Spreading the word
Shalom Heinsen is not one to back down from a challenge.
Living with a mild cognitive learning disability and on the low end of the autism spectrum, the first-year Legal Assistant student has faced obstacles all her life. She knew starting her post-secondary journey would be no different.
“When I was younger, my tests were different from my other classmates and I’d get made fun of for getting the ‘easier’ test,” she says.
Heinsen has trouble focusing when writing tests and takes longer to process questions. When one of her first midterms was coming up, an instructor put Heinsen in touch with Denise Johnston, an Accessibility Advisor in the Lamb Learner Success Centre.
She and Johnston worked together to determine what test-writing conditions would enable her to perform best. Taking exams within Testing Services gave her extra time to write in a distraction-free environment.
“Knowing that I would have extra time to write my exam felt really good. If I didn’t have that opportunity, I probably wouldn’t have been able to finish it.”
Heinsen also met with Academic Coach Shauna Issler to enhance her study skills.
“Since I was young, I’ve had trouble studying. The notes I would take in class wouldn’t make sense to me later on,” says Heinsen.
She and Issler worked together to learn new strategies for taking better notes and processing the information in ways that make sense to her.
“Shauna and I practiced note-taking and she’s given me great tips — like creating tables, graphs and drawing pictures so I can remember concepts easier.”
In addition to providing tactical tips, the centre has helped Heinsen recognize what she does well, allowing her to build on her skills.
“I’ve realized my strengths are in writing things down — once I write something down, I remember it. I’m also good with dates and names, which have helped with making associations.”
From client to advocate
Accessing the resources available through the Lamb Learner Success Centre has helped Heinsen feel confident managing a full course load and proud of the grades she’s been achieving so far.
“If the centre wasn’t there, school would be really stressful for me — I would feel overwhelmed,” she says.
She also feels part of a community — motivating her to bring more awareness to people who live with disabilities and the services available to set them up for success.
“I want those with a disability to know they are not alone and you can find help like I did through Accessibility Services. The people there want to help you and take the time to help you. I feel happy and supported going in there.”
The annual observance of the United Nations’ International Day of Persons with Disabilities is Tuesday, Dec. 3. The day was proclaimed in 1992 to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities.