College and Special Needs
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College and Special Needs
Has anyone experience with invoking the ADA (Americans with Disability Act)
for a college student for mental issues so the university will work with
the student appropriately to obtain a medical leave of absence without
triggering a re-admit process (UC)?
Some background: the student was experiencing academic stress due to
problems managing a pre-existing sports injury (couldn't sleep due to pain)
and was prescribed antidepressants by the health system. He had a serious
reaction to the drugs. He's now off all the drugs they prescribed, but this
resulted in some long-term mental issues (impaired concentration, emotional
difficulty) and very poor school grades, so he left school to recover.
Now he's working full-time at a challenging job and rebuilding himself, but
he's afraid the university will see his poor GPA and say ''Sorry Charlie''.
He needs time to heal and would like a medical leave of 1 year. He's
currently insured by his employer. What to do?
Most, if not all, colleges have an office of disability services. This is
the office that arranges for or facilitates adaptive technology, extended
time on tests and other accomodations for students with physical and
other disabilities. This could be one place to start - make an
appointment and speak to them by phone or in person. Another option would
be to call the deal of students directly and speak with them. As long as
there is some documentation of disability they should be reasonable.
They are usually more familiar with handling physical disabilities but
the psych stuff comes up not infrequently. If you run into difficulty it
might make sense to have a legal consultation or at least consult with a
You should contact the campus Disabled Students office and they should
help you -- give you guidance and support. If not, contact Disability
Rights Education and Defense Fund (510) 644-2555 for help and/or further
Dear Need Advice,
Wondering if you are this student's parent, friend or what your
relationship is. Generally the college will deal directly with a student
if they are over 18, or with a parent if the student is under 18 or has
signed a waiver for the parent to communicate with the school on the
student's behalf. It is just part of privacy laws today.
In our experience working with one UC campus ''ADA'' was not needed for a
medical leave. Qualifying for a disability under ADA is an involved
process, each UC Campus does have a service department for ADA and as
colleges go I think each school in the UC System does a pretty good job.
However having a one time incidence may or may not qualify as a
''disability'' and you may be overreaching.
If he needs a medical leave work with his Dean of Students office as soon
as possible to find out his current status, and what are the steps to
follow. Probably the longer he takes off the more process involved. We
had no problems when our student took a one quarter leave and resumed.
How did the student leave University? Did he drop classes or just leave?
There is a process to leave ''cleanly'' due to personal or medical
emergency so that needs to be addressed. Again the Dean of Students is
probably the best place to start. You will find the contact info on your
school's website or his enrollment packett if you went to Orientation.
The Dean of Student's secretary or administrative assistant will likely
also be the first person you talk to. Be prepared to take some notes when
you call to get the information down.
Also read the school's website since their leave policies, procedures and
forms are most likely all online. Generally they will also ask for
doctors' or therapists' letters to confirm the need for medical leave.
It may also be okay to take time off for employment, so if that is really
what is going on, check the website. Many students take time off to work
and return to school. I have known ''ten year'' students all my life,
though it is not the easiest way to finish a degree, it works better for
Again you won't know the answer to these questions unless you refer to
the school administration itself. This list can only provide anecdotes
and even if a UC advisor were on this list I doubt they could comment
specifically on a private student matter.
Good luck and think positive, most of the school administrators at the UC
level I have worked with are very professional.
Hope for the best
My 16 year old daughter is visually impaired and struggles with
regular math and biology. Is there some college in CA that might be
suited to him? I have heard of Hampshire and Evergreen but am
wondering about some college in California that would be more
affordable yet offering a different approach to education?
I wouldn't discount Hampshire. My son goes there and loves it. He received significant
financial aid so it costs less than the UC's for us. He also has a physical disability and
learning disabilities and, although it is not an easy school and he works very hard there, he
has received the support he needs there as long as he asks for it. UCSC seems to be the
closest match in California, at least for what areas my son was interested in.
My 17-year-old daughter, who was recently diagnosed with rheumatoid
arthritis, will be heading off to an East Coast college this fall. She
now has trouble with small motor skills and with lifting/carrying
heavy objects (she's lost upper body strength now that she no longer
has full use of her hands). She also isn't supposed to use alcohol
because the drugs she's on put a heavy load on her liver. We're
figuring out day-to-day accommodations at home but I'm wondering what
kinds of challenges she'll have to navigate when she's on her own at
college. She won't be able to carry stacks of books from class to
class, keys and light switches can be problematic, and I'm worried how
the winter cold will affect her. If you are or have been in a similar
situation (with a college-bound child with RA, lupus, MS, or any other
chronic condition that affects energy and mobility) I'd really
appreciate hearing from you.
