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CUSP’s 5 year anniversary

Posted by admin on April 02, 2018  /   Posted in CUSP Services

Today is world autism day and also the 5-year anniversary of CUSP. I am not a huge social media posting-type of person but I would like to stop and thank all of the parents, schools, students, families and friends that helped make this business to what it is today. Thank you. I never could have dreamed that starting a business would have evolved this way and allowed me to meet so many great people and help others achieve their goals. Dreams can come true but quite often not how you plan.


If you or someone you know would benefit from an individualized coaching/transition plan contact CUSP Educational Services today for a free consultation. CUSP is located in upstate New York and has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.

Disability Accommodations in College: What Every Student Should Know

Posted by admin on October 06, 2017  /   Posted in Blog

By Andrea Ditter-Middleton

It’s just about midterm time, and, as many first-year college students are learning, this is not your high school’s midterm season. For college students, midterms are often the first “real” test (pun intended) of how they are doing and what they can expect from this semester. Many professors, especially those in large lecture classes, weight midterm exam grades heavily which means that failing a midterm could mean failing the class. However, if you are one of the over 2 million post-secondary students in the United States with a disability, then the prospect of midterm exams ushers in a whole new challenge – managing exams without the help of an IEP.

However, just because you aren’t automatically filtered into a special testing room or given other accommodations that your disability requires does not mean that you are left out in the cold. Colleges and universities, like K-12 schools, are bound by law to provide you with each and every accommodation listed on your paperwork.

Here’s the trick though, if you want those accommodations you’ve got to ask.

Unfortunately, for many college students who are new to their schools, their disability resource offices, and their teachers, this simple step can seem like an enormous leap. However, I am here to tell you today that you not only need to use your accommodations, but your teachers, counselors, and everyone else at your school desperately want you to.

Disability Accommodations and Higher Education: A Basic Overview

Back in high school, getting extra time for a test or finding a separate testing area was simple. With an IEP in hand, each teacher knew which of his or her students needed accommodations and worked with disability coordinators to make sure they were ready at test time. College, however, doesn’t work like that. By their very nature, college courses are all mainstream and college teachers are responsible for instructing all manner of students with only their names and their student ID numbers to go on. While most schools require that professors put disability statements onto their syllabus, this simple copy/paste exercise is just that to most of them. While they are completely willing to cooperate with any legal requirements, college teachers are simply not versed in what these accommodations are or what they need to do to provide them – that’s the job of disability services. As a student with disabilities, it’s important to understand that your teachers in college have no clue as to whether or not you require accommodations and, by and large, that is not a good thing.

Students Who Don’t Speak up

At first, students with disabilities may not understand the differences between college and high school teachers when it comes to offering accommodations. Then, once they realize they are just “another face in the crowd,” they believe that fitting in and starting fresh is preferable to having an awkward conversation with an authority figure. So they fail to register with disability services or fail to complete their paperwork or fail to hand that paperwork over to their teacher when asked. Pride, embarrassment, and a little bit of fear dictate many of these decisions. Away from home for the first time, college students with disabilities may feel the need to be fully “adult” and independent, thus sloughing off all vestiges of their high school selves, including their link to their disability.

Suffering the Consequences

I don’t need to tell you, based on my introduction to midterms above, how terrible the consequences of ignoring your disability in college can be though. Over the years, both as a student myself and as a teacher, I have seen friend after friend, pupil after pupil fail classes that they had every reason to pass, all because they refused to get the help they deserve. Without the recourse to take a test over again and with the added embarrassment of a bad grade on their record, students who refuse to use their accommodations are likely to fall into a dangerous downward spiral that can lead to more bad grades, academic probation, or worse. On top of that, depending on your disability, failing to use the tools available to you can exacerbate some symptoms and coconditions such as anxiety and depression.

What Your Teacher Wants You to Know

I have been blessed to teach college to students from all walks of life for over a decade. As a professor of English, specializing in writing, my students are almost exclusively first-years who are desperately trying to fit in, adjust, and find their place in the wide world of college and beyond. Many of them have had disabilities. Here’s what I would say to them if they were willing to listen:

I want to help you – so badly.

Unfortunately, legally speaking, my hands are bound. Without your self-identification, I cannot offer my assistance, and without the paperwork to go with your diagnosis, I cannot offer you anything I do not offer to my other students. I understand that many disabilities are invisible, so I have no idea whether you are struggling in my class because of yours. I can suspect, but I cannot act without your initiation. Most importantly, though once I know who you really are and what you need, I will do everything in my power to even the playing field so that you are able to achieve everything I know you are capable of achieving.

