Tuesday, January 11, 2011

01/11/11 Thirsty with lots of 1's... D1SAB1L1T1ES....

Disabilities, OK?
I goddamn hate disabilities.

Sometimes, the student silently slides that page to me on the first day of class. You know the page. The page from XYZ Disabilities Office that states, "You MUST accommodate this student or else you will get fucked.... The student must be allowed to eat licorice while taking exams.... The student must be allowed to use a Crayola Crayon to write his papers...."

Other times, the student doesn't have that page from XYZ Disabilities Office, but it becomes apparent that the student has a disability. And I mean, wow, does it become apparent. Mental illness, hello! Social phobia, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, substance abuse, and wiggity nutso things they don't have names for.

Q. Describe your worst experience with disability (your student's, not yours).

A. We're not judging anybody here. Yes, yes, crazy people are people, too. Fine. Just be honest.


  1. This is not my worst, but I had an incredibly shy kid who didn't speak the entire semester. Finally, on the last day, he spoke. And he could not stop laughing after that. Nervous laughter. For the last 35-40 minutes of the class. Yes, certainly better than pissing his pants or mowing down his fellow students with an AK-47, but distracting nevertheless.

  2. CC, 100-level required "technical literacy" class. 20-year old without a driver's license, prone to inappropriate comments at inappropriate times.

    No accommodation paperwork, so I can only describe him in lay terms: "awkward and twitchy". Told me he couldn't complete some of the online activities because his mom restricted his access to the Internet. I probably shouldn't have, but I invited him to have mom call me, so I could confirm that he indeed had to go online to complete all the work.

    Nice conversation. She told me there had been "issues" in high school with his online activities.

    Honestly, I didn't want to know what they were...my imagination is active enough.

    He bombed the paper, but got through everything else and left with a C+. Which meant he did better than some of his non "awkward and twitchy" classmates....

  3. I've come to have more compassion with students with disabilities, because I've had enough now who weren't abusing the system, as is far too common, and did have legitimate disabilities they were working hard to overcome. The best was a blind student in my intro astronomy class. She did her term paper on radio astronomy, and the collection she put together of radio and other phenomena that make sounds when played through a speaker was so cool, I can still barely stand it.

    What bugs me more are the students who seemingly enjoy being ignorant and thoughtless. They have no excuse.

  4. I actually don't have too much problem with students who have real disabilities; our uni's office does a good job of handling all the accommodations.

    The ones who make me want to throw them into a wall are the ones who, after the semester is over, use "I have a disability" as an argument in their grade-grubbing. Needless to say, it's always the first I've heard of it, and I just assume it's a lie.

  5. Like Froderick, I have compassion about students with disabilities and I have dealt with a few and don't quibble (even though no one can tell me the nature of the disability, unless I can see it). Unfortunately, some folks try to invoke this with paperwork. The following is not my experience, but is my wife's (dear Lois) from last semester:

    Suzy Student gets a 60 on the final exam and ends up with a D or a F for the class. Due to her program's requirements, she can't get any lower than a C+ in this class. Lois can't give (or "find") Suzy any additional points because her final average is so low. Suzy either has to retake the class or not graduate in the Spring.

    [I should note that (a) a number of people do poorly in this class, but (b) this is really the equivalent of middle school math (but in a college setting). If you saw the tests, you'd think: "Is this college work?"]

    Well... Suzy's Helicopter Dad(!) called the Dept Chair to fuss. He went on about the cost of re-taking the class. THEN.. he decides to tell the Chair that his daughter has a learning disability.

    Suzy is a senior. She's never been to Disability Services for ANY of her classes (and is an average student in her GPA; not great, but not bad).

    What does the Chair do? To his credit, he doesn't completely freak out. He DOES make the student take the class again (in the Spring), but waives tuition for the class.

    The Dad goes away and the student has to retake the class (with actually someone less sympathetic than dear Lois this semester). Burden of proof for special accommodation is now back on Suzy and Helicopter Dad.

  6. I put it on the syllabus and make it clear on the first day of classes that any student requiring an accomodation must present the documentation from the appropriate office on campus. I also let them know that if they choose not to avail themselves of such, they don't get a do-over. You'd be amazed at how many students who fall into such categories try this approach.

  7. Ditto LH, it's on the syllabus. I smile my earnest smile (the same one I use when I tell them that I can't let them make up the exam, it would be UNFAIR) and say "I want to help. And to be fair."

    Worst was assuredly the kid that I've described on here before...the one who had both a learning disability and an unspecified "mental illness" that prompted him first toward awkward comments, then too much talking, and finally claims that he could read my mind. I began to get seriously creeped out and called the appropriate office. They told me that indeed, his behavior was creepy, but they couldn't do anything about it since he "hadn't actually TOUCHED me."


