line down the length of your note-taking paper 1 ½ inches from the left edge.
  • Write your notes on the right side of the line.
  • Write key terms, concepts, and questions on the left side of the line.

Outline Method

  • Use a standard Roman numeral outline form to categorize and organize notes.
  • Illustrates points and supporting ideas.

Styles (Helpful When…)

  • Outline Style- each point has a separate number or letter
    • The presented information is organized well
    • Information flows from main ideas to support detail
  • Phrase Style- jot down key phrases
    • Lecture presented like storytelling
    • The lecture is verbal with little written information or images
  • Vocabulary Style- focus on new vocabulary
    • There are several new terms in each lecture (as with many introductory courses)
    • New vocabulary needs to be integrated with key concepts or information presented in the textbook
  • Drawing Style- include rough sketches in your notes with a written description
    • Courses include diagrams, formulas/ problems/ graphs, drawings or charts
    • Don’t skip over these images! These representations are most important because they condense and summarize information that is difficult to write out!

Note-taking Tips

  1. Start each lecture on a new page.
  2. Write down the main points and concepts rather than trying to copy down everything that is said.
  3. Use pictures and diagrams
    • Make relationships visual
    • Copy all diagrams
  4. Use a three-ring binder
    • Pages can be removed, spread out for study, and organized.
    • Insert handouts.
    • Insert notes taken from the book.
    • Insert notes from classmates.
  5. Use only one side of the paper.
  6. Label and date notes
  7. Use graphic signals
    • Stars (*) and underlining indicate the importance
      • “You will see this again”
      • “This could be on the test”
      • “Going back to this topic from yesterday’s class”
    • Arrows connect ideas
    • Question marks indicate confusing points and areas for follow-up.
  8. Use indentations and spacing to help organize information
    • Write lists down the page, not across
    • Indentations can be used to separate examples from concepts
  9. Pay special attention at the end of the lecture.
    • A lot of information may be given in the last 5-10 minutes
    • If there is a review of the material presented that day, this is information that will likely appear on the test

After Class

  1. Re-write notes the same day as the class.
    • Assists in learning the information
    • Organizes material
  2. Fill in gaps in notes
    • Consult classmates notes
    • Ask instructor
    • Look in book
  3. Review the previous class notes just before the next class session.
    • Puts you in the right mind-set.
    • Links old material to new.

Time Management – Making a Weekly Schedule That Works

Creating a Weekly Schedule – this one skill can turn your college life around faster than almost anything else you may try.

A full time Job:

College is now your full-time job; act accordingly and responsibly. If you think 40 hours a week to commit to your school work is too much, think about your working parents. Most working adults work 40 hours each week and still have time off every evening and every weekend.

Many college freshmen feel like they’re studying every hour they can and every weekend. That their life is nothing but work, work, work. The reality is more likely that they have mismanaged their time or wasted great chunks of time without even realizing it.


Paper or electronic? For this first schedule do not use an electronic scheduling software because you will spend more time learning the software and not the time management skills. Later, you can switch to a more sophisticated calendar if it is one that you will use and update everyday for a couple of minutes. Most smart phones, gmail, iPad, Google, all have good electronic calendars that may work for you after you have learned how to make a good schedule that you can easily update as your week changes with unexpected events or when you have not given enough time for particular projects.

You can do this first schedule using the blank form to print out of using Excel with the template to only fill in the boxes for the hours each day. If you are not familiar with Excel, then print the form and use paper; later you can be shown how to do it in Excel without having to really learn the software other than enough to complete your schedule.