And we all feel this way.

As teachers, even college teachers, we are here with one goal in mind: helping you learn. Unfortunately, that process happens differently for each person and, without a crystal ball or access to a college-level IEP, I simply cannot discover your method alone. You have to help me. You have to help yourself.

Quick Beginning of the Semester Tips for Success for Students with Learning Disabilities

Posted by admin on September 01, 2017  /   Posted in Blog

By Andrea Ditter-Middleton

As the cool winds of September remind us, the new school year is finally here and, with it, new opportunities and challenges for students of all types. However, for college students with learning disabilities getting out a light coat and buying new books are not the only hallmarks of a new academic year.  Especially for new freshman and transfer students, it’s important to take time now, when the semester is new and everyone’s grade is the same, to set up systems and develop habits that will promote success. In fact, regardless of what challenges you face, taking a proactive approach to your studies on Day 1 of college will only benefit your education and your stress levels in the long run. Let’s take a quick look at three things you can do right away to set your semester on the pathway for success:

Get Help Right Away

Your number one source for accommodations and assistance in college is your learning coach or disabilities specialist. Unlike regular tutoring centers, learning and disability specialists will have the tools and knowledge to help you in ways that are unique to your struggles and consider your talents. This includes helping you and infer and reason in the way that college work requires, which may include interpreting assignments and readings as well as improving study skills in a less rigid environment.

Stay Organized

Organization is critical for all students, but when you have a learning disability, managing your time is critical because tasks may take longer or require different approaches. One good way to do this is to spend 15 minutes in the morning or the night before each day drawing a “map” of your time. Further, include as part of this map something called a “next step action plan.”

Next step thinking asks that you do more than just identify a task, say “history homework.” Instead, you need get specific, and consider the task as well as “next step.” So, you would plan to “read chapter 1 for history and then answer questions 1-6.” This helps keep you focused and prevents idle time that may cause you to get distracted or go off topic.

Design Your Study Environment Intentionally

Whether you live at home, alone, or with a roommate, the space you occupy outside of class will set the tone for the work you will get done inside it. Ideally, you should have a designated “study area” that includes a desk, good lighting, and a computer or other adaptive technology. This area should be free of distractions such as distracting outside noise or the TV, though if you like listening to music while you work that’s fine. Natural light is also a bonus as it can improve your mood and performance[1] so try to station yourself near a window.

A Semester of Success

Whether you’re a freshman or a senior, the beginning of the academic year always comes along with anticipation and some nerves. As a student with learning disability, this may be heightened even further. With simple tips like these and help from services like CUSP, getting started on the right foot in school is simpler than you think.





A CUSP Update [Press Release]

Posted by admin on August 16, 2017  /   Posted in Blog, What's New

A CUSP Update

Here’s What’s Been Happening…

Summer’s nearly over and as colleges across the country get ready to welcome in a new crop of young students, we have been busy here at CUSP getting ready for some exciting “news” of our own.

Here’s what’s been happening…

CUSP Is Accredited by the Better Business Bureau

Last month (July 2017) CUSP was honored by the Better Business Bureau (BBB) with full accreditation. The BBB has been around since 1912 and its mission is to promote trust within the marketplace through setting standards and promoting best practices. After going through an application process which asked questions about our services and clients, CUSP was awarded full BBB accreditation and an A+ rating because of our high level of standards and integrity.

Learn more here.

Welcome to the Team, Andrea

This month we are also excited to welcome Andrea Ditter-Middleton to the team here at CUSP. Andrea will be serving as our new Communications Director. In this new role, Andrea will be providing company news (like this!) as well as industry insight to our readers and clients on a more regular basis. Read Andrea’s bio below and be on the lookout here on the blog, as well as on our social media outlets, for regular updates and content from Andrea and the communications department. Check out her bio below:

Hi. My name is Andrea Ditter-Middleton and I am excited to be the newest member of the CUSP Educational Services team. In addition to working as a marketing and social media manager and communications specialist for the past 6 years, I am also a seasoned post-secondary educator and academic intervention specialist. I hold a BA and MA in English from SUNY New Paltz and am currently working towards my M.Ed. in Higher Education through Penn State University. During the school year, I teach composition courses at SUNY Dutchess in Poughkeepsie, NY as well as work with TRiO and EOP students as an academic specialist, helping them transition into college-level work as well as learn critical communication skills.