    So, one of my friends met me at the end of every class to make sure that I didn't get stuck in the room alone with him, and I got the coach of my student-athletes to ensure that they showed up a teensy bit early for class again ensuring I wasn't alone with him.

    I learned through the grapevine that he beat the crap out of two other kids (not in my class) and is now institutionalized. Awesome.

    I have my own kind of crazy, but it has not generally interfered with my classroom performance. On the other hand, after reading this I am now marginally more grateful that I am unusually tall for a woman and somewhere on the width spectrum between "jacked" and "heavy."

  8. I think this stuff is actually getting better. I think now it's like 60% BS where as 5 years ago it was 90% BS.

    My most memorable are the ones who actually need the accomodations but don't know it.

    About three years ago, day one, taking attendance, I got to "Sean". "Sean" repeated "Sean's here. Sean's here. Sean's here. I'm Sean. Sean's here." without stopping for at least a full minute.

    Two summers back in one class, and again this past term, I have a "kid" (mid 20's) who must be autistic or something (my son is autistic, so I mean that literally). He used to get out of his seat and walk up to the board with his notebook in his hands to copy the board. He wouldn't take notes on what I was saying or what he thought I was saying or what he thought he needed to know. He would LITERALLY COPY THE BOARD. If there was a chalk-skid line in the middle of a table, he'd make a skippy skid line on his version too. If I erased with my fingers and left finger prints, he'd scribble similar sized (to scale) smudges on his notes too. It was spooky. He doesn't do that anymore and I don't know how it stopped. It was pathological and at his age, I figured whatever his problem was, it had been managed as best it could be. But something changed since then. He is still totally bizare, he still takes things literally, he still asks daily if I got his... (then takes us through a history of assigned work for the term). He's the nicest student I ever had but he was so weird and frustrating. I was literally counting to 10 in my head and taking deep calming breaths while he did whacko stuff so that I would say "Can I help you with something?" instead of "What the fuck is wrong with you?". I did lose my patience with him more the first time I had him. And each time I was sad for the rest of the day because he was so nice. I guess he's used to driving people up a wall, so it never phases him when someone freaks out on him.

    The WORST are the ones who don't qualify and don't even trick the system, they try to game you without even using the system to back them. They just tell you "I am supposed to get.... but they don't have my papers." What? You mean you are lazy and you've convinced yourself you have ADHD and a doctor has specifically told you that you don't, so you are entitled to nothing, but you want me to know about your delusion. Great, thanks for the info. I used to think I'd be a great veterinarian because I love dogs. How about you let me spay your dog and I'll let you have the accomodations you think you need. Oh, what? You want real documented qualifications? Ok, that's fair, then me too. Fuck off liar.

    So this semester it was... we'll call her Shelly. She did fine. She was a low B student. She probably could have been a high B student if she spent 10 minutes more a day doing work than trying to avoid it. She was smart, but clung to this hope of being special. I think maybe I'm glossing over the fact that she must actually be suffering from M√ľnchausen syndrome if she's willing to let her grades slip in order to carry on about her supposed LDs. But as she turned in each and every quiz/exam she said "I'm supposed to get more time. Can I come back?..." and I'd say "RTFS (without the F). You have to speak to [the person in student services]. I can't take your word for it." and she'd reitterate "They were supposed to do it." what? that doesn't even make sense "But they don't have my transcript from high school." well who the fuck's fault is that? Over and over and over. What did she think was going to happen the fourth time she tried this? I was going to say "Oh, yeah, ok, that sounds good. I always said no before, but today I just feel different."????

  9. I find your attitude toward students with disabilities very disconcerting. Your mockery of the legal requirements is astonishing from a person who works in a profession that requires compassion. The law is in place not to penalize *you,* but to level the field.

    Sure, some students abuse it. Sure, they won't have these accomondation in the 'real world.' But, they deserve compassion, not mockery. "Eating licorice" indeed. I hope that you never lose one of your faculties.

    My own experience is that students who require extra help either don't ask for it, or work twice as hard. I teach at an open door college, and my classes run the gamut. I also face many students with serious issues and coping with them has taught me to avail myself of my disabilities office and Dean of Students.

  10. Buddhagrrl, it's quite clear the discussion is rally about students who lie about being disabled. Your effrontery is uncalled for, or at least misdirected. Where's the disgust for the liars who gum up the system by scamming it about being disabled? Students with real disabilities tend to follow the scheme that you described: either don't request the help they require or work twice as hard.

    The one "disabled" student story that always gets me is about a student I'll call Chatty Cathy. Chatty Cathy seemed like a typical freshman. At first she seemed interested and engaged in class, always attended, took notes. Then she and her buddy started having side conversations in the back corner. LOUD conversations. I reprimanded them both but that usually just escalated their behavior to VERY LOUDLY passing notes. The chatting, giggling, and then loud note passing got so bad one day I yelled at them to knock off the juvenile behavior, which led to Chatty's buddy openly exclaiming that I apparently didn't like him anymore! (Because of course it was personal in his snowflake mind)

    Thankfully, Chatty's buddy started skipping, which is when I started seeing Chatty's real issues. She complained about everything. She didn't know what common words meant. She had me repeat content because she didn't take good notes. All of this wasn't much of a problem for me because at least she was on-topic. Whenever Buddy returned though she was off-topic, often asking irrelevant questions, or questions on a topic covered while I witnessed her chatting or note-passing or giggling.

