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Moongirl201

Handling grad school with a disability

25 posts in this topic

Hey everyone!

I recently got accepted to school and I feel so excited! But the nerves are kicking in about school..

I am diagnosed with several mental disorders. I'm not sure how classes are going to be or if I'm going to be able to handle it.

Has anyone gone to graduate school with a disability? How did you manage? Did you get accommodations? 

I'm just worried of my professors/classmates judging me if I ask for accommodations and that I'm also a "slow" learner. 

 

Thanks 

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Have you seen these (recent) posts? 

A search for "disability/disabilities" or "mental health" will yield quite a few posts with helpful advice. 

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I'll be entering a grad program this fall juggling IBS (chronic intestinal inflammatory condition). Not quite the same, but I do have to ask professors for potential accommodations. For undergrad I registered with DPRC (disability services) for test taking accommodations if needed. Basically, if I wake up vomiting/dizzy/bad cramping, but have an exam, I have the option to take it in a nice private room with unlimited restroom breaks as needed. I've never actually needed to use the accommodations, but have had to miss class/leave classes due to feeling ill. I've found that communication is key- professors would rather know what's going on then just assume you aren't paying attention or are purposely skipping material. 

I've felt embarrassed / ashamed leaving class before. Just this past weekend I missed our big spring CEU event, and I'm a NSSLHA officer who was required to be present. I showed up at the start, then came back in the end (dying/in pain the whole time). Sometimes I do worry that my classmates or even the close friends I've made think I'm lazy or not working as hard because of my lack of presence when I physically feel awful.

Meanwhile, at the end of the day, you have to put yourself and your needs first. You're qualified to be accepted into a graduate program. The school WANTS you to graduate and become a productive alumni / SLP. Don't let fear stop you from asking for accommodations to help you succeed. 

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This. ^^ IBS is the worst, but communication is key with your professors. They are human too, so as long as you have a relationship with them and communicate with them about everything, you will be okay. 

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When I was younger I was diagnosed with a learning disability (auditory and visual processing), so I have always had to work harder than the average student. I usually don't tell my professors that I have learning difficulties, but since I am starting grad school this fall, I will most likely tell my clinical instructors. I am sure they will be understanding about it. 

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16 hours ago, Moongirl201 said:

Hey everyone!

I recently got accepted to school and I feel so excited! But the nerves are kicking in about school..

I am diagnosed with several mental disorders. I'm not sure how classes are going to be or if I'm going to be able to handle it.

Has anyone gone to graduate school with a disability? How did you manage? Did you get accommodations? 

I'm just worried of my professors/classmates judging me if I ask for accommodations and that I'm also a "slow" learner. 

 

Thanks 

 

Hi OP,

Congratulations on being accepted! I have experience working with a few different labmates that have anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder, I would like to share with you a story to help outline my advice. I had a friend that used to be a PhD student in our laboratory, but recently she went on medical leave in order to sort out her mental health. She came from a lab where she was considered the "go to" person, but when she came to our lab, she was bottom of the totem pole for several reasons: 1) she was new to our area of research, and 2) we have several strong graduate students in our lab so she was no longer the "go to" person. As a person, she was usually really nice, but over the course of a year she developed insecurities, lashed out at people, essentially she created problems out of nothing. I have had several chats with her since her leave of absence, and what it all came down to was that she was stressed out since she thought she was under performing compared to the other students, and this was exacerbated with her mental illness. She is doing better now, but the chances are very slim that she will be returning to our lab to continue her PhD. 

I guess my advice is that depending on your mental illness, you will need to determine ways to cope with the new stresses of graduate school. Perhaps its taking a couple of days off, leaving for some fresh air etc. when times get frustrating/tough....grad school is a fantastic time, but there will most definitely be periods where you are stressed to your limits, and if not, your probably not working hard enough ;). Finding ways to remove yourself from situations that may cause conflict with your supervisor or labmates is crucial...and taking care of yourself first is the most important thing. Do what you need to do to stay mentally healthy and enjoy :). 

As far as you being a "slow learner", it sounds to me like you are selling yourself short. You got into grad school...that is proof that you are capable of learning at a high level! In my opinion, you shouldn't ask for accommodation or special circumstances from your lab mates and supervisor...you are one of them now, you are a grad student. Mental illness or not, everyone learns at a different pace....every time you step into a different room at school, tell yourself that you are going to be the hardest worker in the room and you'll do great. 

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Posted (edited)

On 5/9/2017 at 11:32 PM, Moongirl201 said:

Thanks everyone!! :) 

This is my second time going to grad school (first time was in a different field). The first time around I chose to self-disclose my chronic illness to my advisor/professor because I thought it would be good for them to know "just in case." I thought it was smart to be as open as possible. Unfortunately there is a stigma associated with my condition and telling my advisor about my illness was the worst decision I made in grad school. They told me I may not be able to continue because my condition was a liability. I had to get documentation from my doctor, and I finished the program successfully but it was harder because I self-disclosed and the professors made me jump through extra hoops.

