Disability

What I don’t get is why the Disability Office conceals not only the nature of a student’s disability but often even the existence of a disability. I discovered today that a certain student who’s been difficult has a disability. If I had known this from the start and known what it is (which I still don’t), I would have used a completely different strategy with the student.

I have no idea what the justification behind the concealment is. That a disability is shameful? That professors would be mean to people once we discover they are disabled?

9 thoughts on “Disability”

    1. Response to “Disability”

      This is very strange. I was always told about the existence of a disability. How else could I have known that alternative arrangements were needed for the student in question to take a test, for example?

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  1. Not sure how it works in the US, but here in Canada very important information is not shared in an attempt to follow the very confusing Privacy Laws.

    In our Elementary School, we are all able to access information about students with medical conditions that could be life threatening (allergies, asthma, seizure disorders, etc). But information about mental health issues, or disabilities that could cause learning issues are not readily accessible. It is getting better, but still an issue.

    I can only imagine how much worse it is in Post Secondary where students are adult (or considered such if not yet of age), and we do not want to violate their privacy.

    In my opinion, informing those involved in your teaching of your disability (and perhaps some strategies that you know work for you), can only be a good thing. You don’t need to go into every little detail about your diagnoses and daily activity, but just what relates to your school life.

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    1. Exactly. My close friend almost died because she never informed anybody in class she had epilepsy and during a seizure well-meaning but uninformed people put her on her back.

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  2. a couple o times I’ve found myself getting angry at or frustrated with students because I thought they were being…. difficult or irrational and then finding out there was a health related reason and my frustration instantly evaporated and we were able to work out ways around it.
    In one case I told the student they should tell every teacher about their condition because there was a lot of misinformation going around “Just because you don’t tell them doesn’t mean they’re not talking about it, better get accurate information out there” They did and their situation improved a lot.

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  3. At my school, the student is required to initiate the contact with the professor or sign off for the disability resource center to notify all of their professors – maybe your student didn’t do this? Some students will get tested but then decide not to disclose, or only to disclose for specific classes. Also, from what I understand he DRC is only allowed to tell you what accommodations are required, not to go into to detail about why they’re required.

    We have a boilerplate statement in the syllabus about all this, and I always add to it something casual like, “I’ve worked with students with all sorts of disabilities over the years, so definitely feel free to let me know what your situation is.”

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    1. Yes, I think I’ll do this. The reasons for confidentiality / secrecy are well meant, and are I guess needed in context.

      When I worked in California and Oregon they would tell you what the disability was, to help you figure out accommodations, but that was because they could count on you not to use the disability against the student. It is hearing. It is sight. It is whatever. It really helps to know.

      Then, over here, at 2 institutions, 1 would keep it secret so you could not discriminate but would also take care of it all, tell you clearly what you needed to do, so, OK, it worked out. Here they do not tell you, but also do not give good enough accommodations, so it would really help to know, but you can tell why they do not tell you, because when they do or you discover it somehow because they didn’t tell you enough, so you have to figure out too much, then it turns out you know too much. If they would just tell you a little more then you could work it all out, but since they are so worried about telling you too much, they do not tell you enough.

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  4. People are so worried about getting sued, or something. On the West Coast when I worked there they would tell you what the disability was — you are going to have a blind student, whatever — so you could figure out what to do for them. Often, the office would have already figured out what to do, but wanted you to know, in case you might decide to show pictures or do anything else visual [for instance], in a spontaneous way. Here … well … they are so worried about violating privacy that they obfuscate. Really obfuscate.

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