    Cathy's grades slipped (and Buddy's went off the rails...he barely passed with a D). She developed a pattern of openly complaining about me being to blame for harshly grading her assignments. She even tried to whip the class into a frenzy over a very simple assignment she did partially wrong. She once started yelling at me about her grades, as if I had anything to do with er not reading the textbook even though I reminded everyone to do it before the test.

    Then, near the end of the term, she made the "But I have ADD" claim. No paperwork from her despite a clause in the syllabus stating college policy she inform me at the start of the term. Nothing. To me, she was just a C student who thought she wasn't.

    In retrospect, I think there was something wrong with her. I think she was a Ritalin Kid, a slightly derogatory nickname for kids whose parents refused to teach them how to behave and instead pumped them full of drugs. I am betting, like many young adults her age, she was trying to ween herself off the meds but had absolutely no social training on how to control herself. This is all a guess based on case studies I have read, but she seemed to fit a pattern.

    In the end, she had no paperwork, tough. I am not qualified to diagnose and treat her. I am also not responsible for her grades. She was disruptive. She was impertinent. She was a C student (based on her work, much of it done outside of class when she had weeks to do it). But was she ill?

    Oh dear God, yes. There was something wrong with her. But did she deserve accommodation? I bet not. There seems to be a streak of delusional students who cannot grasp they have a lack of ability nowadays, and I find it VERY troubling. We can't accommodate them all, can we?

    And don't get me started on the obviously disabled students who refuse to self-identify ad work with the school for proper accommodations BUT then wants us to just raise their grades when their experiments of not getting accommodations fails. Those are the saddest cases of sink or swim I've ever witnessed.

  11. As a person with a disability, your attitude is precisely the reason why I hid mine for much of my college career, making my academic life much more difficult than it needed to be, making every assignment fraught with the potential for humiliation, and making it nearly impossible to seek help when I desperately needed it. I am glad you've confirmed for me that I chose the right course in hiding my disability rather than opening myself up to judgement from ignorant profs completely lacking in empathy or common decency.

  12. Those of us at CCs and open-admissions universities get to deal with a special kind of disability issue the rest of you probably don't see much: the profoundly intellectually disabled. Specifically, we get significant numbers of students who are mentally retarded, severely learning disabled to the point of being on the borderline of MR, and afflicted with extreme behavior disorders. They all have their shiny NCLB diplomas, so we have to admit them.

    They test into our lowest level of developmental coursework and can also take PE courses. Most of them come with multi-page accommodation letters. It's not going to matter. Nothing is more frustrating as a professor than to go into a classroom week after week knowing that you have 3-4 students whom you are not only not going to be able to teach but who also are going to impede the progress of the students who are capable of learning the material and using it to advance. It's not the students' fault, but when there is no aide in the classroom as they had in K-12, the proffie ends up devoting a great deal of time and energy to attending to special needs rather than teaching content. We do the best we can, but we're not special ed teachers.

    These students would likely benefit from basic ed or life skills classes. We don't offer them because the state won't reimburse us for the contact hours. The community doesn't offer them anymore because they are too expensive. So we continue with the charade of "educating" the students. Often it's the parents who insist we do so, either because they want the child out of the house for awhile or they hold the delusion that their child is "in college" and is somehow going to graduate. I know some of them benefit from the socialization, but that's very expensive service on multiple levels.

  13. @vidaveritas I know you feel like this post is some kind of attack on you, but the truth is, it's not. The vast majority of profs want to help students who have disabilities and want to do well. The problem is that we are often hampered by policies about what we are allowed to know about students's disabilities.
    Some students use this to game the system, others think there is no value in discussing their learning with the prof. I have had students tell me "Just give me my extra time, you are not qualified to talk about my learning" when I have tried to engage them in a private conversation about what I can do to help them learn my course material.
    I have also had many, many students who think accommodations mean that the prof has to do whatever the student asks - excuse late work, accept poor work, pass students who do no work. Accommodations are meant to level the playing field, no excuse the student from learning the material.
    Sure, there are students who work really hard to overcome their disabilities, and who make us all as professors feel really happy that we had the opportunity to teach them. On the other hand, there are snowflakes with no documentation for disabilities who say, at the start of a mid-term "I'd rather do this test in a computer lab because it would make me more comfortable".

