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Garrett Kawa

My Fight for Independence
During my first year of college at the University of Cincinnati Transition Access Program I was faced with many challenges that I had to overcome. These challenges were brought on by two disorders that I have been faced with during my entire life. I have a disorder called Panhypopituitarism and an eye condition called Optic Nerve Atrophy. One of the many challenges that I was faced with was gaining travel independence around campus. In order to gain this independence I had to take a campus freedom test and pass it. Some of the things that were a part of the test were; to be able to travel to the rec center, the three dining halls and to the various location for my classes. This was very difficult for me.

Classes at the University of Cincinnati began in August. It took me until almost Christmas break to gain Campus Freedom. This was a long and difficult journey for me that made me face many challenges along the way. One of the biggest challenges was learning the routes and how to get back safely. There were many people who stepped in and helped me learn the campus. I had to have an Orientation and Mobility Specialist help me. My new peers also helped me as well as some of the staff. When my family came up to visit they would also help me as much as they could.

I tried on many different occasions to take the test for campus freedom. Each of the three or four times I attempted to take the test I would think that I had it down, only to realize that I needed additional practice.

Not having campus freedom caused many challenges for me. When you don’t have campus freedom you are not allowed to travel anywhere by yourself. Therefore I had to always plan ahead to ensure that I had a buddy with me whenever I left the TAP House. This was sometimes a hard task to accomplish because my other peers in the TAP house had their own classes and daily routines to worry about and I sometimes felt like I was a bother to them.

One day, a buddy of mine who lived in the TAP House with me, asked me if I wanted to go to the grocery with him off campus. The nearest grocery store was about a 10 minute walk. We made it to the grocery without any problems. We completed our shopping and started to head back to campus. All was going fine until I tripped over the uneven sidewalk and fell on my face. I was carrying my groceries so I was unable to use my hands to catch myself. My friend saw that my face was pretty scraped up and called an ambulance.

Once the ambulance arrived they helped me up and tried to help clean up the wound on my face. I told them that I would be okay and did not want to go to the hospital. Someone from the school came and drove me back to campus. Once I got back to my room I called my mom to let her know what had happened. At first she did not think I was hurt very bad and just talked to me over the phone.

Later that night my brother facetimed me and that is when my family realized that I was hurt more than they thought. My mom decided to make a trip up to see me. We went to the hospital to have everything checked out. Everything was oaky, I just ended up with a bad cut on my cheek and had some swelling.

This experience also played a role in my campus freedom. This made me realize that I need to be extra careful while traveling both on and off campus. Before this happened I was not always consistent with using my cane. But after this accident I always made sure to take it wherever I went. If I had been using it on the day of my fall, the cane would have let me know of the uneven surface I would have been able to proceed with more caution.

Through my first year of college I gained knowledge about many things. But learning to travel safely and independently is definitely at the top of the list. As someone with disorders that require me to be more cautious had need extra time and training it is very important that I plan my routes, communicate with others where I am going, ask for help when I get lost or confused, and use my cane at all times to ensure my safety. Leaving home and going to the University of Cincinnati was a huge step for both my family and I. It is a step that I am glad that I took and plan to return next fall to continue my education.

During my first year in the TAP program I met many friends in the TAP house. We were all very unique and there to learn. But one thing about all of us is that we were there because of different disorders that we had. If I were to give advice to someone looking to attend college who has a disorder or disease I would tell them to never give up. As you can see from my story above I was faced with a huge challenge that I had to work at for a long time. But with persistence, repeated practice, and lot of encouragement from people around me, I was able to overcome this obstacle and continue my independence during my second semester at the University of Cincinnati. It is important for people to remember that if you don’t succeed one way then try another way. All people are different and each person has to find what works for them.
There are many different techniques that I use to help me get through my daily life. In order to keep positive mentally I keep a very positive attitude. I do not let the small things get me down. I am one who often gives myself pep talks to keep my spirits up and my confidence high. Physically I feel that it is important that early on you learn good time management skills.

You have to find what ratio works best in order for you to be successful but you need to ensure that you have the following things in your life. You need: sleep, healthy eating, exercise, time to study, time to have fun and time to reflect and make changes to things you are not happy with. All of these things are important in order to be successful no matter where you go in life. Keep your head high, a smile on your face, and a positive attitude.

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