I had a few suggestions for you.
I am not sure who her pediatric rheumatologist is but they should be
able to give you some of the information.
Off the top of my head from dealing with other disorders in college.
1. she needs to contact the disability office asap for accomodations
2. she may need to be on a first floor of a dorm if it is a walk
up. A letter from your doctor to the housing office or disability
office will help.
3. does she need a special bathroom? does she need assistance with
dressing and bathing? That depends on the degree of arthritis.
4. how does she do with cold and severe heat? She may need a dorm
with air conditioning
5. may want a dorm near the gym because exercise is important with
6. Disability office can help with providing note takers if she is
unable to write or type fast enough. Sometimes they provide tapes
of the class.
7. can she do lab science? PE requirement? etc
8. may be able to deduct cost of computer for college since
essential for her health status.
9. electric blanket?
10.she may need driving to classes from security with flares. Most
schools have this with a golf cart sort of thing.
I would also suggest you log on to College Confidential website and
ask the exact same question in the Parents cafe discusion section.
My 19-year-old son came home from his second year of college to say
that he experimented twice with Adderol, which made him
feel ''normal'' and able to prioritize and focus -- for instance, able
to outline and plan a paper, instead of panicky writing down
multiple related thoughts, whatever came to mind, and trying to
connect it up later. Now he wants to get officially diagnosed as
ADHD for a mild prescription to improve his concentration. He's
setting up the medical appointment. I'd just like to know if this
sounds weird to others, and what I should do.
No professional ever previously said he should be tested for ADD or
ADHD. His temperament is spontaneous and a little careless, though
he can work hard. He's always been energetic, spirited, physical,
verbal, easily bored (even bored with video games!), with a short
attention span, but he did very well in HS and college. He loves
people and has great guy friends, but has only short term
girlfriends. He also smokes pot and drinks alcohol, I hope
moderately (maybe an addictive personality-- maybe self-medicating--
maybe a typical frat boy). Any thoughts?
My child, a sophomore in College, was recently diagnosed with ADD. It
is while in college that a student realizes that his/her learning
skills are different from others: doing work at the last minute,
having ''too many thoughts'' that prevent focusing, inability to
organize work, and related anxiety. Have your child tested. If he is
benefiting from Adderall in the way he says he does, he might very
well have ADD.
Parent of an adult ADD
It's a common misconception that people who have AD/HD don't do well in school. In
fact, many do, but at a heavy price. AD/HD makes it harder and more stressful to do
many things, including academic endeavors. It's a great idea that your son wants to get
a professional evaluation instead of self-medicating or ''borrowing'' medication from
others. If it turns out that his suspicions about himself are correct and he gets good
treatment, he will have a much easier time living up to his full potential and he stands a
good chance of having many fewer problems in his life. There is a new book by Russell
Barkley called Adult ADHD, What the Science Says, which is the bible of research on this
condition in adults. Check it out of the library if you want to know how it turns out for
adults with the condition. It sounds like your son's life has been working pretty well so
far -- but life gets more complicated as people get older and the toll taken by AD/HD
can be harsh. Education is the first, and one of the most important, steps you can take
to be helpful to your son. There are lots of readable books about adult ADHD! You can
find them through the website of chadd.org. Good luck!
would love any feedback on appropriate(comfortable fit) colleges for
my soon to be senior daughter. Her special needs relate to her ADD,
OCD and resource support. She wants to stay in California and loves
theater, but excels in math and science. We hope some type of
mentoring program will help assist her academically and emotionally
when she is nervous or sad far from home. She has liked UCLA, USC,
Redlines and UCSB. However we live in Orinda and think sometyhing
closer might be better. thanks very much!
Hi, The schools you mention are all really large schools. I would
think your daughter would do much better in a smaller more intimate
setting where she would have small classes and have a good one-on-one
time with her teachers. For that, I think you are looking at private
schools... Check out all the privates in the area. Her school
counselor should be able to recommend some to you. If you are thinking
as far as the LA area, consider Whittier. Or in the other direction,
even though it's not in CA it's about as far on the plane, Lewis and
Clark in Portland. Depending on your income level, all schools give
financial aid and the privates have more grants and scholarships to
give in this day and age!!