  14. The shy kid I mentioned was a great kid. I'd be glad to have him in class again.

  15. You're right. I should forgive blatantly offensive ablism because sometimes people try to misuse a flawed system. I mean, as a student and instructor with disabilities, I obviously shouldn't try to share my experiences of how these sorts of attitudes have far-reaching implications for students with disabilities beyond being a mild annoyance for their instructors. They couldn't have any sort of value at all for informing this discussion. Nope.

    Read back over the comments on this post and imagine how you would feel if they were talking about students of color, or women, or individuals with a physical disability? Would these comments be appropriate then? That makes me feel queazy, imaging the kind of hate and disrespect that would represent. Why are they considered appropriate in this instance?

  16. FF, read the opening lines of the original post:

    "Disabilities, OK?
    I goddamn hate disabilities."

    This sort of attitude by a teacher that is then directed toward people who have a disability is dismaying, to say the least. I can only imagine how a student in this class must feel.

    I am not arguing that all students are honest about these resources; I am just pointing out that such an attitude is ...well...reprehensible.

    I totally agree with Vidaveritas.

  17. If Bubba gets a doctor's note, will you forgive his "reprehensible" opinion based on his real, lived experience as a professor?

    After all, the note is sacrosanct, no?

  18. @Buddhagrrl & vidaveritas

    I appreciate your frustration, and yes, anger.

    I am curious though. Given your personal experiences, how do YOU respond when someone comes to you -- failing to have utilized proper channels/procedures -- and demands accommodation?

    When you KNOW this student doesn't have a legitimate disability but is just a jagoff too lazy to do the work and is looking to game the system?

    It would be nice if every prof came to class with a full complement of common decency and empathy. Unfortunately that all too often has been depleted by dealing with people who abuse the system and sap the proffie's time and energy from doing what s/he is there to do -- teach -- instead requiring it be used to dance the dance, play the game, defend the standards.

  19. Do you guys have any idea the documentation involved in getting those letters?

    I am pissed off at this kind of skepticism. Just because you can't see a kid's disability doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

    Come on, people. It's not like it's still 1968. Stop judging like maniacs and just smile at the accommodation.

  20. If Bubba gets a doctor's note....

    I do have a doctor's note. Got it a long time ago.

    And, yes, Buddhagrrl, I do hate my own goddamn disabilities. I hid them throughout my education, for the most part. I was tempted to ask for accommodations, but never did.

    Now, I accept the notes from the disabled students, provide them accommodations, don't ask for any explanations, and don't discriminate.

    But we're not in the classroom now. We're in CollegeMiseryLand. And we're commiserating about fucktardedness and exchanging stories about joy and sorrow and so on.

  21. I am most frustrated not with the students, but with the schools that refuse to support them.

    It's really no problem for students who come here knowing they have a disability. But if you are a returning student who did poorly before but thinks you'll be better now that you've matured, the situation is quite different.

    These people probably know that there's something wrong, but they can't afford the testing (one center around here runs something like $2000) and grants and other money to pay for that testing is in such high demand hardly anybody can get it. Then add in the 2-4 month waiting time....

    Plus we're not really supposed to discuss it with students. So you think the student might have an honest problem, they think they are just "dumb," and they can't afford it if you DO manage to legally have a very awkward situation.

    Twice I've helped students apply for (and get) funding for testing. But the entire process was so long they usually had to drop out or be readmitted after they failed everything. It's HORRIBLE.

    There's nothing worse than really wanting to be able to help somebody and being told there is nothing you can do over and over and over again. With the proper accommodations these students can and do succeed. But if they're thrown out before they can even get them wtf are we supposed to do?

  22. Here's what I do, since this seems difficult to grasp. I say "I'm very sorry. If you are having problems please come see me at my office hours and we can address problem areas. The tutoring center, and student support services are excellent resource, as are your classmates. If you need specific accommodations you need to talk to student support services, because there are things I can not do for you without the proper documentation." You know, do what you would do for all your "normal" students. Offer to meet with them, direct them to outside resources, act with compassion and empathy. If they don't take your suggestions, then that's their own problem and treat them like any other kid. Teaching isn't just about vomiting knowledge at kids and expecting them to parrot it back, it's about modeling behavior for the kinds of grown ups they will become. If you can't treat your students with compassion and empathy, let someone else do it. I need the job.

    Despite what you might believe, actually getting documentation is difficult, sometimes very expensive, and often fairly humiliating, it's not something you can do on a whim because you've decided that you don't want to study anymore. If someone gives you a letter, believe the letter, they've had to go through a lot to get it and they need the help they're entitled to.

  23. When I was a TA, I had a few ADA students. They were all great -- hard working, pleasant, etc. Good kids, and I hope they did well.

