Friday, October 30, 2015

Grad School Accommodations

I've worked - as an instructional assistant, substitute teacher, and full-time teacher - in schools for a little over 7 years. In that time, I've come to see that different students have different needs. For students who receive special education services, they have a legal document in place called an IEP or an Individualized Education Program. It basically lays out the modifications and accommodations that the school and teacher must comply with in order to meet the student's needs.

But, IEP's only apply to K-12 education. There are no IEP's in college or graduate school. However, many colleges do have an Office of Disability. And colleges can't discriminate against students for any disability the student may have.

I don't know how I found out about accommodations at the higher education level, but this summer I sought out the Office of Disability at my grad school to find out about what I am entitled to. Yesterday I finally followed up with them.

I brought a letter from my psychiatrist stating that I have a mood disorder and am under her care. And I had a 30-minute intake meeting with a staff member to discuss my medical and school histories. She determined that the two accommodations that would suit my circumstances best are extended time on 1-2 assignments per class per semester and 1-2 excused absences per class per semester. I knew about extended time as it is one of the accommodations some of my students received. But I was unaware of the excused absences.

I'm grateful to have been approved for these two accommodations. But in all honesty, I'm hoping that I won't need to use them. When I'm stable I can produce work. It's when I'm in the midst of an episode that I would need the help.

I really needed the help the first time I went to graduate school (for my Master's in Education. I'm now in school for my Master's in Social Work). I was depressed and could barely get out of bed to make it to student teaching and my seminar class. I did no work for my seminar class at all that semester; in fact, I didn't finish that work from fall semester until the spring semester. But at this time I wasn't diagnosed yet. I was just acting erratically. I didn't know what the problem was. I just knew I wasn't myself and I couldn't focus long enough to get my work done.

I'm hoping to make it through this grad program without enduring an episode. My program is three years long, so here's hoping. I say that because I have been manic and hospitalized every spring for the past three years. Three hospital stays in three years is a lot.

Despite that history, I'm hoping to stay stable. Thereby not needing the accommodations. But if I need them, they are there. I can't tell you how much peace of mind this brings me.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

I'm Not Crazy, I'm Creative

I've always been a writer. But only recently have I taken an interest in other types of art. Two summers ago I took a drawing class. It was fun. And a year ago I attended a drawing class at MOCADA (Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts) in Brooklyn. The class was taught by artist Shantell Martin.

When I was in DC last summer I bought the following clutch from one of the Smithsonian Museums.

And during one of my hospital stays we had art therapy. We made collages. Here's a collage a fellow patient made. I liked it so much so he let me keep it.

Here's the collage I made. I had both collages framed.

Here's what they looked like on my bedroom wall.