Southern Utah University held a Q&A panel for Disability Awareness Week on Wednesday, Nov. 10 at noon, in the living room of the Sharwan Smith Student Center. Featured panelists included staff from the Department of Teacher Education, Counseling & Psychological Services and SUU students.
The panel was designed to inform the audience about common misconceptions on mental and physical disability diagnoses as well as to provide a platform for those affected by disabilities.
Dr. Nichole Wangsgard from the Department of Teacher Education explained what a learning disability is.
“All of our brains are wired differently,” Wangsgard said. “Some may have deficits that may inhibit their ability to learn more so than their peers.”
Wangsgard explained that teachers need to encourage one another to instruct in different ways. Some students may have trouble acquiring knowledge through a specific teaching method and including a variety of teaching methods may assist a wider range of students.
Clinical Director of CAPS and Students with Disabilities Denean Davis added that students should consult with CAPS in order to accommodate their learning disability.
“We have a number of accommodations and services with specific learning disabilit[ies],” Davis said. “These resources can help students be more successful in the classroom.”
Davis also explained that CAPS can diagnose disabilities in students.
“I had a previous student request to be tested for a disability because she used to see dead people hanging from trees,” she said. “We diagnosed her with schizophrenia and she was able to access the treatment she needed.”
Proper medical treatment consists of a combination of different treatments, Davis explained. After a proper diagnosis, the patient can access the right medication or build the right skills to relieve the issues they may experience with their disability.
“Television does a misservice in the portrayal of diagnoses,” Davis said. “People with disabilities aren’t people who harm others. Disabilities are manageable if they seek help.”
The panel concluded with students sharing their experiences with disabilities.. Maddie Neugart, an SUU student with ADHD, says her disability is like a super power.
“I’m like the flash,” Neugart stated. “You see me for two seconds and then I’m off to my next responsibility.”
Southern Utah University’s Student Association is hosting the next event for Disability Awareness Week and a synopsis for the other events can be found here. You can check out SUU’s calendar of events for more details.
Article and photos by: Danielle Meuret