In addition to my professional duties, I am also the proud (and somewhat tired) mother of three young children, a local Girl Scout leader, and avid crocheter.

SUNY Polytechnic Social Skills Group Enters its 6th Semester

Finally, as the temperatures begin to drop and the smell of fall is in the air, remember that the start of school means more than books and class schedules. Finding community and support on campus for co-curricular needs is just as important.

We are excited to announce that the SUNY Polytechnic campus in Utica, NY will once again be hosting a CUSP Social Skills group on campus this coming fall. Entering its 6th consecutive semester, this program has helped dozens of students with their transition into college and we are proud to announce our largest enrollment to date this fall. You can learn more about the services offered CUSP social skills groups like the one at SUNY Polytechnic here and feel free to reach out with any questions or for additional resources and help transitioning into your new school environment.



Here’s to a bright new college year and a successful fall semester for all!


The CUSP Team

CUSP’s guide to proper email etiquette

Posted by admin on October 10, 2016  /   Posted in CUSP Services

There are literally countless of things CUSP staff assist our clients with on a daily basis.  However, one thing that always comes up is how to communicate appropriately with different professionals.  Whether it is for college admissions, a professor on faculty member or to schedule a job interview, we are consistently working on how to advocate and represent ourselves in the best way possible.  Here are some tips on what to do (and not do) when crafting an email.


1. Grammar

While this may seem obvious, grammar is key. That means resisting the trigger finger urge to send right away and going through your email after it is written. Look for obvious misspellings and sentence structure errors, but also keep in mind that emails are not the place for abbreviations, nor are they the place for excessive punctuation (i.e. exclamation points and question marks) or capitalizations (you don’t want to come off as too aggressive).


2. Tone

Speaking of aggression, you don’t want your email to come off as hostile or rude. Penning a condescending email is not a way to get what you want, and it certainly won’t be appreciated by the recipient. For example, if you’re emailing a professor about an assignment misunderstanding, the email is not the place to make a comment about his/her clarity in class.You want to be persuasive, and being anything but polite will have an effect.


3. Politeness

No matter who you’re emailing, being polite is vital. It goes hand in hand with respect, and should be a lens through which you look at every component of your email.Make sure you have properly addressed your recipient with a greeting and their name to start off with, and if the situation permits, feel free to add a “hope all is well” or other cursory introduction before launching into your main point or request. Always sign off the email politely, with a variation of “Thank you for your time, [insert name]” or at the very least, a “Thanks/Best, [insert name].”


4.  Concise

While being polite may require a few extra words, it is still important not to belabor your point (or your appreciation – brown nosing is rarely appreciated) too much.  No one wants to read paragraphs in their inbox when your main subject can be summed up into a few clear sentences.  Utilize the subject line as a quick synopsis, as this will not only provide as a hook for your email, but also prevent you from having to waste too many words on introducing your point. All it will do is cause the reader to lose focus and skim, which is not ideal.  When proof reading, a good test is making sure that every sentence written has a purpose.


5. Be yourself – To a Certain Extent

Like my college counselor told me, “If you’re not funny, don’t choose your application to start trying.” The same thinking applies to email. It is not a good idea to crack jokes or try too hard to be witty, but if the correspondence permits, and there’s somewhere to add a more personal touch, go for it. It will make the email sound less robotic, and a little bit of a personal flair isn’t a bad thing.


Just remember these tips and you’ll avoid the post-email cringes and be able to confidently hit that send button like the email savvy person you are!

Choosing Between Your Associate’s Degree And Bachelor’s Degree

Posted by admin on September 10, 2015  /   Posted in CUSP Services

Your family has a tough decision to make when your child heads off to college. There are four-year schools that offer a Bachelor’s degree, but you may choose an Associate’s degree if your child wants to take a less rigorous program to start college. Choosing between these programs depends on the college transition services you choose, the colleges themselves and the course of study your child prefers. This article explores the degree program choice process for your child, and you will learn more about how your child can choose the right program.

#1: Bachelor’s Degree

Your child needs a Bachelor’s degree when they wish to go on to graduate school or work a job that requires some sort of certification. Pushing your child to get a Bachelor’s degree is only a good idea if you know that your child wants to go on to a career that requires the degree. The prospect of a four-year program can be daunting for your child, but it is better for your child to get the degree out of the way while they are still young.

College support services for students with disabilities can be used to help your child get through all four years of the program, and your child will have consistent support during school. Do not force your child to get a four-year degree when there are other options. Consider what a child with anxiety or major learning disabilities could do with a shorter degree program.

