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UMaine Student Accessibility Services hosts panel discussion on student support

On Sept. 27, representatives from the University of Maine Student Accessibility Services (SAS), Counseling Center and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Advising & Academic Services Center held a panel discussion on different services offered on campus to support students.

To begin the session, Brent Elwood, the associate director of the Counseling Center, discussed how the center is here to support students. Moreover, the goal is to help people in distress by giving them the tools needed to deal with the issues they’re going through so they can succeed in school and everyday life. While some students get what they need in four to five sessions, students can make as many sessions as they want. 

“We don’t put a limit on sessions because people’s lives don’t work that way,” says Elwood. 

Sara Henry, the director of Student Accessibility Services at UMaine, continued into the next portion of the discussion. SAS is the office that works with students who have disabilities, chronic health conditions or for any other student who needs accommodations. Approximately 10% of people use accommodations on campus.

“We see everybody. An accommodation is an adjustment made to a course, work environment, activity or setting that enables an individual who is not able to access that environment, access that environment,” said Henry.

Henry stresses that the goal is not to change the curriculum rigor, but to make adjustments in how the student interacts with the course material. These adjustments can include screen readers for those with reading disabilities or vision impairment and extra time or separate testing locations for students with ADHD. 

Henry and Elwood came together to reiterate how important it is to look for signs that may indicate that a student needs help. If you notice a student attending class, interacting, looking fine and doing okay, and then over the course of the semester they stop coming to class, turning in work and assignments and engaging in ways that don’t fit what they used to do, these are all visible signs that they aren’t communicating. If anything doesn’t feel right, that’s enough to call and let counseling services know.

“How do we get our arms around someone and help someone when they are in distress? Some people hold it together well in some contexts, and not in others,” says Elwood. “[We want] to look at them and see how we can best support them. At our core, we are there as a care team.” It is helpful to normalize counseling because everyone goes through different hardships and may need someone to talk to.

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