Speak up for academic empowerment and success
As the new school year approaches, I want to share some of my own experiences in education. Navigating a school with a disability, especially higher education, can lead you down a confusing path.
From a young age, I knew I would go to college. I imagined the college to be a beautiful place that was perfectly cultivated for learning. Captivated by the vision I had shaped in my mind, I became puzzled when my teachers, therapists, and doctors didn’t seem to share my dream.
On the contrary, it seemed like they had already predicted my future as one without an agency, and definitely without a college. It’s an understatement to say that when I came to college, I upset the status quo.
As deeply in love as I was with my chosen major, sociology, the rigor with which I continued my studies contributed to the unraveling of my health. I was committed to maintaining a perfect GPA after several semesters of getting A straight.
But I almost exchanged my pulse for the diploma I had dreamed of all my life. Don’t blame me for ignoring medical advice, because I didn’t. At the time, none of my healthcare professionals seemed to have the slightest idea of the severity of my illnesses. But deep inside me, alarm bells were begging me to continue, because it would be my last dream to come true.
All this to say that it would be easy for me to advise you to listen to your body and recognize the signs of overextension, but it is never so transparent. I did my best at the time, and had a relentless drive to get that expensive piece of paper.
Navigating through college with a chronic illness and a disability is a unique process for everyone. There is no right or wrong way. Don’t compare yourself to your roommates or peers. If you’ve arrived, you’ve already accomplished more than you think. Don’t underestimate your power.
Whether you’re in high school or college, a routine I’ve developed could help you articulate your needs to teachers. At the start of the school year or semester, I always used to send an introductory email to my teachers to inform them of my disability and health needs, as well as accommodation I would probably need it. The teachers almost always responded quickly with gratitude.
I would follow up with an in-person meeting or phone call before school starts to make a personal connection and to talk in detail about how my disability would affect my academic accommodation needs. The personal connection never failed to create a kind of rapport that started the school year with clarity and mutual understanding. My experiences have shown that communicating my needs is crucial.
Cultivate self-representation skills have not only strengthened my educational background, but also my self-image and my ability to stay true to myself in all walks of life.
To note: Cerebral Palsy News Today is strictly a disease news and information site. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a health problem. Never disregard the advice of a medical professional and do not delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cerebral Palsy News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and aim to spark discussion about issues related to cerebral palsy.