#2: Associate’s Degree

An Associate’s degree is a two-year program that helps people get certified in certain fields, continue on to a Bachelor’s degree or get a job that only requires a two-year degree. Your child may start with a job that requires a two-year degree, and your child can work their way through the rest of their four-year degree. The Associate’s Degree offers a sense of accomplishment that your child can use to continue on in school. Any child who is nervous about school in general may use the two-year degree to get the confidence they need.

#3: Choosing The Right School

Choosing the right school with your child is just as important as the degree they will pursue. You may choose a school that offers two-year degrees, but you must be certain that your child may complete their Bachelor’s degree at the same school. Continuity for your child is very important, and you should avoid two-year schools unless your child only wants to get a two-year degree. There are several different schools out there for your children, and you must look over each school to ensure your child would be happy there. You do not choose a school based on the name. You choose the school based on what it offers your child.

There are many ways to help your child get their education after high school, and the transition to college need not be scary. You can help your child choose between a Bachelor’s degree and an Associate’s degree that will help them find the job of their dreams.


For more information and advice that is right for you or your child, contact CUSP today!

Making the most of gaps in your schedule while in school

Posted by admin on August 30, 2015  /   Posted in CUSP Services

Starting college is a time-honored rite-of- passage, marking the beginning of adulthood. College transition programs will help to prepare you, but you yourself will be doing the work of studying, writing research papers and completing lab assignments. An essential aspect of college success is good time management and one advantage of a college schedule is that you will almost certainly have breaks between classes. Using this time wisely will benefit you in numerous ways. Here are some ideas:


Immediately after a class, review your notes. Be sure that you know what is coming up, if there is an assignment due at the next class or if an exam is looming on the horizon. If you have a question, contact your instructor as soon as you can.


Right before a class, review any notes and write down any questions you may have from the previous class. Questions do not always occur to us immediately. Sometimes we need to mull over new information and fit it into what we already know. Then the questions arise and the next class is the best time to get them answered before newer information causes you to forget what you wanted to ask.


If you have a long break, completely switch gears. Some physical exercise provides a nice change to sitting and studying. Go for a walk around campus. If there is a gym or pool and you have sufficient time, get in a workout. You will feel fresh and re-energized.


Grab a snack, especially if you had an early morning class and did not eat breakfast. You truly cannot learn on an empty stomach; that is not just an advertising slogan for cereal companies.


Join study groups. They are helpful for all students but especially students with learning challenges. Discussing the course material out loud will help you to comprehend and retain it. What you did not grasp, someone else will, and they can help you to understand. Check with the learning resources center on campus and join an existing study group or start you own. You may also end up making some good friends.


Find a quiet spot and just relax. Learning is exhausting and your brain needs down time to process and store what you have just learned. If it is safe to do so, you can even nap for a while.


Get a head start on assignments. Procrastination is your worst foe. You do not need large blocks of time to work on major assignments. In just half an hour you can start looking for sources for a research paper or sketch out thoughts to develop later. The advantage to this is that your subconscious mind will go to work and by the time you revisit these ideas your brain will have developed them with little effort on your part.


The road to a college degree or certificate is not easy. Making the best use of the time at your disposal is a tried-and-true strategy for success. So plan well and you will prevail.

The Importance of Being Social and Making Friends in College                                                              

Posted by admin on August 30, 2015  /   Posted in CUSP Services

When attending college, most people look at it as a time to prepare for their career. However, it is also a time to explore socially and meet the friends of a lifetime: You cannot and should not spend your entire time studying in books because the students who often succeed in academics will also have an easier time socially.


For example, when you feel stressed, a social life will provide relief that lets you return to your studies without feeling stressed. If you are someone with Asperger syndrome, ADHD or other developmental disabilities, this becomes especially important, but it can be hard for these students to adapt socially. Luckily, there are higher education disability services that can assist students to make that transition. When you socialize, you will receive more from the experience at college.


College offers students endless opportunities to grow and get involved. Learning takes place inside and outside the classroom. When you are involved, it builds a community on the college campus. Because many students left their friends and family behind, participating in activities will allow you to create new friendships and find people who share common interests and goals. In addition, this can help you to discover your strengths and passions. Have you gone to college without knowing the career path you want to follow? Socializing at college can help.


Socializing can also help you to build your resume. Even freshman year should not be considered too soon to position yourself for your future career. Oftentimes, the fraternities and sororities provide you with more than the opportunity to socialize and party. You see, every organization like this will be dedicated to a specific mission or purpose, biology for example. If you are considering a career as a marine biologist, your employer will see that you are a member of that fraternity, and you will have increased your chances of being hired. A lot of members report that belonging to a sorority or fraternity is the most rewarding experience of belonging to a college.