    I haven't had any ADA students in my online courses. The ADA office doesn't fuck around; if a student says something like, "I have ADD" or "I just got out of the hospital," I'm supposed to tell them about ADA and also report them myself. All the times it has happened, I've never had a student come back with ADA paperwork. I don't know if they were all lying or if the process was very long (as My Little Proffie points out it can be), but in an online setting, I have no way of knowing who is telling the truth or not. Without paper work that says otherwise, every one gets the same chances, no different from when someone tells me Grandma died or the power went out.

    I dated a guy who had discalculia. He was very smart, but even Math 101 was super difficult for him. The process and testing to get this established took forever, and he eventually dropped out of school (for a second time, after dropping out because of math previously). I felt bad for him -- he would have been a very good History major. At the same time, while he was struggling through math, he never went to the tutoring center or saw his prof for extra help. What can you do then? He didn't need to tell his prof about his issue, but he could have at least went in and said, "I need extra practice with Chapter 5."

  24. I already tried to post this but it went astray, so here is an abbreviated form of what I would appreciate if you would consider a much more scathing response.

    Here is what I do, since this seems to be so difficult to grasp. I say "I'm sorry. Please come to my office hours if you would like to address any particular problems. The tutoring center and student support services are excellent resources, as are your classmates. Unfortunately, without a letter from student support services, there's very little I can do with regards to particular accommodations." You know, I treat them like any other kid coming up with a problem-point out resources, offer encouragement, and be compassionate. If they don't take your recommendations, not your problem, treat them like you would treat any other kid. Teaching is more than just spouting out information and having kids parrot it back, it's about modeling behavior that will make them decent human beings. If you can't treat your students with compassion and empathy, let someone else do it. I need the job.

    The process for getting that letter is actually fairly difficult, often very expensive, and sometimes pretty humiliating. I imagine it would also be pretty hard to fake a diagnosis. It's not something you can bang together at a whim because you got a C+ on a midterm. If someone gives you the letter, respect the letter. They had to go through a lot to get it, and what it says they need is what they need.

    You're mocking people with disabilities, is the thing I just don't get. How is that funny? That's not stress relief, it's cruelty.

  25. Buddgagrrl, imagine for a moment that you are one of the housekeeping staff at a hotel. The vast majority of the rooms you clean go like this: empty the trash, change the sheets, spray the shower, clean the toilet, wipe the counter tops, and vacuum. One room on your route has trash everywhere. Pillows are missing. The toilet is clogged and the shower curtain looks like it has been used as TP.

    You look at that room and think "I hate bachelor parties." It's your job to clean the room. You know it's your job to clean the room. Most days you wake up and go to work with a smile on your face. You do your job with love in your heart. But you don't get "combat" pay for nasty jobs like this. The occupant of this room could have done a lot to help you. Putting the trash in the waste basket and calling down for a third roll of TP would have cut your time in the room dramatically. Not to mention eased the ick-factor.

    Now the occupant. Turns out it wasn't a bachelor party. It was a overwhelmed mother with identical triplets. Two ran amok while the third had uncontrollable gastrointestinal problems. The ill one was covered in sick and wiped it on everything in the bathroom. The mother was able to clean all but the shower curtain. The pillows she took to keep the sick kid comfortable. The trash ... well it looked much worse this morning.

    The actual facts of why the room was trashed doesn't make the cleaning job any more pleasant for the housekeeper. Biohazard clean-up isn't in the job description but somehow it falls within housekeeping's jurisdiction. It requires extra time, extra care, and in some situations extra rules/laws. And at the end no extra money, no more recognition, nothing as much as a "Thank you."

    That's how some accommodations can feel. You design a course to meet specific objectives. You plan certain projects for particular reasons. You go to great effort to combat cheating.

    Then some doctor with no knowledge of assessment theory in your area, no understanding course objectives, no understanding of learning outcomes comes along and recommends accommodations which conflict with the vry nature of the course itself.

    Now you find yourself giving up lunch to provide a "distraction free testing enviroment" to a student who keeps asking questions which amount to "what is the answer to this problem?". You are giving double time on a start of class define-this-new-vocabulary-word attendence quiz. Allowing formula sheets on a have-you-memorized-the-formulae quiz. And allowing calculators on no calculator tests, which has problems that can easily be solved by a graphing calculator.

    I feel like there is very little room in the system for professorial discretion. You can't tell a student "I'm sorry but this particular accommodation can't be used in this circumstance since it conflicts with the nature of the assessment." If I ever said that to a student, I'm sure I'd be a prime target for "hate" evals or worse involved in some legal process.

    The disability office and the diagnosing doctor aren't qualified to determine what accommodations are appropriate in my specific course. To imply otherwise is absurd. It is also ridiculous to think that what is appropriate in a math class will be appropriate in a writing course.

  26. I will say this: people who struggle with disabilities also struggle with the real problems. People who call out ADD without documentation (or, in some cases, shoddily produced documentation by over-eager parents) rely on it as an excuse.