    1. This is not surprising since freshmen suddenly find themselves having to do all the things they did in high school plus all the things their parents and family did for them as well. Try creating a schedule and following it, correcting it when you need to shift events, and doing it again the following week. A schedule is only effective if you prepare it and improve it each week until you master this skill which may take a several weeks. Use your Mentor to assist in preparing Look over the following example of a weekly schedule. You can click on the following link to see a full size version of the table below for easier reading. Notice that every hour is accounted for as is almost every activity; dark gray is sleep time, white is free (unscheduled) time
    2. Print a blank copy and either complete it for yourself on paper, or you may fill in your electronic schedule/calendar it is much easier and quicker to update each week. Carry your schedule with you, and update it daily as things change or unexpected things come up (even fun things).
    3. Anticipate a 40-hour work-week. This means if you are taking 15 academic hours, you should be putting in 25 hours outside of class at a minimum.
    4. Differentiate the time slots for study, homework, group study, reading, research, lab reports, and any other academic time including tutoring and office visits with instructors.
    5. Include sleep time, meal times, un-scheduled time (can be shifted to make up work later or deal with unexpected changes or unexpected invitations to have fun. Unscheduled time should not automatically be given over to fun unless all other work is up-to-date first.
    6. Do not schedule study times that exceed 1 hour per subject or for multiple subjects but break out each subject separately. Putting a 2 to 4 hour study block generally leads to massive amounts of procrastination. Instead, label each hour by subject and activity – “Read history chapters” “Complete Chem Lab Report” “Work Calc homework problems.”Don’t forget how short your attention span really is.
  1. Put in any tests or assignment due dates and make sure that you have plenty of time the day before to have completed the work, reviewed it, and studied for the exam without staying up all night.
  2. Make sure that every hour of every day in the week is accounted for. Do this for an upcoming week.
  3. Total (add up) the number of hours devoted to school, study, and other academic effort. If you do not have 40 hours scheduled, consider that your commitment to college may not be as strong as you think.
  4. When someone asks you out or to go do something fun, check your schedule first to make sure you aren’t forgetting an assignment, test, or a meeting.
  5. Never assume that your sleep time (aim for 9 hours/night) is free time for making up for poor time management. Notice that most adults work 40+ hours and still manage to have time for fun, family, and household responsibilities.
  6. Each week write a short reflection that you can share with another person of how your time management went, if it succeeded or failed and why. If you underestimated the time required for various activities, try to be more accurate for the next week.

This weekly reflection on your developing time management skills should ideally be shared with another person who values your skill development attempts.

Three Quick Exercises to Improve Your Mentoring

Exercise One:

Describe a mentoring experience in your past. It should be one in which an adult singled you out for positive attention. Attention that moved you forward in your life, toward your goals, or even changed your life’s direction. Write it down so that you can bring it up when you meet your mentee.

Exercise Two:

Let’s examine more closely your ideas about mentoring. Complete the next two questions, then click the link to reveal your answers as well as some ideas from the authors of this module.

Select the qualities from the list below that you feel make a good mentor. Rely on your own experience and/or readings (freely adapted from the National Mentoring Partnership)

  • Always seems to be rushed.
  • Can usually only give one explanation when explaining a concept.
  • Demonstrates empathy.
  • Doesn’t need to prepare for sessions.
  • Has a particular way for doing everything without exception.
  • Interrupts frequently.
  • Is an active listener.
  • Is impatient with most people.
  • Looks for solutions and opportunities.
  • Shows respect for young people.
  • Talks too much about him/herself.
  • Tries to be flexible and open.

Exercise Three:

Relating Personal Experience:

Since BreakThru deals specifically with students who have a disability, tell us a little about your experience in this field by completing the questions below.

There are no right or wrong answers; but being able to describe your experience both good and bad could help model for your mentee on how to talk about their experiences and especially about their disability.

  1. Describe briefly your experience in working with a disabled person (young or old).
  2. Have you had any training on how to assist people with disabilities?
  3. Are you aware of the issues in your subject field that affect students with disabilities? Think about students with physical and learning disabilities as you describe any issues.

Mentoring – What is a Mentor?

What is Mentoring

  • Do you know that it is almost impossible to get through life without being mentored at least once?
  • Did you remember when another person took the time to instruct, guide, or assist you in a positive way? It could have been a teacher, an older brother, a neighbor, a coach, or even a friend. That was a mentoring experience.
  • Although mentors generally are older than those they mentor, it is not a requirement. What is required is that they have information to share that will help the other person.

History of Mentoring

  • Do you really want to read about the history of mentoring or that Shakespeare mentioned it in one of his “Henry” plays? Maybe, maybe not.
  • Do you need to know that the word Mentor comes from Homer? Which Homer? The first one. Mentor was the tutor for Ulysses’ son. Probably not.
  • What you do need to know is a general and personal definition of mentoring.

Definition of Mentoring

The Oxford Dictionaries online offers this excerpted definition: mentor(men•tor) noun

  • an experienced and trusted adviser: he was her friend and mentor until his death in 1915
  • an experienced person in a company, college, or school who trains and counsels new employees or students.

