The switch to online courses across many colleges has shuttered access to many necessary services. In Athens, businesses have received new operational guidelines and Ohio University has put in practice new policies to slow the spread of COVID-19. One policy, which limits the number of students and faculty on campus, abandons the students with disorders such as autism and ADHD.
The office of Student Accessibility Services gave students with autism and students with other disabilities an area where they could meet with staff in-person to work on bettering their academic and social skills. The SAS also offered students the ability to join a coaching program which gave them an upperclassman mentor to help them move past obstacles they faced.
For some, this coaching was simply a week-to-week meeting where a schedule was created to stay on track. For others, it was a meeting where the coach would help with emailing professors and staying on top of homework.
Then, with the switch to online courses, came the announcement that SAS would move entirely online, and student coaches to be over Microsoft Teams rather than in person. For a normal organization, this would be the ideal way to limit the spread of COVID-19, but for students that are on the spectrum, this announcement was the worst-case scenario.
Often the main reason a student on the spectrum needed a coach was so they could have face-to-face help with his/her workload. Symptoms of being on the spectrum include an inability to sit still or focus on a certain task and a lack of social skills. All symptoms that can’t be properly coached without physical interactions.
For me, a senior at Ohio University in my fourth year of having a student coach (it’s more like a friendship at this point), this situation isn’t ideal. Even though I’ve been able to work through my autism and improve in academic and social situations, I still work better when the meetings are in person.
OU is abandoning the students with autism, not only by moving the SAS center completely online, but also by making it punishable for the student coaches to meet with students in person. Even though the coach only meets with one student at a time, wears a mask during the meeting and maintains appropriate distancing, the university still prohibits any interaction that isn’t virtual.
At this point, I have to wonder why it is OK for the university to offer jobs and (some) classes that are in person, yet it continuously refuses to offer students with disabilities the ability to meet with their coaches in person
Brandon Bowers is a senior studying English Pre-Law at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. What are your thoughts? Tell Brandon by tweeting him at @UnabashedlyBMB.