    As someone who has a severe yet invisible disability, I take the presentation of these accommodations as a teachable moment where I can encourage disabled students to take this opportunity to show how much more dedicated they are than "normally" abled students. And that each victory for them is a double victory.

    But I teach the whiners as the whiners they are, documentation or no.

    I just don't make the judgment of hard worker or whiner until I've gotten to know the student individually.

    I'm still a little pissed off at this thread.

  27. I am on the fence about the whole disability issue. On one hand I completely agree with giving a leg up to those who need it and can succeed if they have it. On the other hand at what point is a students disability "beyond" (for lack of a better term) the point where we can set them up for success? By this I mean at what point are we teaching them to expect accommodations an employer will not give them. I know they are "supposed" to accommodate also but let's be realistic, if given the choice between a new employee who can work independently or one who has to rely on a note taker to process information in a staff meeting who will they hire? It sucks to see the cold hard reality but they are there and that leaves us between a rock and a hard place.

  28. @Buddhagrrl, Vidaveritas, and Academic Monkey: You took the words right off my steaming keyboard. All it will take is one stroke, one bad fall, one (gods forbid) gunshot wound to snap these bigots out of it. But why should empathy require experience? Do you have to live in Haiti to feel compassion for homeless people with cholera?

    @Aware and Scared: I appreciate your empathy.
    You said: "I am curious though. Given your personal experiences, how do YOU respond when someone comes to you -- failing to have utilized proper channels/procedures -- and demands accommodation?"

    I refer back to the syllabus, where the proper procedure is in a box on page 1.

    And for those who have mentioned disruptive students with mental disabilities, ADA precedent says we may hold troubled students accountable for their behavior even if it is caused by a disability. Report it early and often; calmly but firmly dismiss the student every time it happens. You MIGHT help the student get help faster; you WILL help rest of the class learn more.

  29. NCLB or not, Why on earth are mentally handicapped students trying to get a degree? A student with an IQ of 75 may very well have a wonderful, productive, useful, and happy life, but they're not getting through my capstone course.

    As for me, I've been teaching for a quarter or a century and the students that always gave me the most trouble were never the students with accomodations plans. It was the "normal" students, and students that might have needed (or CLAIMED to need) accomodations plans but didn't have them.

    The crazies never had accomodations plans. Those with accodmodations plans weren't crazy. And I've never seen a case where an accomodations plan asked me to do anything that I felt unfairly advantaged a student. They needed more time, food, whatever. There was never a demand that I change the test format, or the questions, or make an in-class test take-home. I've never been asked to alter the standard of behavior for the class, or any class policy whatsoever.

    So...(shrug). The big problem I see is that despite accomodations, some students will never be able to master college work. Graduating from college is not a right, like a handicapped spot. But of course I see this most amongst my students that don't need accomodations. Many are just not smart enough to get through.

  30. My most memorable story is from a large state school in a large lecture class. We were holding a mid-term with a small flotilla of GAs. One of the GAs went to check on a student in her separate, distraction-free room. She wanted a clarification about the following test question.
    Etruscan basket-weaving facilities were built in which of the following shapes?
    A. Square
    B. Rectangle
    C. Pentagon
    D. Circle

    Andrea Accommodation wanted to know what shape a pentagon is. The GA told her, "That is something you should know." Her response was, "Are you making fun of my disability?" The GA said "No" and made his exit.

  31. Academic Monkey, you said:
    "I am pissed off at this kind of skepticism. Just because you can't see a kid's disability doesn't mean it doesn't exist."
    While I might take on faith that the student has a disability, but according to university policy, I CANNOT make accommodation for a student until I see official documentation, which in my case means talking to the student and signing a form. If the student doesn't get me the form, then regardless whether the disability is visible or invisible, I can't give him or her special consideration.
    I feel like people in this thread who are attacking others for ablism need to understand the distinction between personal feelings and procedure. Maybe it is hard to get documentation, but doesn't there have to be a diagnosis of, say, a learning disability? Giving accommodations to anyone who simply asks can't be the answer, either.

  32. @crazy math professor. Professionals who write the letters to qualify students for accommodations are not just pediatricians who deal with strep throat one minute and ADHD the next, they should be specialists whose entire practice consists of students with disabilities so they DO know about classroom modifications and how they work with the learning objectives. Secondly, you should really question whether you are using Universal Design for Learning. Why do students need to memorize a formula? As long as they demonstrate why the formula works, how it works, shouldn't that be the objective? Perhaps you need to re-examine whether your objectives are appropriate rather than complain about giving a student extra time to complete something.

    @Stella from Sparksburg in order to be considered intellectually disabled (mental retardation) you must be two standard deviations below average in IQ and also score as delayed in adaptive behavior (daily living skills like dressing, bathing, feeding, toileting, etc.). The standard deviation for IQ is 15 (2 SDs = 30) and the average is 100 so an IQ of 75 is considered part of the "normal/average" range of intelligence. That individual has every right to go to college. If they do not pass classes and graduate, that is on them, but an individual above an IQ of 70 is not considered disabled and has probably never received specialized instruction or assistance.

