DSP&S at College of the Canyons available to help students

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Nick’s pen nearly touched his paper but he couldn’t quite get his ideas to flow.

He found distractions everywhere. It was the ruffling of papers and the eraser head scratching against a test booklet on the other side of the room.

“It never comes out clearly,” former COC student Nick Cogswell said. “It has taken me four weeks to finish a four-page paper.”

Concentration and focus are battles for Nick, who was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder at a young age. It’s a condition that affects his focus and attention.

But several successful people, like political radio show host Glenn Beck and singer and songwriter Will.i.am, were diagnosed with ADD and ADHD, respectively.

Beck admitted in an interview with Ty Pennington that he was never able to focus before getting the help he needed.

“The first time I took ADD medication, I wept because I played with my son on the floor for 40 minutes and I had never done that with any of my children,” Beck said. “It was night and day.”

Beck found that medication helped him focus, though some people solve their challenge in different ways.

In an interview done for UK entertainment website, Mirror, Will.i.am stated that, “Music is my therapy and my straitjacket. Music keeps me sane and keeps my mind on something. It’s fragile up there.”

ADD is just one of the conditions that select students face while attending COC, and the school has accommodations for those students with disabilities if they know where to look.

Among the services provided to students, the Disabled Student Program and Services (DSP&S) office helps to serve students with varying degrees of disabilities, customizing services on an individual basis.

Those students who are hard of hearing, have psychological disorders, have a history of difficulty in school with reading, writing or math, have a learning disability or have problems with memory are eligible for help.

“Our counselors will act as liaisons with professors to get accommodations,” DSP&S director Dr. Jane A. Feuerhelm said. “We focus on whatever the students need.”

Local high schools in the area work with COC-Outreach to help create educational plans for incoming students and will send corresponding DSP&S paperwork to COC.

Students enrolling from outside the district will have to register directly with DSP&S and sit down with a counselor.

Services offered to students include but aren’t limited to speech-to-text software, special counseling or guidance, materials in alternate formats, arrangements for note taking and priority registration.

Feuerhelm says the services offered to one student will not be the same as another. “We need to assess every student individually to see what they will need.”

The office is located on the first floor of Seco Canyon Hall and provides a testing room, student lab and private areas for students to study.

“They’ll get the help that they may need to be successful in college,” said Lauren Yeh, DSP&S counselor. “For our program as a whole, we help over 1,600 students.”

The DSP&S program served a community of approximately 150 students in 1995 and as it grows, it is meeting the needs of a larger and more technologically advanced population, Feuerhelm said. “We have students who have difficulty reading and now we have technology that can read things back to them.”

“A simple English text-book that has a collection of text-based stories is fairly simple to convert into almost any format,” High Tech Center/Access Coordinator Scott Mcafee said.

DSP&S is offered all around the country, complying with the American Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, though the program at COC is continuously growing with its students.

“The DSP&S has also been active with outreach, contacting and meeting with all the academic departments to advocate and acknowledge better treatment for DSP&S students in their fields of study,” Mcafee said. “Students can fall through the cracks and because of the collaboration, we have fewer instances of these falls.”

“We take everyone who wants a chance,” Chancellor Dianne Van Hook said. ”I challenge you to believe in your dreams and go for it.”

Nick Cogswell now attends California State University, Northridge after graduating COC in the fall of 2015 with a filmmaking associate in arts. He continues to utilize similar services provided to him and insists that students know that DSP&S is “there to help you and they will make sure that you are on the right track to get through College of the Canyons.”