Another benefit of making friends in college? You will remember your college years as some of the best years of your life. When you are trying to find your niche on the college campus, sometimes it is easier said than done. If you are someone who struggles to make friends because of a disability, you may want to consider a transition services for special education. This type of service can help you to connect with an amazing group of people.


What are some of the best ways to get involved on a campus? First, use the campus resources. You will often find this information in the office or at the university website, but the majority of campuses will offer an involvement center that lists the activities because involved students create a positive environment that helps colleges to thrive. Second, try everything at least once. Reach beyond your comfort zone and look for different groups. While you may not think the engineering society is for you, college gives you the chance to explore new possibilities.

The CUSP Spring 2015 Semester in Review…

Posted by admin on May 20, 2015  /   Posted in CUSP Services

Spring 2015 Semester in Review:

To begin I have to say that this semester has been the most successful in the short history of CUSP Educational Services! We had 10 students enrolled in individualized coaching services for graduate and undergraduate programs in five distinct colleges across three states. At times this demographic was tricky to manage however….

• All 10 students have selected classes and are enrolled for the fall 2015 semester, thus our retention rate for the semester is 100%!

• But it gets even better ☺ …

• While some grades are not finalized out of the 10 CUSP clients, 9 students look to have earned a spot on their school’s Dean’s List, which is truly remarkable!

• A CUSP client has been awarded internship position at the IBM facility in Fishkill NY.

• A CUSP client will be going to the University of Alabama Birmingham to partake in material engineering research for the summer.

• One of the local CUSP clients will be interviewing this week for a Service Coordinator position at a local non-profit here in the Albany area.

• CUSP students have written a proposal for new laws in New York State regarding communication support services. The bill is expected to go into effect by the end of 2015.

• CUSP’s west coast client is currently collaborating with Temple Grandin on a new book scheduled for publishing by the end of the calendar year.

• CUSP’s Social Skills Groups in Troy and Utica NY have seen the highest rates of attendance in the group’s history. Students at the two schools are making friendships and connections to area resources that should last well beyond graduation. It also looks that the Social Skills Groups will be expanding to other local colleges for the fall 2015 semester.

• This was the first semester having CUSP interns. We were fortunate enough to work with students in the Business program at SUNY Albany to help with our social media and marketing efforts. Our keyword rankings are up significantly and we now have our own Twitter account, Google + account and YouTube channel!! If anyone has suggestions on what to put on these sites please feel free to send us your ideas.

• I am positive that I am leaving out many other triumphs (both big and small) and to the clients and families reading this please forgive me.

I have been involved in this type of coaching for several years and I can say without a doubt that the reasons for all of these successes is because each student/client was invested in reaching their individualized goals. Whether the goal was to make friends, find internships or earn an “A” in Organic Chemistry, all of the students bought into the CUSP philosophy and worked daily on the small successes that evolve into huge accomplishments. It has been a pleasure to be involved in the process this semester. The CUSP staff and I am truly humbled and blessed to do the work that we do and to assist students in strengthening their unique skills needed for a successful college experience and success after graduation! Thank you to all of the students, families, campus faculty, and other professionals to help make this semester the success that is was!!!

****For more information contact us today!

CUSP supports NYS Autism Communication Legislation

Posted by admin on April 27, 2015  /   Posted in CUSP Services

Today CUSP was privileged to be invited to the NYS Assembly in Albany NY for a press conference to support new Autism legislation.  NYS Autism Communication Legislation

The legislation, which was drafted by Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara with the help of two local CUSP students and could serve as a model across the country, is supported by the Schenectady ARC, the Autism Society of the Greater Capital Region, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and the Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership (GRASP). The proposal is a critical step in addressing the high unemployment rates for people with developmental disabilities.

At the press conference, many activists shared firsthand experiences about the importance of this legislation, outline the potential benefits and explain why this model should be adopted across the country.

The legislation is being sponsored in the state Senate by David Carlucci, the chair of the Senate Social Services Committee and former chair of the Senate Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Committee.

Thank you so much for allowing CUSP to partake in the afternoon’s activities.

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    “Steve and the CUSP experts address the unique needs of each student. They understand that there is no “one-size fits all” approach when it comes to transitioning students from high school to college.” M. Richards, Transition Specialist, Syracuse, NY​

    March 28, 2015

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