    Community college professors who are not skilled in special education strategies should ask for consultation from the Disability Services center on campus, OR all professors should learn about designing courses that are accessible for ALL students. Special Education is really just good education. When people say "I'm not a special educator" they are basically saying "I'm a shitty teacher."

  33. Since my last 2 or 3 replies seem to have either been lost, blocked or deleted I don't have much hope for this one to get through, but here goes:

    @WhatLadder-I am not saying that you should make accommodations without proper documentation. What I was addressing was specifically the part where the op was actually complaining about being forced to make accommodations for people with documentation. 'The page from XYZ Disabilities Office that states, "You MUST accommodate this student or else you will get fucked.... "'

    Kids lie and scam and grade grub and generally try to get away with all sorts of things, and will use whatever excuse they can latch on to, but a kid with a documented disability, who had gone through the proper channels, should be respected for taking responsibility for their own education, not mocked for their disability.

    It is just astounding to me that after reading the rules of this community that this level of what basically amounts to hate speech about disabled individuals is being allowed to continue. I guess I thought a group of academics would be a little more sensitive to the profound and disturbing level of bigotry and intolerance lurking in this post. Live and learn, I guess.

  34. I agree with WhatLadder. I can't excuse a personal crisis without a note from the counseling center indicating that the student was there, or a death in the family without documentation, or a medical emergency without a doctor's note. My job is not to diagnose, sympathize, or judge; it's to make sure the work gets done. I do think it's offensive to say you hate disabilities, but I don't think it's offensive to say that you hate students who make unreasonable demands without documentation.

  35. I’ve had a range of experiences with “Accommodations.” Some of my best students had the documentation as have some of the worst. I posted here earlier about an Asperger’s student who was driving me crazy interrupting and making rude comments. It got better after I went and talked to the disabilities people and the class went well.
    What bugs me is the students with documentation who seem to want the class handed to them on a silver platter. “I have ADD, please give me a word bank for the test.” A word bank? What is this, 5th grade?!!?! “When I get bored I’m going to get up and leave. I’ll come back later.” !!!?!?!?!?!??? Sorry kid, accommodation is meant to level the field, not to give you an advantage or let you act like you’re in playschool.
    Then I had one student who I really didn’t think was smart enough to be in college. He passed my intro class because he turned in a really good term paper. I honestly don’t think he wrote it himself. It wasn’t plagiarized according to TurnItIn, but it was light years beyond his classroom comments or his essay exams which read as if they were written by grade schoolers. I couldn’t prove anything, and as an adjunct I am wary of boat rocking.
    I was diagnosed with ADD when I was in my 30s. Learning work-arounds and various tricks and tools helped me immensely in my job. However, sometimes when I see my ADD students ask for all sorts of accommodations I think “suck it up kid. I got through grad school with good grades dealing with ADD and you can too.” But then, I did without a computer as well. Is it fair to tell students “sorry, you can’t use spell-check because I didn’t have it!” ?? At some point “I didn’t have that help so you can’t either.” morphs into “Damn kids, get off my lawn!”
    So what’s the end result? Yeah, I think SOME learning disabilities are really just immaturity. The real “disability” is sometimes hovering, smothering parents who are stifling their little snowflakes. But, other disabilities are quite real and will hinder a good student. So kid, if you got the paperwork, I’ll do my best to level the playing field for you. If you don’t have the paperwork, go to the LD people on campus. They’re very helpful. Meanwhile, part of me is going to wonder just how well you’re going to do after you get out in the “real world” if you haven’t learned to cope on your own.

  36. This comment has been removed by the author.

  37. 1. WhatLadder nailed it--we're not allowed to give accommodations without documentation.

    2. Just because you have a disability doesn't mean you can't be every bit as much of a slacker as a non-disabled student. It's a condition, not an excuse.

    3. The reverse is also true--a student with accommodations may excel.

  38. Psychopath Student will remain for me a marker of things going horribly awry with accommodations, because I was in fact in danger, as were my students. The office that was charged with helping us (and PS) told me that until he actually harmed someone, they couldn't do anything.

    I wonder what it was like to be him, too...did he sit in class thinking "Geez, I might flip out and hurt these folks?" because that must have SUCKED for him, too, if he did feel that way. That's horrible! Imagine having to police yourself all of the time like that!

    However...when the end of term came, my boss didn't seem to give a shit that I spent five days with a migraine. Five. Have you ever had a headache for five days? A headache so bad you wanted to kill yourself to make the pain stop? Yeah. Well, apparently neither the department chair nor my registrar have had one of these, because they damn sure wanted their grades on time.

    Hmm. This may not be relevant. I'm just still angry about what it felt like to be sitting in a dark room with sunglasses on entering over 200 grades into freaking eCampus.

