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By Nicole Cowart <>

When you have a physical challenge, it should not prevent you from learning because any obstacle can be addressed differently if you know what resources can be used. It is quite common for students with disabilities to get used to restrictions and overcome various difficulties, yet there is much more one can do. Getting enrolled in college with a Muscular Dystrophy is possible today more than ever before. Read on further to find out how and why.

Muscular dystrophy relates to those diseases that cause progressive weakness with the loss of muscle mass. It happens because of genetic mutations that affect the production of proteins in the human body. There is Myotonic Muscular Dystrophy, which can be summed up as a special condition where the muscles cannot relax once the contraction takes place. It is the most commonly met among adults. Duchenne Dystrophy is the quickest and the most challenging type of degenerative muscular dystrophy. According to the Muscular Dystrophy Association, the prevalence of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy in the USA and Europe is approximately 6 per 100,000 individuals.

As a rule, the challenges and problems of students with Muscular Dystrophy are not commonly described or brought up in the media, which is an omission that must be addressed. Our guide contains the basic helpful resources that will help both parents and students to see what help they can get.

The Problems Faced by Muscular Dystrophy Students (DMV) During Education in College

Since the talk goes about the neurogenetic developmental disorder, the most common issue related to education is the progressive muscular weakness, which affects not only the physical aspect. According to research, the majority of students with DMD have a normal IQ score. The common problems faced include:

  • Behavioral concerns. Although they do not represent any anti-social examples, frequent mood swings and meltdowns are among the most common issues due to peer-pressure and low self-esteem.
  • Executive functions and limited mobility in certain cases.
  • Cognitive limitations that affect writing skills and require the implementation of additional assistance.
  • Motor planning skills.
  • Poor verbal memory span due to genetic disorder.
  • Concentration issues.
  • Inability to make friends easily and stay within social circles.
  • Depression and peer-pressure.

Even though the physical factors do not affect the academic performance, the verbal challenges come into play, just like the emotional impact the college education has on such students. Unfortunately, not many colleges in the United States are equipped for this specific condition as it usually falls under the general category of physical disability. While the students may not require anything special except for elevator and ramp access, which must be specified in the IEP card, things become much simpler when you know that a school can assist you.

The Colleges for Students with Muscular Dystrophy

While there is no universal pattern that will work in every scenario for a student with either type of Muscular Dystrophy, the general requirements for choosing a school include:

  • Organize a meeting between parents and the teachers to discuss available resources and possibilities. It will help you to compare your child’s needs with the options that you may have locally.
  • Have a discussion with a student to find out about their plans and have their thoughts recorded with the help of a voice recorder.
  • Have your IEP card ready with the special needs requirements before you apply to any college or university.
  • Discuss the special needs departments of every college with the counselors and the staff.
  • Check whether the school offers disease-specific or general accommodation for muscular dystrophy students.
  • See how the isolation and depression aspects are addressed and whether there are specialists a student can access.
  • Check whether there are support groups for special needs students that would encourage participation in the community work and various activities.

Do not forget that you can also choose distance learning or discuss various possibilities of online technology to learn according to a specific schedule with extended deadlines and a learning plan.

5 Best Matching and Muscular Dystrophy-friendly Colleges in the US

  1. The University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. Based on assistive technology learning, it offers various options for students like exams that can be taken at home and accessible housing options, which is especially important with the MD disorder. There are also strategic workshops that address both self-defense and mental help issues. The most important is their attitude to creating a friendly environment where every student becomes a part of the local community.
  2. The University of Southern California. Their Disability Services Office offers medical help, which is a factor that should never be ignored when the motor skills are affected, which means that traumas can happen easily. The support groups at the USC offer innovative technologies and assistive devices for this particular dysfunction. The campus needs of special students are addressed by twenty staff members.
  3. Northeastern University. This educational institution differs by not making MD students feel any different by offering helpful collaboration and striving for student’s personal analysis in terms of what can be improved and what tools are necessary for academic excellence and mental well-being.
  4. Xavier University. If accommodation is your first priority, then Xavier’s Disability Services Center will meet your Muscular Dystrophy needs. Providing equal access to educational resources, this university aims for leadership and the creation of a friendly and safe environment. Moreover, they require full information from your medical provider to adjust to your specific needs.
  5. The University of Texas at Austin. It is a good option for those students who do not mind trying out innovative software solutions and participating in various disability research projects that help to determine the needs of students with special needs. They have good accommodation routines that you can choose yourself.

