As the new director of the Office for Disability Services (ODS) as of March 5, Natalie Burick has set goals to expand services for students with autism, provide more accommodations outside of academics and change the stigma around students registered through the office.
This semester marks the pilot of the Autism Transition, Learning, Achievement and Support (ATLAS) Program. Four students are in the program, which is focusing on socializing with each other for the first semester. Students in the ATLAS Program typically go to the ARC and Boozel together, and they have special access to a room in University Union with a weighted blanket, lamps and other sensory items.
In future semesters, Burick plans to incorporate more aspects into the program while increasing the number of students involved. These new aspects include transitioning, self-advocacy, mentoring and off-campus events.
Burick also hopes to expand ODS services to include one-on-one mentoring and personal support. As more students come into the office on a regular basis to seek this type of support, which began recently under the previous director’s supervision, one of Burick’s goals is to maintain this connection between ODS and students receiving accommodations.
“I don’t want students to just feel that they have to come here for only academic accommodations, get what they need and then leave and never come back for four years. I want them to feel like they can come in here any time and talk with us and meet with us and sit down and discuss plans, internships, transition and get them connected with other offices on campus,” Burick said.
Currently, ODS also provides academic accommodations in the classroom and housing and works with students to receive accommodations for standardized tests, including the PAPA and GREs.
Another one of Burick’s goals related to accommodations is to familiarize students and faculty members with Accommodate. In this online program, students can submit semester requests to apply their current or request new accommodations to the upcoming semester. If a student forgets to do this since this is a new process, an ODS worker will complete this request so the student will continue to receive services.
Faculty members can also view the accommodations students have received through Accommodate. Burick hopes that more faculty and students will use the online service in future semesters.
There are plans for student note takers to be able to upload their notes to Accommodate, a change to be implemented tentatively for fall 2018. Notetakers can still bring in their notes to ODS for a student worker to upload. Additionally, students who receive services for tests will be able to request alternate testing rooms online starting in either spring or fall 2019.
Burick also wants to end the stigma around students registered through ODS by helping students feel comfortable visiting the office and receiving services. This may result in a future discussion to change the name of the office, as removing “disability” from name may assist in reducing this stigma, according to Burick.
Although she has only held the role of director for a few weeks, Burick has previously worked with housing accommodations as an assistant director for housing and residence life, a role she held since 2011. Having worked with ODS and admissions in the past, she has been able to maintain the connections from her previous position in her new role as director.
“It’s nice that those connections will continue, and I’m working with them now in different capacities,” Burick said.