  39. The worst experience I had was with a student who had a traumatic brain injury (believe me it was apparent). He jumped through all of the right hoops, met with the right people, and brought a letter to me discussing his 'approved' accommodations from the XYZ Disability Office. The only thing I was technically allowed to do was give him more time on the exams. Really!? The poor kid could barely deal with the bright lights in the classroom sometimes. Of course, I worked with him a bit, but I could not believe how this incredibly nice, kind kid, who had a legitimate disability, that never asked me for any special treatment, did all of the right things, and got literally nothing from the system. It still incredible to me, considering how much special treatment and support I am asked to give athletes by their coaches, their academic advisors, their tutors, and the list goes on.

  40. @tzena: How about you try teaching a student whose reading level clocks in at second grade (we have no developmental textbooks below 6th grade reading level), a student with epilepsy so severe she has absence seizures on average every 12-15 minutes (along with no short-term memory), and a student who has some kind of disability which causes him to pace through the classroom aisles and mutter all in the same class with 20 other students who just need "regular" remediation at around 6th-8th grade level? Then you can get back to me about how shitty my colleagues and I are.

    We've talked to support services. Their counselors tell us they know some of these students should not be here and that we are going through the motions with them. We do what's legally required. Some of us go beyond that. We know how to get support to work with students with learning disabilities as well as hearing, visual, and mobility impairments. But this ultimately we are trained as teachers and disciplinary specialists for students whose abilities range from college-ready to underprepared. The latter assumes there is a chance that one can become prepared. The kinds of students I'm talking about are not ever going to be prepared. They will never make it to Stella's capstone class. They will never make it out of the lowest level of remediation unless they get someone who feels sorry for them and bumps them up. Often they retake the same courses as many as a dozen times. But in your eyes, I guess all 36 of those developmental English, math, and reading professors are just shitty.

  41. @EnglishDoc I only said that teachers who try to use the excuse "I'm not a special ed teacher" to explain why they didn't even try to modify their curriculum for a student with a disability or refused to means they are a shitty teacher. It sounds like you are doing a great job of modifying as best you can with sub-par support from your university. Therefore, you do not qualify as one of the shitty teachers. Its those that try to get out of teaching anyone who is not a "good at school" type person by saying, "I'm not a special ed teacher" that I have a problem with. You're not using that excuse, I felt that CrazyMathProf and Stella were. I think the overall message of this thread is that higher ed disability services offices need to provide more support for students with emotional and behavior disorders and Asperger Syndrome. This is so relevant considering that Jared Lee Loughner was kicked out of his community college for mental health concerns but no one got him into treatment.

  42. This comment has been removed by the author.

  43. EnglishDoc, I wonder if you and I work at the same place, in the same department. I couldn't have said it better. Thank you.

    tzena, I don't think you understand what's really happening in the trenches.

    I'm an English teacher. I teach students to become better readers, writers, and thinkers. There are other skills I hope they pick up from my classes, too, but that's what I was trained to do--teach English. I was hired to teach English. I am operating under the assumption that I am, in fact, an English teacher.

    Say that LD3C loses its mind and assigns me to a chemistry class. I was not trained to teach chemistry. I was not hired to teach chemistry. If I'm put in charge of a chemistry classroom, the best I can do is to teach writing, and reading, and critical thinking skills.

    Does that make me an English teacher or does that make me a shitty teacher?

  44. @whatladder and others

    There seems to be an expressed issue with students who have the proper documentation, but are stuck with asshole professors who have no sympathy for their situation.

    The hotel analogy nails the bs that differently abled students have to deal with. A dwarf if not a toddler. A blind student is not akin to explosive diarrhea.

  45. There are never good accommodations for people with Dissociative Identity Disorder. Yes there is. No there isn't, shut up. YOU shut up! TAKE IT OUTSIDE!!

  46. @Academic Monkey: I feel your pain. No, really. This is kind of like that Supreme Court dude who said he couldn't define porn, but he knew it when he saw it (and I bet he saw lots of it).

    Lots of dwarfs are offended that you implied that they are inherently disabled. Just like many people in the Deaf Culture do not consider themselves disabled at all. Don't ask me to define "disability" because I'd do a worse job than that Supreme Court dude.

    On top of that is the fact that far fewer kids from the south side of Chicago have the appropriate psychiatric diagnoses than do kids from the Upper East Side. It' about money and culture and lots of other things. Not simple at all.

    I just wish I could get the Supreme Being to issue me a Universal Accommodations Page that I could show to anybody in any situation around the world. I want to be accommodated all the time by everybody. I deserve it, don't I?

    @Anastasia: I once gave a student with DID six different final grades. All of the alters were appropriately satisfied with their grades. In the interest of respecting each other and not violating FERPA, I asked each one not to tell the others her grade. Little did they know that they all received the same grade.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.