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You might qualify for accommodations in class.

School and Bipolar Disorder? How do you do it? Please share your experiences, your victories, and even your disappointmens. We understand how hard it must be from high school to college to grad school. Hope you can share with us and find the support you need.

by evidenceoflife » Thu Jun 22, 2017 12:26 am

I've never really been able to attach the word "disability" to my bipolar. It is sometimes disabling, of course, but to me disability is a different thing. SO when I was having trouble (for the thousandth time) finishing a semester this past fall and trying desperately to brainstorm ways I could salvage anything, someone mentioned out of nowhere that I might qualify for disability services (aka some form of accommodations in the classroom) at school.
I don't even remember who mentioned it to me, whether it was my counselor or one of my professors, but someone said something and I was furious and elated all at once.
How had I been struggling for four and a half years with college, reaching out for help at every possible point and not one single person mentioned I might qualify in that entire time? No one ever did.

Turns out I definitely DO qualify and YOU MAY TOO.
Talk with your counselor, your pdoc, or directly with disability services or the counseling center at your school. Don't let them wait four and a half years to tell you about it.

For reference, if you don't know what they could offer you (I didn't know), they gave me helpful things like...

-preferential seating so I can choose to sit wherever I need to (I tend to like to sit in the front rows, unless I'm gross and depressed and then I get suspicious when people sit behind me and that's distracting, so then I need to sit in the back row)

-separate setting and extended time for quizzes, tests, exams, etc. (This is unbelievably helpful because I'm 6-week-old puppy level distractible if I'm even an inch away from stable so solitary confinement is nice. And in the same way, my brain is either mushy molasses or zooming and both make me slow at finishing things.)

-lots of breaks (so I can get up and leave class without notice whenever I need to without being penalized for it--if I need to run around the building a bit so I can sit still or I if just need to get out and cry or eat something quickly, then I can.)

-early registration (This gives me the freedom to choose classes that fall within my peak productivity hours as much as possible, so if a class I need is available at multiple times, I can choose a section that's most close to evening and I can also choose a section that meets for shorter classes more often.)

-some note-taking help (This is kind of vague. I haven't looked at the wording on the paperwork in awhile, but for me this means that I can request that a professor writes the assignments on the board, on a paper, online, anywhere instead of just saying them out loud because I'm not great at following verbal instructions. Half the time I'm so zoinked I don't even hear that there is a change in assignments, much less what it actually is.)

The lovely woman at disability services who wrote my letters to professors also put in a note about absences. The college doesn't allow disability services to excuse absenteeism, but she did write in a note to alert professors that sometimes that's how it is with me and that gave professors the chance to make their own decisions. I had some professors who wouldn't budge on absence policies and others who were very flexible.

I know they also offer things like recording devices if you're missing large parts of the lecture because you're unable to focus or you're slow to process. They can order adapted pens and things if your meds give you significant tremors. They offer a note that says you can keep water with you all the time even when it's not allowed by your professor, in case your meds make you dry as a riverbed. Basically, if you have a consistent problem with class because of your bipolar or any of your meds--you name it, they probably have some kind of accommodation for it.
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by hal » Thu Jun 22, 2017 5:06 pm

This is very helpful, e. Thank you.

I had an autistic student in a writing class a few years ago. His advocate was very active in keeping me informed and urging understanding. He was an interesting kid: I remember an essay he wrote about paint balling. Unfortunately, he dropped out before the end of the term.
. . . all times I have enjoyed
Greatly, have suffered greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone.
-- Tennyson
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by Steponme » Thu Jun 22, 2017 5:49 pm

I get extended deadlines for all of my assignments and individual tutors available for me if I need them. Also, I get to take tests in a separate room and with no time limit. I've communicated with my professors about my symptoms and we come up with a plan if I have a bad week, or if I need to go to the hospital.

I have suggested to a friend that she should consider going to the disability office as well. I have another friend who doesn't have an illness, but she still gets accommodations with tutoring.
Don't let your rubber ducky convince you that the world is an illusion after spilling pickle juice in you car while speeding down the highway trying to catch up to a pack of cows.
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by evidenceoflife » Fri Jun 23, 2017 9:41 pm

Hal, I'm glad you found it helpful! All kinds of disorders qualify for assistance. Autism, anxiety, bipolar, OCD. So many! When people think of disability services, they often only think of white canes, wheelchairs, and sometimes ADHD--and that's just not the whole picture.

Also, Steponme, I'm so glad you suggested it to your friend. She is lucky to have you around. What disability services told me initially when I wasn't sure about it all is that it can't hurt to check it out. It's confidential and costs nothing. And your other friend is a good example! If there's something that that hinders you in the classroom, whether you have a diagnosis of any kind or not, you can probably get help from DS.

I just want everyone to know that it's an option. It's crazy that people don't talk about it more.
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