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

Celebrating Autism Awareness Month 2015

Posted by admin on April 06, 2015  /   Posted in Blog

April is National Autism Awareness Month and CUSP Educational Service is delighted to stand up as a representative for higher education. As CUSP helps assists students and families with transitional and executive functioning issues it believes in potential of all students assisting with progression at varying levels of learning.

Autism Awareness is dedicated to highlighting those affected by autism along with promoting recognition and acceptance. Thousands are faced with autistic diagnoses each year, yet those diagnosed should be provided with the highest quality of opportunity within this lifetime. Together through promoted awareness in schools and communities those with ASD can truly begin to be understood for the unique individuals they are.

This is a busy month for CUSP.  In addition to the coaching and mentoring services we provide, we will be at the Autism Awareness Fair in Saratoga NY On April 19th from noon to 5 pm.  The following day CUSP (April 20th) CUSP staff will be in Utica NY, welcoming author, colleague and Autism advocate Jesse Saperstein to the SUNY Polytechnic Institute.  Jesse will be sharing his college experience with students and faculty in a presentation entitled, “College Life with Asperger’s: Nothing but the Truth” from 5-6:30 in the Student Center.

For more information about these events or other CUSP Educational Services please contact a CUSP representative

The reviews and assessments are in…….

Posted by admin on December 29, 2014  /   Posted in Blog

After 10 weeks of social skill sessions at SUNY Polytechnic Institute (formerly SUNY Institute of Technology) the college has agreed to continue the CUSP Social Skills group for the Spring 2015 semester!!  Both parents and SUNY faculty have reported a significant growth in the group members communication, conversation and self advocacy skills.  For more information on how CUSP can assist you, your child, or your school please email us at

Great Job Utica Branch!!!!!  Keep it up!!!

Local Newspaper highlights CUSP

Posted by admin on September 23, 2014  /   Posted in Blog

CUSP has been mentioned in todays Observer-Dispatch highlighting the recent work done on the SUNY-IT campus.  Thanks to everyone that was involved in making this happen.  Below is the link to the article.  For more information please contact CUSP today!!!!

CUSP pilot program at SUNY Institute of Technology

Posted by admin on August 20, 2014  /   Posted in Blog

This week the CUSP social skills program has been selected to be included as a pilot program for the fall 2014 semester. We will be running ten sessions on campus covering many social skill topics and building open and effective communication skills for students. For more information on how CUSP services can improve the executive functioning on your campus contact us today!

CUSP’s Disability Rights Curriculum

Posted by admin on June 27, 2014  /   Posted in Blog, CUSP Services

We are pleased to announce that CUSP’s Disability Rights Curriculum goes live on Sunday June 30th for the Sage college’s in Albany NY.  This is an 8 week course outlining the history of the disability rights movement in America, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the future of disability rights in America.  The course covers important issues individuals face such as disclosure, accommodations, and accessibility issues.  For more information regarding curriculum development or any of the other CUSP services, contact us today!

Higher Education Services Albany NY

Posted by admin on January 17, 2014  /   Posted in Blog, CUSP Services


CUSP Educational Services enhances traditional instruction and accommodations by providing individualized coaching and mentoring services to improve organizational skills, social interactions, self-advocacy, and effective communication. CUSP staff believes in the potential of all students and are capable to assist with the progressions from elementary school through college. We develop specific and unique plans for both students and professionals to help maximize potential. > More


CUSP services are available to any student with a desire to improve their overall school and college experiences.

Following the processing of a CUSP application, formal interview and contractual matters finalized; students are admitted into ​CUSP Educational Services. > More


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    “I attend the social skills group in Utica.  Josh has helped me to make new friends that like the same things I do.  Talking to my professors has become more enjoyable too!”  Henry G.  Utica, NY

    March 28, 2015

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