This time around, I am going to go through the disability office and make sure I have protections in place before I share my disability with a professor again. If you go through the disability services office, they will give you a letter stating your accommodations, but the letter does not share your diagnoses. It is up to you how much information you want to give the professors in addition to the letters.

Maybe I just had bad luck, but I thought I should share my experience. I'm not saying it's smart to "hide" your disability, but I think it's good to make sure you are registered with disability services (or whatever it may be called) BEFORE sharing anything. :)

I know I will need accommodations during grad school this time because my medical problems are a little worse now than they were a few years ago. But I'm going to go the official route this time. I encourage you to do the same to have the protections in place before you share with your professors.

 
Edited by angela4

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Posted (edited)

Yes. I have struggled with mental health issues, but it has not affected my ability to study and pursue higher education. I am not saying it never will but the way it manifests for me since childhood has never hindered me from succeeding in school. But just to say that it is hard, but it's possible. 

Edited by Adelaide9216

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But I must say that I live with a high anxiety level on a daily basis. I still function and manage to do everything I need to do and I even go beyond, but I'm an anxious person especially when it comes to school and my professional life. Ironically, my anxiety makes me work harder because I am terribly afraid of professional failure. I have very very high expectations for myself and I am an overachiever. I know it is not always healthy but that's how I've managed to cope with a lot of trauma in my life so far and I guess it's healthier than drinking (which I don't do, by the way) or doing something that could be terribly self-destructive for me. 

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I think if I attended grad school full-time that I would develop a disability. Stress and I just don't get along, and a heavy workload is stress. This is why I'm hoping to to get into a program where you can switch between part-time and full-time. I need that cushion for sanity.

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On 5/13/2017 at 0:36 PM, angela4 said:

This is my second time going to grad school (first time was in a different field). The first time around I chose to self-disclose my chronic illness to my advisor/professor because I thought it would be good for them to know "just in case." I thought it was smart to be as open as possible. Unfortunately there is a stigma associated with my condition and telling my advisor about my illness was the worst decision I made in grad school. They told me I may not be able to continue because my condition was a liability. I had to get documentation from my doctor, and I finished the program successfully but it was harder because I self-disclosed and the professors made me jump through extra hoops.

This time around, I am going to go through the disability office and make sure I have protections in place before I share my disability with a professor again. If you go through the disability services office, they will give you a letter stating your accommodations, but the letter does not share your diagnoses. It is up to you how much information you want to give the professors in addition to the letters.

Maybe I just had bad luck, but I thought I should share my experience. I'm not saying it's smart to "hide" your disability, but I think it's good to make sure you are registered with disability services (or whatever it may be called) BEFORE sharing anything. :)

I know I will need accommodations during grad school this time because my medical problems are a little worse now than they were a few years ago. But I'm going to go the official route this time. I encourage you to do the same to have the protections in place before you share with your professors.

 

I am so sorry you had to go through that with your previous profs/program but thank you for sharing this. I have been wondering about what to do in this area and this is pretty convincing to go to disability services first. 

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On 5/15/2017 at 10:57 PM, foreverschwifty said:

I am so sorry you had to go through that with your previous profs/program but thank you for sharing this. I have been wondering about what to do in this area and this is pretty convincing to go to disability services first. 

Thank you. Unfortunately sometimes even the most opened-minded, well educated people (like professors) have prejudices and preconceived notions about people with certain disabilities/medical problems. I was shocked that things happened the way they did, but at the very least it's helped me learn how and when to share (still working on it though...:) ) I have a doctors appointment in a few weeks and will ask them to fill out the documentation for academic accommodations. I'm a little self-conscious about asking for it, but I think it will be for the best in the end.  I hope everything goes well for you!

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Posted (edited)

@Moongirl201 @jmk @Speechster @Kslptobe @Adelaide9216 @foreverschwifty I would love to have a small private group or forum for grad students with chronic illness who are starting this year. Would anyone be interested in being a part of one? Maybe a Facebook group with a discreet name, or a group on another platform? Or even just a facebook group chat on messenger?

Edited by angela4

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This is a topic near and dear to my heart. I suffer from mental illness and had to medically withdraw from this semester. I plan on returning for Fall 2017.

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Posted (edited)

I live with severe anxieties. They're so bad that at times, I cannot get up from my desk or walk out of the classroom. It was so extreme that it prevented me from finishing my degree years ago. I managed to seek help and eventually returned back to school. 

Ive learned that professors are not out to get you, they want to see you succeed and they'll do anything to accommodate students who care about their education. Beginning of every semester, I set a time to meet with them and let them know about my mental health. I take my tests privately and away from my classmates which offered me opportunities to ask questions and get extra help if needed. I meet with them often, talk about assignments/projects and how I'm doing so far....it's all about communication. The more I opened up to them, the more they understood my anxiety and this "fear" I lived with everyday. The more I got to know my professors, the better my grades got. Do not be afraid to be vulnerable.

