15 April 2010

On being a disabled student

Over the course of the past couple of weeks, I've been working on getting the required paperwork submitted to the campus disability resource center for help dealing with PTSD. Specifically, I'm looking for help arranging quiet rooms for taking exams. It is a bit of an uphill battle because I've never done anything like this before, so I'm not familiar with the paperwork or the procedure. I know PTSD is real, I know it affects how I study, I know it negatively affects my performance on exams. The paperwork will eventually get done. My doc at the VA is being more than helpful. It's just a question of getting the right information to the right people. Procedures have to be followed, and I'm OK with that. The VA and the people on campus are trying very hard to make it all work.

I think the scariest part of the entire process is that for the rest of the semester, and probably the rest of my college life, I'm going to be a student with a disability. I'm going to have to notify each one of my professors, and do paperwork every semester.

At some point, I'm going to have to tell a classmate that the reason I'm never present for exams is that I have PTSD, and so I need quiet rooms to take exams in. I've never encountered anyone in college that needed to do that because they had something like PTSD. I don't have a frame of reference to work with here.

Maybe it's just one of those things that falls under the umbrella of "adjusting to life as a full time college student." I don't know.


  1. I can see that the label would be painful, but I think you're doing the right thing. You have enough obstacles to overcome. If taking exams in quiet rooms is going to help, that's what you should be given, it's only right.

    I'd think most professors would be accepting of this, as they're educated smart people. Maybe some of them have struggled with difficulties also, and would be very sympathetic.

    If only I could arrange a quiet office for myself instead of a cubicle! I also find noise and people very seems harder for me to tune them out than it does for others.

    take care

  2. Actually, my professors are pretty accepting of the idea-- but in order to be fair to everyone, a student has to have their disability documented and recognized by the university.

    I think everyone that has a job that requires concentration needs an office with a door that closes and a phone that can be silenced. Too many people equate having one's own office with being important, rather than productive.

  3. Hi,
    I have PTSD and finally have come to realize (after going from a 3.8gpa to a 2.7 gpa) that maybe it is affecting my school work. I have spent countless hours crying because of comments from professors. "You need to put forth more effort.." etc. The VA diagnosed me with PTSD and moderate short term memory loss. Not sure what to do or who to talk to. I am three credits away from BS degree in Psychology.

  4. You've made it this far. Don't give up.

    Some suggestions:

    1) Your professors, even psychology professors, may not be familiar with PTSD in students. Normally, when they see late assignments and low test scores from students, it's because the students are partying/slacking too much.

    This will probably be difficult: talk to your professors and explain what's going on. You don't need to give them any details, just that you're dealing with PTSD and it's been negatively affecting your schoolwork.

    It may be possible to get your spring grades reexamined. You might talk to a dean or similar person and see if there's anything that they can do. It's a big "if", but worth a try.

    2) Actually get help from the VA. Different treatment programs seem to work for different people; I did the 12-week CBT program. Let the people at the mental health clinic know that you're facing an urgent life situation with declining grades.

    The important part is that therapy ultimately makes life better. A secondary part is that for your college/professors to help you, you may need to provide documentation of what's going on, and what you're doing to correct your situation.

    3) If you're bombing exams, talk to your school's disability office about taking tests in quiet conditions. They can tell you what paperwork you might need, which you'll need to talk to the VA mental health clinic about getting filled in.

    4) Your school's counseling center is a good place to visit, too. They have *lots* of experience with students who are having trouble in school. Talk to them.

    4) I have discovered that recording lectures and listening to them again while going over my notes helps overcome the effects of tuning out during classes. I have one of these:

    It stores hours of audio, lets you play lectures back at different speeds, and you can copy lectures to a PC or Mac when it does fill up. You can probably find one online for about $40.

    5) Check out some of the links to the right. Ulifeline and Half of Us have really helped.

    Finally-- don't give up. It all won't get fixed in a day, and it won't be easy, but things do get better. Stay in touch, k?


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