I work at UC Berkeley and we have a pretty good Disabled Students
Program for students with emotional problems like ADD and OCD. We
have just hired a psychologist to work at DSP in addition to the other
staff. My son went to UCSD; he had several learning issues and
auditory processing, auditory memory. The disabled program only had
about 45 kids out of 25,000 in their program. They refused to help my
son after we had additional testing done twice at their suggestion.
We gave up.
There is a book on disabled programs that colleges offer. It varies
quite a bit from school to school.
Can anyone who has been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD as an adult give me some
idea of what kind of professional you approached to arrive at the diagnosis?
and what kind of help was recommemded? drugs, strategies, etc. I have
checked all the web sites, heck I wrote one for my young child who has ADHD,
inattentive type. I need help for a young adult now who just feels unable to
concentrate for long periods of time and just feels she doesn't "get it" the
way others do because she somehow misses key info. She skated through BHS,
now college is proving a serious challenge and she sees the difference
close-up (dorm living) between what she can do and what the other kids seem
While I was in therapy it became apparent to my
therapist and me that my husband has ADD. It took
time, but he finally went to a psychiatrist (Dr. Wm.
Dickman, (415) 922-9492 in SF). After meeting with
both of us three times and filling out questionaires,
he was diagnosed with ADD and given medication. We
met a number of times since then to adjust the
medication. This can be a long, frustrating process.
Dr. Dickman suggested other therapy. We finally
started marriage conseling about a month ago. I hope
this leads to my husband getting individual therapy
with emphasis on ADD, but he hasn't agreed to this
yet. Most professionals I've talked to about this
suggests that you need the combination of medication
and therapy. In some ways it's not only
phsychotherapy, but occupational therapy helping him
cope with the consequences of the physical disorder in
handling his day-to-day tasks. I know one brave woman
who is coping with just behavioral changes and no
medication, but I don't know how she manages. Again
it is a long, hard process. We have been working on
it for almost a year now. We've come a long way, but
have a long way to go. I wish you luck. If you want
to talk, please contact the moderator and I am happy
to talk with you directly.
My husband was diagnosed with ADHD about 2 years ago (he's 48 now).
As with the young adult you mentioned, he went through life feeling
like he "didn't get the whole picture". He was diagnosed by Dr. David
O'Grady in Walnut Creek (phone number is 925-256-9696). O'Grady is a
Ph. D. (psychologist or psychotherapist, I'm not sure) so he can
diagnose and make recommendations, but he can't prescribe meds (you'll
need to go to your primary care physician for that). I do think that
he has a good approach to how to deal with ADHD and better organize
your life. His wife, Dr. Susan O'Grady is also a counselor and
specializes in ADHD. They have offices together.
My husband has been on medication since he was diagnosed and says they
help him focus somewhat better (meds don't work for everyone). He
also has seen a counselor, in conjunction with his medication. I
think combining counseling and medication has the greatest impact on
ADHD, or so I've read, but it is a personal decision the individual
must be comfortable with.
As I understand ADHD, a consistent daily routine is the best approach
for stabilizing the symptoms. Any change in lifestyle makes daily
tasks more difficult. I'm guessing your friend is a freshman, which
in itself is enough to make you feel like you "don't get it"! We also
have a daughter in college (sophmore), so I know the experience can be
very overwhelming. Please tell her she's not alone! If your friend
would like to talk more, she's welcome to call or email me.
Last year, I was diagnosed with a significant weakness in the area of
auditory processing, as well as other strengths and weaknesses
determined by a series of varied assessment tests. I was referred by
the Disabled Student's Services office at UC Berkeley to Reach for
Learning, on Marin Ave in Albany. The testing agency's phone number
is 510-524-6455, speak with Corinne Gustafson, M.Ed., CET. Following
the testing series, Ms. Gustafson provided me with a report that
included; specific information on the evaluation, general educational
suggestions and strategies, and other recommendations. Good luck to
the young adult you write about.
Learning differences and ADHD are different creatures. However, the Schwab
Foundation has bunches of resources and ideas for adults with learning
differences. You can reach them at the 1660 South Amphlett Blvd. Suite
200,San Mateo, CA 94402,+1 (800) 471-9545. Maybe she can gain some
learning and organizational skills that will help her handle all the
material she has to process and learn. It can be done!
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