Good luck!

 

Edited by Louly
Grammar

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@angela4 I wouldn't mind joining a group on Facebook! It would be so helpful to have support from others during the time we start school! I'll pm you

thank you everyone for your kind words. I got the courage to ask for accommodations and recently got accepted to get them. Now I'm feeling the anxiety of telling my professors about those accomodations. :( I think what I'm more worry about is failing my classes but I shouldn't be thinking like that.. 

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What kind of accomodations do schools make for people with mental illness disability?  What is the benefit of reporting yourself as such? I'm asking for myself because TBH I'm more afraid of negative consequences of identifying myself as having depression than I am of not doing so.

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Has anyone had experience with dealing with chronic pain and reporting it to disability? I currently have some intense pain in my wrist/forearm and I am worried that all the typing that will be required will cause more pain and I won't be able to keep up with reports, notes, etc. I'll be working with an OT all summer to get me ready for school but she mentioned if I still have pain I can ask for accommodations. I REALLY hope I don't have to and hope that my wrist will get better by August but just wondering if anyone has gone through something similar?

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13 hours ago, tonguelover said:

What kind of accomodations do schools make for people with mental illness disability?  What is the benefit of reporting yourself as such? I'm asking for myself because TBH I'm more afraid of negative consequences of identifying myself as having depression than I am of not doing so.

You should be able to go to your university's website to find out some of the accommodations they offer for people with mental health issues. I know my school's disability office has a list of different types of conditions and what accommodations might be helpful for those conditions. I also found that emailing the student disability office was really helpful in getting my initial questions answered about privacy and why/why not and how to register. I haven't done anything official yet but they've been very helpful. You might try emailing your schools disability services to find out more! 

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Posted (edited)

10 hours ago, tvl said:

Has anyone had experience with dealing with chronic pain and reporting it to disability? I currently have some intense pain in my wrist/forearm and I am worried that all the typing that will be required will cause more pain and I won't be able to keep up with reports, notes, etc. I'll be working with an OT all summer to get me ready for school but she mentioned if I still have pain I can ask for accommodations. I REALLY hope I don't have to and hope that my wrist will get better by August but just wondering if anyone has gone through something similar?

I know there was a section of my school's website about accommodations for injuries. Maybe it would fall under that category. Worth looking into!

@Arcanelady27 congrats on starting back up again! That must have been really tough to have to put things on pause but you have to do what you have to do for your health. I hope things go great for you in the Fall.

@Louly that's awesome that you've had good experiences working with your professors. I'm not as good at communicating my needs the right away.

Edited by angela4

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14 hours ago, angela4 said:

I know there was a section of my school's website about accommodations for injuries. Maybe it would fall under that category. Worth looking into!

@Arcanelady27 congrats on starting back up again! That must have been really tough to have to put things on pause but you have to do what you have to do for your health. I hope things go great for you in the Fall.

@Louly that's awesome that you've had good experiences working with your professors. I'm not as good at communicating my needs the right away.

Good to know. Thank you so much!

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I was diagnosed with severe depression and PTSD.  I am not diagnosed with any attention problems because I have never brought it up with a therapist, but I do think I have a lot of problems with attention or auditory processing that have been getting worse.  I think it's probably due to the depression...maybe...

I am about to start my second year of grad school.  Honestly, the first one was alright.  I can't say I was happy, but this is the longest period in a while I haven't had a panic attack, weirdly enough. I feel like my heavy work load actually distracted me from thoughts that would trigger my mental health issues.  However, sometimes my depression flares up for no reason and motivation is tough to harness.  I stopped taking medication for almost a year, but I think it's about time to get back on it.  I did not contact disability support services, but that is really not a bad idea at all.  

I also know to go easy on myself.  I'm not going to be 100% energetic all the time and awesome at everything, and that's okay.  A lot of us SLP students are real perfectionists.  But there is no need to be a perfectionist in grad school.  You're in.  Grades are not nearly as important as they once were.  Just focus on learning, and don't work so hard that you sacrifice your health.  

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On 6/7/2017 at 8:20 PM, eggfish said:

 

I also know to go easy on myself.  I'm not going to be 100% energetic all the time and awesome at everything, and that's okay.  A lot of us SLP students are real perfectionists.  But there is no need to be a perfectionist in grad school.  You're in.  Grades are not nearly as important as they once were.  Just focus on learning, and don't work so hard that you sacrifice your health.  

That's great advice. Best of luck to you. I met with disability services and they seem  like they really just want the students to have all the tools they need to succeed. Meeting with disability services really helped me feel like I wasn't "alone" in the educational process and that someone will be there for me along the way. I don't think it would be a bad idea to talk with them about what you've been dealing with and see if they have any advice. 

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