Conferences · Roundups · Thoughts from Counselors

Post-Secondary Disability Training Institute Wrap-Up

Post-Secondary Disability Training Institute Wrap-Up: How Academic Counseling Promotes Resiliency, Self-Advocacy, and Retention

by Brandi Willis Schreiber

This year the TECHniques Center is on fire presenting at conferences across the nation! Although it has already been a fabulous year sharing what we do and what we’ve learned with other professionals and institutions, representing Student Disability Services and Texas Tech University at the 2016 Postsecondary Disability Training Institute in Philadelphia June 7 – 10 took the cake.

PDTI is an annual training institute sponsored by the Center on Postsecondary Education and Disability at the University of Connecticut. This prestigious institute is hosted in Boston or Philadelphia each year and provides professional training in the field of postsecondary education and disability. Higher education disability service providers from all over the country attend sessions focused on major issues in disability services to improve their knowledge, learn about trends in disability services, and gain a greater understanding of how to assist this population in higher education.

Kyla Shannon, our Assistant Director, and I presented on “The Role of an Academic Counselor for Students with Learning Disabilities, ADHD, and Autism Spectrum Disorders.” We shared how our approach to academic counseling and advising promotes resiliency, self-advocacy, and retention in students with these diagnoses and what other disability services providers might consider as they work with similar populations.

Why does this matter? Well, for several reasons. First, many disability service providers wear so many hats – and have so little support – that they often have to juggle multiple tasks and roles to meet the wide-array of needs of their institution’s students.

To help frame this discussion, we first discussed how developing an academic counseling philosophy can help create a mission and structure for focusing on student development. The ultimate goal, I pointed out, is not to prevent student failure from happening, but rather how academic counseling can help students navigate through and learn from that failure. Our academic counseling philosophies (which I’ll write more about in a future blog post!) creates a unique pathway for each Academic Counselor to foster resiliency, self-advocacy, and retention in students: a framework that disability service providers can integrate into any job!

Kyla then shared research that confirmed ten ways in which students can develop resiliency and how we promote these ten things in our daily work with our students. Among the things that we do to help students develop resiliency is assisting with self-discovery, building competence, help with the development of organization and executive functioning skills, facilitate goal setting, show students how to make connections, and promote a encourage students to view themselves positively (among other things). This sounds very technical, but it boils down to the way in which we look at the whole student and how we help them identify areas in which they struggle and how they can overcome those obstacles.

This led into a nice discussion about how the specific tools we use in the TECHniques Center help students develop self-advocacy, and ultimately, how this affects their retention at Texas Tech University.

This institute was an excellent opportunity for us to share knowledge with professionals who don’t have a similar program at their institution. It also represented Texas Tech University and the TECHniques Center.

It also gave us the wonderful chance to explore Philadelphia in our down time, eat some great food, see the historical sites, and attend a Major League Baseball game! We were lucky that were able to attend with Student Disability Services staff, Tamara Mancini and Blayne Alaniz, and our Departmental Director, Dr. Larry Phillippe.

For more information about PDTI, visit

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