How to Teach Students with Muscular Dystrophy

The teaching methods will always depend on the severity of the Muscular Dystrophy condition, yet the first and foremost factor is the student’s safety and access to all the necessary educational tools. Of course, if a student must use a wheelchair, there will be several accessories that make the learning process possible. Therefore, this disorder’s teaching strategy is a mixture of attention to detail and adjustment of the environment for every task.

  • Encourage students to stay active as much as it is possible by keeping healthy muscles in motion to keep the brain active.
  • Use various teaching methods like software voice assistants, handout assignments, stickers, and so on.
  • Take short 15-minutes breaks with the use of lightweight equipment as a way to keep muscles safe from spasms.
  • Implement the use of various ramps and lifts.
  • Schedule sessions with a physiotherapist in case of any worsening conditions or changes.
  • If you notice any withdrawal and depression symptoms, do not make an issue out of it but address it separately before the next lesson.
  • Provide additional time for all tasks and examinations.
  • Make sure that the positioning of the desk(s) is suitable for the wheelchair’s use.
  • Offer encouragement and help with a kind smile and appreciation.
  • Remember to place yourself at the student’s eye level when talking to a person in a wheelchair.
  • Make sure to implement voice recorders during the lectures by having another student to start/stop the recording session.

7 Tips for College Success

Just like any other student, learners with muscular dystrophy are no different, which means that they should compete with the rest to achieve academic success and due recognition. Here are seven tips that help to achieve college success and bring one’s skills and knowledge to another level:

  1. Set your professional goals clearly. Once you have a good plan, no disability can ever break you down or ruin your plans. Even if something goes wrong, you know what you want to achieve. The determination and knowing your goals is already half of the task done.
  2. Cooperate with fellow students to learn together. Make friends with at least one person and try to learn together. Be there for each other, share your thoughts, cooperate with each other when doing a team project. As they say, two heads are better than one!
  3. Participate in community work and stay socially active. Show your social position and stay as active as you can. Train your muscles by talking and letting your voice be heard. If there is any community work at the campus or anything that deals with your course, discuss things with the rest and show that you are there.
  4. Do not ignore the campus library and various guest lectures. Unfortunately, modern students often ignore visiting the local library or accessing online books. Remember that it is free for you, so you can browse through various magazines, listen to classic records, read all those books that you always wanted to check, and so much more. Moreover, do not ignore the guest lectures because it might be that precise life-changing experience you have been looking for!
  5. Start research based on your topic. If you have a chance to do so, take your time and participate in some research work.
  6. Investigate your condition and document your experience. Even though it may not be easy, think about documenting your challenges and achievements as it will be the best help for other students like you and those who genuinely want to assist you.
  7. Offer help for those who need it around you. Think about it now and remember that even that person who may look fine and happy may be looking for your help. Show compassion and care and it will always make both of you feel so much better!

Resources for College Students with Muscular Dystrophy and Other Physical Disabilities

You have a right to financial aid, which means that you should share your condition’s medical card and apply for additional funding.

A national non-profit organization that focuses on DMD disease. You can use various resources to learn more about your rights, talk to the fellow community, and find out more about helpful educational resources.

A unique research organization of people who aim to defend and support people with congenital muscular dystrophy. You can approach the organization if you have faced discrimination of any kind.

It is a great resource for families living with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy students. Browse through various helpful tips and see how you can learn at home.

It is a community for MDM patients where you can find inspiration and support from those who know your condition well and can assist you with medication, special discounts, learning tools, and more.

It has a mission to help people become aware and let MD students get access to education, support, and the ability to make their research contribution.

A health advocacy organization that helps to unite parents and students with disabilities to document their experience.

The leading American family caregiver network that helps to improve the lives of more than 90 million Americans. Starting from education to peer support, it offers various resources and supportive initiatives free of charge.

Learn more about instructional technology applications and various devices for students with disabilities.

If you have a medical debt crisis or require additional help accessing educational services, employment, or medical help due to your condition, feel free to contact this foundation (no cost service).

Never Give Up!

Regardless if you are a parent or a student with muscular dystrophy reading our guide now, do not ever give up and remember that you can learn and help others to provide you with the best learning environment. Do not forget that even the few sentences that you share about your condition as you learn will help educators, healthcare specialists, and scientists assist people with special needs more precisely. Study the resources, learn differently, and never ever give up!

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