Succeeding Despite Invisible Handicaps


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(Comment by Al Siebert: This letter from a college student with mental problems that I counseled is a useful reminder to instructors that some students have invisible handicaps that they may not reveal. "Gil’s" letter also shows that some "challenged" students show amazing resourcefulness and courage in their determination to succeed. Here is his letter…)

Well, I believe I met you in January before I started my Spring semester at the University. I really enjoyed meeting you, and our discussion definitely left an positive impression on me. Fortunately, the semester went very well. I maintained a 3.5 GPA in my classes: Financial Accounting, Microeconomics, Computer technology, and a Music Master class. Essentially, the semester was basically a process of discovering what tools were available to me, how the professors thought about special situations, and just generally exploring my options.

Your book The Adults Guide to Survival and Success suggested that the student should find/form a study group; and I strongly agree. In my particular situation, I was new to the school and had somewhat of a learning disability, so I was aware of the challenge before me. I was actually frightened, because I didn’t know how professors would think of my being a "disabled" student, and what my peers would think of me needing a tutor. On top of all this, I am a 23 year old sophomore, so I feel a little out of place already.

I was fortunate to meet an adult student in one of my classes who was in his 30’s, and had learning disabilities. He was also working toward the same degree, so that brought him to my attention when I was in the tutorial center. Moreover, we became study partners, and maintained an A in the class. All the questions, fears, and stereotypes I had about being a "disabled" student, I shared with him. He gave me direct honest answers from his experiences. It also turned out that he had the same professors I was taking at that time. By having a study partner (with the same goals as I have) to talk about your fears, questions, etc. alleviated much stress that I would have had if I didn’t make contact with him to form a study group. Furthermore, we both met with a tutor twice a week, and the professor saw us both as devoted students. We both earned an A in the class.

A method you mentioned to me was to record the professor’s lecture via a cassette recorder. I cannot express how much tape recording the professors’ lectures has helped me. Especially when you have a 11:00 am-12:50 p.m. class. We all know that not one of us can pay attention for that long, in fact, I can only retain 60% of the lecture on a good day. Sometimes my attention slips for a second, and I lose the point the professor was trying to make. I thought I could make up for it by reading the chapter at home, however, when test time came, there was material that I didn’t take notes on. Then I brought a cassette recorder to class, and recorded the entire lecture. I listened to it in my car on the way home, and when I got home. I find the spots I lost myself on, and rewind-stop-rewind-stop-etc. until I understand what the point the professor is trying to make….and professors always love to hear their own words sung back to them on a class essay! So I would suggest to any student to record the lecture. Thanks to exploring the services available to me, and being exposed to useful study methods/skills in your book, I fared well this semester.

My illness was still present during last semester. It affected my ability to concentrate, think clearly and logically, and I felt like an automaton at times. However, as the semester progressed, I became better at suppressing the symptoms. Currently I’m still working on suppressing the symptoms, and I am becoming very confident.

I hope you can find a little something in these paragraphs that will help others…

"Gil Meyers"

Posted with permission.

Author: ASG Kristin

Editor of Adult Student Guide to Survival & Success