Disability services helps students with PTSD find success Veterans find help at Brandman University By Margo Myers
Margo Myers Communications
For college students with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), it can impact their educational goals, and often, even how they learn. Brandman University offers special accommodations for those students to provide equal access to achieve educational success.
“Right now, we have 400 students, 200 of them active, who are registered with the Office of Disability Services,” said Dr. Loren O’Connor, Brandman’s director of Americans with Disabilities Act Services. “Of the new students who register with our office, 65 to 70 percent are from the military.” Thirty-year-old Zane Speegle is a Brandman student who registered with Disability Services. He served as a medic in the U.S. Army, completing two tours in Iraq. Describing it as a “crazy place,” Speegle saw upwards of 3,000 trauma patients when he worked in the emergency room at the base hospital in
Zane Speegle Mosul. “We also had more than 300 mortars to deal with,” Speegle said. “You could figure about a mortar a day would be lobbed onto our base.” The result?
Speegle suffers from PTSD. It makes it difficult for him to concentrate when reading as he pursues his bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership. “At first, I didn’t know about the services,” he said. “But Dr. O’Connor visited the Lacey campus and told us about it, so I had my documentation and signed up right away. Those services are there to help us.” With an estimated one million military service members transitioning to civilian life over the next five years, O’Connor expects the number of students with documented disabilities to grow. And that could prompt universities to
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develop alternate ways for students to learn and retain the information they need to receive their degrees, as well as create an atmosphere for greater understanding of what these students are coping with. “The general population is just not aware of the things service members and veterans go through in combat,” said O’Connor. Brandman University is at the forefront of helping students with a documented disability. They must first register with Brandman’s Office of Disability Services, and show the proper documentation. Registration is voluntary and self-identifying. Documentation is con-
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sidered confidential. Sometimes acknowledging that help is needed is the most difficult step. Dr. O’Connor described one student with a number of issues related to PTSD who had taken several university courses. But it took weeks for that student to seek help, and he finally did so because he wasn’t being successful in his classes. “Often times, there can be a stigma associated with PTSD or TBI,” said O’Connor. “People who have a disability aren’t always comfortable disclosing that information. If you’re a Marine, it’s not part of that culture to admit you need help.” With PTSD and TBI, symptoms don’t always show up immediately. A student may have problems with hearing or with eyesight due to injury. Or, they may have trouble concentrating. There can be various symptoms that interfere with the students’ ability to learn. Students who register their disability with Brandman can be assisted in a number of ways, including extended time on exams, provided with a qualified note-taker, assistive listening devices, use of a word processor on exams and course materials in an alternate format. For Speegle, he uses a computer program that turns text to speech. It helps reinforce the information when he studies because concentrating when reading is difficult. He’s also been able to get more time taking tests. “That just takes the stress out of it,” he said. In fact, Speegle helps spread the word about Disability Services in his Brandman classes. “It’s not a big deal to ask for help, and there hasn’t been any negative with it,” he said. “I recommend it to everyone.” Speegle recently walked in the commencement ceremony at the Lacey campus, and will receive his bachelor’s degree in August. He’ll then start on his master’s degree to continue his education. “The best part of my job is when I hear from students who are successful,” said O’Connor. “The idea is to help them learn and get their degree.”
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