According to a recent NBC News report, services and support provided to veterans at some US colleges have improved since 2009. Of the 690 colleges surveyed 62 percent of those schools offer programs and services specifically designed for military service-members and veterans. However, availability of trained staff to help veterans with brain injuries is still very low. “Fifty-five percent of the institutions that offer services for veteran and military students have staff trained to assist with physical disabilities, up from 33 percent in 2009, and 36 percent have staff trained to assist specifically with brain injuries, up from 23 percent in 2009.”
For details read (“From Soldier to Student II: Assessing Campus Programs for Veterans and Service Members.” http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/07/25/12952383-study-us-colleges-doing-more-for-homecoming-veterans-but-gaps-remain?lite
Whether a you will be attending college for the first time or re-entering after some time out due to the injury, here are some simple steps to make this new beginning less difficult.
1) Don’t be in a hurry to launch yourself into a full-time program. Discuss your plans with your therapists and test your readiness by taking a free online SAT test (see the college board website – sat.collegeboard.com/home ) – you can even take it online and have it scored automatically. Do this even if your school doesn’t require it, to give you a sense of how your skills match up to the demands of college.
2) Don’t bite off more than you can chew. You will sometimes take longer to do the work and you may need more sleep than you did before your injury. Your college may allow a reduced load without reducing your financial aid. If you are struggling, don’t hide it – talk to teachers, your support staff, family, fellow students. Get some help.
3) Level with the college staff who are trying to help you make this transition. Let them know your concerns, challenges, and hopes. If something they suggest doesn’t seem to be working for you, let them know. Don’t forget to thank them for their efforts.
4) Plan ahead and follow through. Think carefully and discuss with experts the courses you plan to take. Once you have a schedule with locations and times, take your campus map and this schedule and take a trial run, at the regular meeting time, to each class. Classrooms are sometimes not as easy to find as you would think, and you don’t want to be running around at the last minute, lost and frustrated. Write down enough information that you will be able to find the classroom the next time. Figure out transportation issues (bus schedules, parking, walking) and always allow extra time (because stuff happens).
5) Embrace technology. Record lectures; if your school doesn’t provide an alternative, try bookshare.org (available to TBI survivors for free) to hear and read materials simultaneously (better for speed, comprehension, and memory); record your own notes so you can listen to them on your MP3 player while you are walking around campus or standing in line somewhere. Use noise canceling headphones to shut out distracting noises. Online courses can provide you with more flexibility and less travel time.
A brain injury survivor planning to enter or return to college has a number of resources available through the college. He/she can record a lecture while another student takes notes. A private (and probably quieter) dorm room and quieter study rooms may be available.Texts may be available to listen to as well as read. Tutoring is generally available. This is all a huge improvement over conditions even a few years ago.
There are a few problems, however. The single biggest problem is that a survivor may not seek the accommodations to which he or she is entitled. Survivors are sometimes not aware of the challenges they face in college and of their altered abilities to cope with these challenges. Students may be embarrassed and fear their differences (signaled by visible accommodations) will isolate them from their classmates.