[with object]

  • advise or train (someone, especially a younger colleague).

What’s Missing

As you can see this definition leaves out the sense of personal commitment and sensitivity the mentor has for the mentee.

It is that personal commitment that BreakThru is looking for in its mentors. Commitment and personal connection is what often separate a good mentor from a tutor.

Mentoring is not a one time event; it extends over a period of time that can be weeks, months, years, or even a lifetime. BreakThru is looking for a one year commitment for mentors.

Working with Mentees: Effective Strategies for Providing Quality Youth Mentoring in Schools and Communities

Read the following excerpt from Effective Strategies for Providing Quality Youth Mentoring in Schools and Communities. The material in this article does not necessarily reflect any guidelines for BreakThru but serve to stimulate discussion regarding mentoring.

Working with Mentees

Working with Mentees

Working with Mentees

1. Commitment to Learning [Mentees] needs to develop a lifelong commitment to education and learning. The developmental assets in this category include:

  • The motivation for achievement— [Mentee] is motivated to do well in school
  • School engagement—[Mentee] is actively engaged in learning
  • Homework—[Mentee] reports doing at least one hour of homework every school day
  • Bonding to school—[Mentee] cares about her or his school
  • Reading for pleasure—[Mentee] reads for pleasure three or more hours per week

2. Positive Values [Mentees] need to develop strong values that guide their choices. The developmental assets in this category include:

  • Caring—[Mentee] places a high value on helping other people
  • Equality and social justice—[Mentee] places a high value on promoting equality and reducing hunger and poverty
  • Integrity—[Mentee] acts on convictions and stands up for her or his beliefs
  • Honesty—[Mentee] “tells the truth even when it is not easy”
  • Responsibility—[Mentee] accepts and takes personal responsibility
  • Restraint—[Mentee] believes it is important not to be sexually active or to use alcohol or other drugs

3. Social Competencies [Mentees] need skills and competencies that equip them to make positive choices, to build relationships, and to succeed in life. The developmental assets in this category include:

  • Planning and decision making—[Mentee] knows how to plan ahead and make choices
  • Interpersonal competence—[Mentee] has empathy, sensitivity, and friendship skills
  • Cultural competence—[Mentee] has knowledge of and comfort with people of different cultural/racial/ethnic backgrounds
  • Resistance skills—[Mentee] can resist negative peer pressure and dangerous situations
  • Peaceful conflict resolution—[Mentee] seeks to resolve conflict nonviolently

4. Positive Identity [Mentees] need a strong sense of their own power, purpose, worth, and promise. The developmental assets in this category include:

  • Personal power—[Mentee] feels he or she has control over “things that happen to me”
  • Self-esteem—[Mentee] reports having a high self-esteem
  • Sense of purpose—[Mentee] reports that “my life has a purpose”
  • A positive view of personal future—[Mentee] is optimistic about her or his personal future

Frequently Asked Questions About Transitions to College (Disabilities)

Transition FAQ

Today, more high school students with disabilities are planning to continue their education in postsecondary schools. Getting to college involves considerable preparation and planning. As a student with a disability, you need to understand your rights and responsibilities as well as the responsibilities postsecondary schools have toward you. The following questions and answers will improve your opportunity to succeed as you enter postsecondary education.

Transitions to College

Transitions to College

1. Are there differences in my rights as a student with a disability between high school and college?

Yes. The legal mandates prohibiting discrimination against individuals with disabilities affect the secondary and postsecondary educational systems differently. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) directs secondary schools to identify, evaluate, and serve students at no cost to the family.

In contrast, postsecondary schools are under no obligation to seek out students with disabilities and offer support. Students must self identify, provide appropriate documentation of a disability, and request specific accommodations each semester. The following table outlines the legal differences between high school and college.

2. Can I receive accommodations on college entrance examinations?

Yes. Pre-college examination (PSAT, SAT, ACT, etc.) scores are important for acceptance into college. Talk with your school counselor about disability-related test accommodations. Appropriate accommodations can assist you in demonstrating your full knowledge and abilities.

