What is a Self Advocate?
Down Syndrome Indiana (DSI) considers a self advocate to be any individual with Down syndrome, or any disability for that matter, that is actively involved in the Down syndrome community, either through DSI or some other avenue. Active involvement not only entails attendance to social events, but also includes volunteering at the DSI office or one of the many community service-oriented events. Although there is currently no age restriction, self advocates are generally 14 years of age or older for social events and 18 years or older for the business meetings.
Think College! with Kelley Schreiner:
Did you always want to go to college? When and why did you decide to attend college?
Yes, many of my friends were in college and my sisters and brother had gone through college so I had been on several campuses. My decision was made really because a program at IUPUI became available. This did not happen until my last year in high school.
Describe the S.I.T.E. program. What attracted you to that program? What kinds of classes did you take?
The IUPUI program that I attended was actually the pilot program for what is now the S.I.T.E. program. My friend Sarah and I were chosen by our mentor at North Central High School for this program. We were lucky enough to attend IUPUI for 3 years. I took many classes during those 6 semesters--painting, computer, basketball, exercise, health and nutrition, Tai chi, adaptive physical education (this was a lab one day a week and lecture another day), self defense, line dancing and weight control.
Did having Down syndrome affect your decision to attend college and which school to attend?
Having Down syndrome made it harder because most colleges did not have a program for people with intellectual disabilities. We felt so lucky that this program became available at IUPUI. I was excited to get to learn new things.
What factors influenced your choice of school? Why was IUPUI a good match for you? (these questions might be answered in #3)
Dr. Rogan invited my friend Sarah and me to try the pilot program at IUPUI. We had transportation from our parents and could live at home. We both had Support Services Waiver and were able to use it to provide a mentor for the more academic classes--for example--she helped us in computer and an artist friend accompanied us to painting but I went to most of the physical activities classes on my own. The other students and faculty were very nice.
What were some of the highlights of your time at IUPUI? How did your experience help you grow as a person?
I met a lot of new friends through my classes and the IUPUI Best Buddies Program. I learned a lot and had fun each day. I think I became a better basketball player-I LOVED this class and took it for 5 semesters. Most of the students in my Adaptive PE class were going to be PE teachers and Mr. Urtel, my professor, had me give a speech about the R-word and they really liked it. I learned a lot from him and he said he also learned from me. I think going to college gave me more confidence that I could accomplish things that might seem hard. I also got to be a ball girl at several IUPUI men's basketball games. Ms. Barnett-my basketball teacher- arranged this for me.
Did you experience any challenges when you were at IUPUI? How did you overcome these challenges?
The only challenge I can think of was finding my way around at first but it did not take long before I figured out where my rooms were.
What advice would you give other prospective college students with disabilities?
I think I would give them the same advice my dad gave me-work hard, be nice to people, don't spend money, get a job, and sit in front of the classroom. I would tell them to ask for help when they need it and not to get frustrated if they can't understand some of the material. I would say to have fun and make friends.
Although Kelley Schreiner had always dreamed of attending college like her older siblings, she wasn't sure her dream would be realized until she was selected to attend a program for students with intellectual disabilities at IUPUI. The program, now called S.I.T.E. (Skills for Independence, Transition, and Employment), allowed Kelley to take classes and learn new skills alongside typical peers as well as others with disabilities. Kelley, who has Down syndrome, took classes in health and nutrition, painting, computers, and physical education among others, and was able to teach her fellow classmates and professors a thing or two along the way:
"Most of the students in my Adaptive PE class were going to be PE teachers. Mr. Urtel, my professor, had me give a speech about the R-word, and [my class] really liked it. I learned a lot from [Mr. Urtel], and he said he also learned from me."
But for Kelley, college was more than academics-it was an experience that allowed her to make friends, become more independent, and build confidence in her abilities. "College gave me confidence that I could accomplish things that might seem hard," she says. In this way, Kelley's college experience laid the foundation for future success. Her advice to prospective college students with disabilities is simple: work hard, don't give up, be kind, and don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it.