Students with Disabilities Need Supports to Maximize Their Potential

This guest post is by Linda DeGise-Kotowski who was on the Different is Beautiful Show to discuss her experiences in college with a learning disability. Linda appeared on the show with her father Tom Degise who discussed her earlier days with Linda and taking care of her. You can watch Linda’s episode here

Different is Beautiful Show with Linda and Tom Degise
Different is Beautiful Show with Linda and Tom Degise

My name is Linda DeGise-Kotowski and have lived in Jersey City, New Jersey my entire life. I

was two in a half when my parents realized that I wasn’t talking as well compared to other

children my age. I was fortunate my parents made sure I received speech therapy before I

began preschool in Jersey City in the fall of 1984.

I continued to see a speech therapist while I was in a special education preschool class in

Jersey City from the fall of 1984 to the spring of 1986. I attended a public school in Bayonne for

four years.   I didn’t receive the hours of speech therapy that I needed according to my IEP. I

didn’t have many friends. I struggled academically and socially.   My parents looked into some

private special education schools during my last year attending public school in Bayonne.

Meanwhile, I received both speech and occupational therapy at the Jersey City Medical

Center. I was nine years old by the time I learned how to tie my shoe laces.

My parents decided to make some changes. My father represented himself in court on my

behalf to have me placed in an out of district school called ECLC OF NJ. I was an intake student

in the spring of 1991. I was accepted into ECLC in the fall of 1991. It took the bus driver at least

thirty minutes to drive me and the two other students who attended ECLC.

I thrived both academically and socially throughout my eleven years. It helped that my

teachers were enthusiastic about teaching. My favorite subjects were English and Social

Studies. I was thirteen years old when I developed a love for writing as well. I knew at a young

age I wanted to attend Hudson County Community College. My parents believed in me and told

me that I was capable of going to college someday.

I made so many friends at ECLC. My friends and I keep in contact.   My friendships grew

through being active in afterschool activities, and getting together with friends

outside of school. Thanks to my father I was able to get rides back and forth to my friends

house. And thanks to both my parents I was able to have friends over to my house and invite

them to my birthday parties.

With the help of many speech therapists, occupational therapist and physical therapist I

improved my speech and motor skills. I became more confident with my communication skills

and with exercising.

I participated in a work readiness program when I was in the upper cluster senior

school program. I was fortunate to have an opportunity to work office jobs in

the community. I worked in the business office from 2001 to 2003. My computer skills

improved and I learned how to do clerical work well. I am a proud graduate of the class of

Before I entered the upper cluster senior school program, I began working at the Jersey City

Public Library. I was sixteen years old when I began working part-time after school. I worked at

the former Hudson City Branch which is now called The Heights Branch Library for six years.

I loved my job at the library. I sleeved books and helped patrons look for books and for

information. I had a great rapport with the staff and the patrons. The best part

of my job was helping out in the Summer Reading Program.

I resigned after six years. On occasion I stop by the Five Corners Branch to borrow

dvds and books. It’s always nice to see coworkers I once worked with.

I began working at the Hudson County Improvement Authority in April 2004. I was a clerk for

seven years. For the past four years I have been the receptionist. I love my job and help people

over the phone. I help my coworkers with clerical jobs and help out with projects for events.

I started attending Hudson County Community College in the fall of 2003. I struggled my first

semester. I went back to HCCC in the fall of 2004. I did better and kept working harder and

didn’t allow myself to get discouraged. It helped that I was part of the Disability Support

Service Program. I had a note-taker in each of my classes. I benefited from having tutors to

help me through the Student Support Service Program and the Tutoring Center. I thrived as a

student.

I graduated from HCCC in May of 2011. My husband, stepmom, sister Amy and father were at

my graduation. My father was there to hand me my associate’s degree. He was beaming with

pride.

My husband David and I meet on August 27 2008 at Chilli’s Restaurant in downtown Jersey

City. We meet on eharmony, it’s an online dating service.  It didn’t take long for the two of us

to be in love.

11102740_10205376796811395_8374502649503541283_nOn Christmas Eve in 2009 David proposed to me. It was the happiest moment of both our

lives. David and I have been happily married since April 27, 2012. Our wedding ceremony and

reception took place at the Casino in The Park.

We visit our families often and on occasion have them over for dinner at our apartment We

have also had an large group of friends and we spent time with them at least once a month.

I have been part of the Jersey City Writers Group since 2012. My writing has improved and I

have been fortunate to become friends with many other writers. I am currently working on a

novel.

Students with learning disabilities need their parents and teachers to encourage them to work

to their fullest potential. A student with a learning disability can overcome their difficulties

through hard work and having positive influences in their lives.

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