3. May a postsecondary school deny my admission because I have a disability?

No. Postsecondary institutions may not ask about disability on the admissions application. Call or visit the web site of the institutions you hope to attend and learn about the entrance requirements. Should you be denied admission and believe your disability impacted your GPA, test scores, or other entrance requirements, ask the institution about admission appeal procedures. You may be able to provide the admissions office with specifics on how your disability impacted your performance.

4. Do I have to inform a postsecondary school that I have a disability?

No. Disclosure of a disability is always voluntary. However, if you want to use academic accommodations, you must provide documentation of your disability to the appropriate school office.

5. What academic adjustments must a postsecondary school provide?

To be successful in college, many students with disabilities find it necessary to utilize assistance from the campus disability services office. Reasonable academic accommodations are determined based on your disability documentation and individual needs. Accommodations may include a reduced course load, note takers, sign language interpreters, extended time for testing, and alternative text. Assistive technology such as screen readers, voice recognition or other adaptive software or hardware may also be available to assist students in completing school work.

It is important to note that postsecondary schools are not required to provide accommodations that fundamentally alter the essential nature of a program or would result in undue financial burdens. Additionally, postsecondary schools do not have to provide services of a personal nature like personal attendants, readers for personal use or study, or services such as tutoring and typing.

6. How do I request academic accommodations?

You first must inform the school’s disability services office that you have a disability and need an academic adjustment. Your postsecondary school will require you to provide documentation of your disability and follow procedures to request an academic adjustment. Postsecondary schools generally include information on the procedures and contacts for requesting an academic adjustment in brochures, handbooks, or on the web site.

7. What documentation should I provide?

Each postsecondary school sets its own standards for documentation. Most require current documentation (within 3 years) prepared by an appropriate professional, such as a medical doctor, psychologist or another qualified diagnostician. The documentation should include a diagnosis of your current disability; the date of the diagnosis; how the diagnosis was reached; the credentials of the professional; and how the disability affects your academic performance. The documentation should provide enough information for you and your school to determine appropriate academic adjustments. The Board of Regents for the University System of Georgia has established specific documentation standards for USG institutions.

The Individualized Education Program (IEP), Section 504 plan, or Summary of Performance (SOP) developed by your high school is not sufficient documentation for postsecondary schools. If your documentation does not meet the postsecondary school’s requirements, ask a school official to tell you what additional documentation you need. Note, you may need a new evaluation in order to qualify for academic adjustments.

8. Who has to pay for a new evaluation?

Postsecondary schools are not required to conduct or pay for a new disability evaluation. This may mean that you have to pay an appropriate professional for an evaluation. Regents’ Centers for Learning Disorders offer a comprehensive evaluation that meets the Board of Regents standards for $500. Students must be either a high school senior transitioning to college or a college student. You may also qualify for an evaluation at no cost to you through your state vocational rehabilitation agency. You may locate your state vocational rehabilitation agency through the Department of Education Web page

9. What if the academic accommodation is not working?

Let the disability office know that the accommodation is not working as you expected. Do not wait for the course to finish. It may be too late to correct the problem. You and your contact in the disability services office should work together to resolve any problems.

10. May a postsecondary school charge me for providing an academic adjustment?

No. Furthermore, it may not charge students with disabilities more for participating in its programs or activities than it charges students who do not have disabilities.

11. What can I do to be better prepared for the college experience?

  • Understand your learning style and how you best process information and apply this to your studying. Develop effective strategies for note taking, reading texts, and test-taking. If your study skills are weak, ask your counselor for the resources available to you.
  • Computer and network resources are essential in college. Colleges expect students to be able to use word processing, email, Internet, and other programs on a regular basis. By using computer technology for such tasks as reading and writing, communication, and searching the Internet, students with disabilities are capable of handling a wider range of activities independently. Take advantage of opportunities in high school to learn and use not only computer technologies but assistive technology. Students with disabilities often face barriers to using computing resources. Special programs and hardware such as speech to text, word prediction, keyboards, pointers, and screen magnifiers can assist students in using computing technology.
  • In college, you are responsible for requesting accommodations, speaking to faculty, and seeking out resources. You must be able to understand your needs and be able to advocate for yourself in order to be successful in your academic pursuits. Students with disabilities who understand their rights and responsibilities are much better equipped to succeed in postsecondary school. Rely on the support of family, friends and fellow students, including those with disabilities. Know your abilities and make the most of them, and believe in yourself.
Privacy Policy |