Summer has come to a close, and fall is here. It’s an exciting time for those of you who are heading off to college. Whether you live with a disability like spina bifida or are able-bodied, this is one of the most important times in your young adult life.
For those with a disability, this may be the very first time in your life where you’ll be living on your own while also assuming individual control over your day-to-day needs. While this can be a daunting task for some, I want to share several tips for making this transition as smooth as possible.
My Tips for Going to College with Spina Bifida
Let’s go over some of the tips that will hopefully help you navigate college with spina bifida.
1. Know how to maintain your health independently.
First and foremost, make sure you know all the necessary steps to ensure your ability to successfully maintain your health.
Here’s a good start. When you begin researching and applying to the schools of your choice, that’s the exact time to assume more control of your personal care routine, if you’re able to do so. Understandably, some people may always need the help of an in-home or visiting caregiver, which is perfectly fine. However, this is a great time of life to take over any tasks that you can manage independently.
You’ll want to feel confident and capable of performing all necessary tasks related to your bowel and bladder management routines, including knowing how to self-catheterize hygienically. You can find out more about how to get started with some top do’s and don’ts of self-cathing.
Any of us with a disability know that taking care of our bowels and bladder is an extremely influential piece of the puzzle when it comes to the ability to maintain an active, healthy, and independent life. Compliance and successful implementation of these programs as prescribed may significantly increase the ability to sustain your independence.
2. Keep enough catheter supplies on hand.
I’ve known peers who have come to college unprepared to handle their life independently. They were overwhelmed from the start. This can cause a major blow to self-esteem, which can impact so many areas of life. Because preparation is the foundation for your success at college with spina bifida, you should also have a good stock of the medical supplies you depend on, such as intermittent catheters.
Make sure you have a reliable catheter supply company you can depend on like 180 Medical. We offer easy reordering options, including order confirmations. Also, we can ship your supplies on a regular basis to your location anywhere in the United States.
In addition, I want to encourage all parents to have their adolescent children take an active role in the ordering and confirmation of their monthly catheter supply orders several months to a year prior to leaving for college This will give them the confidence to be able to handle and address any questions/comments/concerns that arise regarding their supply orders directly.
3. Find a local doctor or healthcare team you can rely on.
Once you choose the school you want to attend, if it’s out of state or away from home, you’ll probably want to start looking into a local healthcare team that you can trust with your care. Your hometown doctor may even be able to refer you to someone in your new location during your college years.
From primary care to a urologist, knowing exactly where to turn when those situations can be a huge relief, especially if you’re feeling sick or coming down with a urinary tract infection.
Personally, I was able to handle most of my care through the primary care doctors on campus at the university health center, which meant issues with transportation for appointments were never a hurdle.
4. Connect with your campus’s Disability Resource Center.
Finally, when researching the school you want to attend, search for the campus’s Disability Resource Center (DRC). This functions to help provide accommodations for your disability when needed. Plus, using this resource can help make your college experience as smooth and convenient as possible.
I was fortunate enough to attend the University of Arizona for my undergraduate degree and the University of Missouri in Columbia for my Master’s degree. Both of these schools had excellent Disability Resource Centers. This is the stated focus from the University of Arizona’s DRC: “Our goal is to ensure that disabled students, employees, and visitors have a similar, if not identical, experience to that of their non-disabled counterparts.”
Several key examples of areas these offices can assist with are:
- securing an ADA-accessible dorm room, which may include a private bathroom
- ensuring classroom access
- securing other reasonable accommodations (such as note-takers)
- helping find you a job on campus
- helping locate additional scholarship opportunities
If you want to learn more about preparing for college and using the DRC office, I highly suggest visiting the University of Arizona’s DRC resources page.
5. Apply for scholarships and grants for college.
Attending college can be expensive, and it’s understandable that many people can’t easily afford it. This is especially true of students who live with disabilities like spina bifida, spinal cord injuries, and other similar physical conditions, which can create some additional financial burden for some.
You should definitely look around online for potential scholarships or grant opportunities. Scholarships.com might be a good place to start. Also, you can consult with your college’s Disability Resource Center to find out about scholarships for which you may be eligible.
180 Medical offers an annual scholarship opportunity, and the application period is from January 1 through June 1 each year. Find out more about the scholarship, including eligibility details, at the 180 Medical College Scholarship page.
Good Luck At College!
When heading off to college, the groundwork begins by ensuring you have the ability to maintain and live a healthy and independent lifestyle. That doesn’t mean there are no resources to help you. Going away to college will be one of the most influential and positively impactful experiences of your life.
These are the years of your life when you discover and begin to pursue your passion. However, when living with a disability, this opportunity does require the necessary preparation and groundwork to ensure the highest probability of success. Best of luck to all of you!