The Other Side of Disabilities

The Office for Students with Disabilities Newsletter
Division of Student Affairs

Volume IX, Issue 3, Summer 2008, Editor: James Walborn



Through the years members of the Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD) staff have traveled to various cities throughout the United States to attend the AHEAD (Association of Higher Education And Disabilities) Conference. AHEAD is the premiere professional association committed to full participation of persons with disabilities in postsecondary education. AHEAD dynamically addresses current and emerging issues with respect to disability, education, and accessibility to achieve universal access.  Unfortunately, due to budgetary constraints we are unable to attend the conference that's being held in Reno, Nevada this year. Therefore, we decided to do our own research, prepare our own presentations and bring the conference here to FAU to be enjoyed by our staff and FAU administrators.  Some of the topics covered during the July 18th conference included:  OSD Files and Confidentiality as it Relates to FERPA, Creating Inclusive Learning Environments for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students Through Universal Design, Are You in Your "Right" Mind, and Asperger's Syndrome Unraveled: Applied Strategies for Successful Integration into Campus Life, and other disability awareness activities.  We will bring you these topics in future issues of the newsletter. 


Vera M is very appreciative of her volunteer and internship experiences.  She doesn’t allow her visual impairment hold her back and says to “believe in yourself” and be inspired to help those who are in need. As an intern she worked for Women in Distress and realized a dream come true.  She has had “unexpected opportunities and experiences” that she doesn’t believe would have been possible had she not participated in this invaluable internship.
Volunteerism also is near and dear to Vera’s heart; she has volunteered over 600 community hours for the Broward Mental Health Association of Broward County. Her dedication and helpfulness was recognized recently by her receiving the FAU Achievement Award for Service- Broward County. Vera graduated FAU in May 2008 with a BA in Sociology. She wants others to know that, no matter what your limitations are, internship and volunteer experiences are very rewarding!  Special thanks for this article goes to Dawn Howard, Associate Director, Career Development Center (CDC).  The CDC philosophy:  gainful experience in the student’s chosen field before graduation afford a number of opportunities not otherwise available.


The OSD has published many brochures on a variety of disability-related subject matters, available on our website and from our office.  There are brochures on specific types of disabilities, documentation guidelines, available services, volunteer opportunities, and a guide for faculty members.  You can find these online at 


We would like to encourage all FAU faculty to include a statement regarding students with disabilities on their syllabi.  For example:  "In compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) students who require special accommodations due to a disability to properly execute coursework must register with the Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD) located on the Boca Campus, SU 133, 561.297.3880; on the Davie Campus, MD I 954.236.1222; on the Jupiter Campus, Diversity Student Services,   SR 117, 561.799.8585; or on the Treasure Coast Campus, Assistant Dean of Student Affairs, CO 128, 772.873.3305, and follow all OSD procedures."  We appreciate your co-operation in this matter.


Melissa H. is a graduate student in the Mental Health Counseling program at FAU who is completing an internship with the OSD this summer.  Upon graduation she would like to work with children with autism.
Although Melissa requires the use of a wheelchair, she lives a very active life.  She has participated in adaptive skiing in Colorado.  “Challenge Aspen” is just one of many programs available that sponsor groups of persons with disabilities.  She is helped into a snow sled and utilizes two ski poles appropriate for her sit-down height.  She says that they have a special rock climbing program for blind individuals as well. 
Likes:  “I’ve gone sky diving before and love it,” Melissa states.  She loves to sing, is very active in her church, enjoys swimming, and being with her friends.
Dislikes:  “What drives me crazy is when the waitress asks my friend what I want to eat.”  She advises others to try refraining from making judgements based upon appearance as this is not a reflection of someone’s cognitive ability. 
Anything unusual in the refrigerator: “Right now, a large amount of grape juice.  As a favor for my friend, I oversaw a sleep-over for a group of 12 year old girls.  To make it seem special for them I put the grape juice in wine glasses.  On a regular basis, you’d find lots of cottage cheese.”  Note:  Melissa is writing about her internship experience for the next newsletter, and she hopes to be in her new wheelchair by then (for the interesting story behind this wheelchair please see the article in the April-May issue of the OSD Newsletter).


By OSD Coordinator Barbara Bazinsky
You may be surprised to learn that FAU has a number of students with a form of high functioning autism.  While the media often portrays those with autism as unable to communicate and cognitively challenged, the truth is that there is a category of autism called Asperger’s Syndrome, commonly believed to be seen in some of our most successful and talented individuals—Bill Gates and Albert Einstein among others!
These individuals do have challenges, however.  They may be affected in their ability to understand and respond to the thoughts and feelings of others.  They may be prone to react strongly to loud noises, blinking lights, large crowds, etc., as assaults on their senses  (sensory overload). 
Autism is above all a communication disorder, and although these particular individuals are often highly intelligent, they often have tremendous difficulty developing peer relationships.  They can be quite literal and may not comprehend implied meanings or figurative speech.  Most individuals with Asperger’s typically have little ability to respond to nonverbal cues and little understanding of the back and forth nature of social conversation.  They may have tremendous knowledge in a particular area, but impaired ability to focus in areas that are not of interest.  At times, they may get bogged down with details and not “see the forest for the trees.”
That said, this group of students can be tremendously rewarding to work with. for tips and strategies for working with students with Asperger’s Syndrome, contact the OSD or the FAU Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD).  CARD’s website is  For more specific information about Autism/Asperger’s Syndrome, please read our brochure online at 


FAU alumnus, Allen Polakoff was delighted to let the OSD know that he is currently earning his Master’s Degree in Exceptional Student Education from Nova Southeastern University. Allen is Bipolar, and experiences rapid cycling manic/depressive mood swings. Good luck and thanks for the update.


Thanks to everyone who responded to our newsletter survey.  Approximately 60% of respondents have read most of the newsletters and 82% found them to be informative or very informative.  Suggestions were offered by 56% of you, with faculty interested in classroom teaching strategies, and staff enjoying the stories and achievements of students.  We will incorporate many of your specific requests into future issues.  We will be articles by guest writers as well.


We want to encourage comments and contributions from our readers. Please address any comments to Feel free to share this newsletter with friends and colleagues. Current and past issues are available at

This newsletter is available in alternate format upon request from the Office for Students with Disabilities. Boca: SU 133; phone 561.297.3880, TTY 561.297.0358. Davie: MD I, Room 104; phone 954.236.1222, TTY 954.236.1146. Jupiter: SR 117; phone 561.799.8585, TTY 561.799.8565. Treasure Coast: JU 312; phone 772.873.3441.

FAU Campuses: Boca Raton/Davie/Dania Beach/Fort Lauderdale/Jupiter/Treasure Coast Boca Raton Campus Danie Beach Campus Davie Campus Fort Lauderdale Campus Harbor Branch Campus Jupiter Campus Treasure Campus
 Last Modified 8/27/15