Friday, February 23, 2018

Things Professors Have Said...

            We are both college students, and in college we have had both good and bad professors.  Some professors are amazing, while others make you want to hide in your room and never leave your bed.  Sadly, we have had a few of those in the later category.  We decided today to discuss some memorable quotes from professors in both of those categories.  We are not doing this to be cruel, and we are not including any names, or descriptions.  We are doing this to show how tough college can be for those with chronic illnesses.

            These are some things that were said to us over the past few years.  While not all sound rude, or insensitive at first, the meaning behind them are not great.  

“It’s so nice that everybody here [in this class] is healthy”
The first thing you have to know about our class is that multiple people have accommodations and I (Nemo) bring a service dog to class.  We are not the only ones with accommodations, or medical problems in our class.  Secondly, you cannot go around making assumptions about anyone, or any group of people.  Some disabilities, or illnesses are invisible.  Not everyone who is dealing with something is registered with disability services.  

“Does anybody here have oxygen below 96,” “I do, it is always like that though” “Oh, well those people need extra help”
            This occured during a lab where we were learning how to take vital signs.  When sharing our results, this was said to the entire class.  

“Why don’t you stand up and tell everybody what it is like to be disabled”
            If we are being honest here, I’m not sure this is legal.  I mean, confidentiality is a thing, and it is pretty important.  Also, you can’t go around calling out people in class, especially about their medical history.  Also, not everyone is willing to share their life story, and especially not in front of the class.

“Here are your accommodations, but it is up to your teacher if they want to accept them”
            If it is up to the teacher to accept them than it really isn’t an accomodation, it is begging the teacher and hoping for some mercy and acceptance. While this model may work in a school that is disability friendly but our school is now. This makes it okay for many teachers to decide they do not want to be bothered by accomodations and that you will be fine without them. Similarly, to get accomodations from a lot of teachers you have to tell them all of your diagnosis and how it affects you to see if they deem you sick enough. This is again, not legal, teachers are not allowed to ask about what your disability is. While you don’t have to answer, if you don’t answer at this school you will get no accommodations.

“You can’t use your accommodations to skip class and not turn in assignments”
            Newsflash, my accommodations are not so I can sleep in, and not turn in papers.  It’s so I can be covered incase I am hospitalized all of a sudden, or incase a treatment runs over.  I do not want my grade to drop if I am too sick to come to class.  I am doing my best to attend class, I do not want to be penalized if I cannot.  Also, if I do happen to miss class, there is a very good reason.  I am mostly in the hospital, or should be in the hospital.

“I wish I could bring my pet to class”
            All I have to say to respond is really.  This isn’t just a pet.  This is a dog that allows me to be able to be a functioning human being.  He does skills that are needed, because I am not always able to do them on my own.  He isn’t just a cute, and furry friend that I get to take around to school.  He is someone that I need to survive.

“You are so good at advocating for your needs”
You have to be at this school or you get nothing.

“This is the first dog on campus, you are going to make it easier for students in the future”
That is great but who is going to make it easier for me.

“Sorry, all of our medical singles are on the second or third floor of a [very old] building with no elevator”
Not only is this completely inappropriate, but I am not super sure if it is legal.

“You are too sick to graduate, you should change your degree before you fail out, be smart”
            This was said by the head of the Occupational Therapy department, she was also my advisor so I had nowhere to turn to. I just had to sit and listen to her tell me that Im to sick for 20 minutes .This was not based on any logic as I am at the top of my class, this was pure bias and proof that the school does not like students with disabilities. It is very hard to not feel accepted when you are trying so hard.

            These are some things that have been said that are simply amazing.  They are from professors who are truly on our side, and stick up for us.  Without them, we would not be here, and we would not have a chance of getting a degree.

“Oh, you have trouble lifting, that’s fine, let me think about how to modify your skill check and I’ll get back to you”
            This is HUGE.  Skill checks are pass/fail, and our professor could have easily said something along the lines of if you can’t lift, you won’t pass.  However, she went above and beyond to make sure that it was possible for everyone to pass.  As she simply put it, you know your own limits, and you will not get a job that you are unable to perform.

“Why don’t you just type your essay exam and email it to me, I trust you not to cheat”
            We have exams that are ten pages of writing, and I was asked if writing is hard for me because I always bring my computer to class, and I said it was so the teacher asked if it would be easier to just type the exam. This was not an official accommodation so this was going above and beyond.

“Just have Tremors Skype you into class”
This can apply to either of us, however, it was said to me (Nemo). I am sometimes in the hospital randomly or just feeling way too sick to go to class. This professor said that if I am unable to come to class Tremors can just pull me up on her computer and that way I can listen to the lecture from bed. This is again way above any accomodation.

“Just tell me what you need during the semester, and I will do my absolute best to accommodate and work with you”  
            This statement is important on several different levels. Firstly, the teacher is accepting that they don’t fully understand what I need because my disabilities are rare. That is completely fine, I don’t always know what I will need. Most importantly, the teacher said that they are on my side which here is very rare.

“What are your physical limitations, we can put you in a fieldwork site that will work with you, and we are always here for you as well, we will figure this out to make sure that you graduate”
            Fieldwork is required in order to graduate, and fieldwork accomodations do not exist. If I was at a site that was not accommodating (for example running up and down the stairs all day) I would physically not be able to stay. This would mean that I would automatically fail out of the program, and have to pick a new major. These professors understand that there are different work settings so as long as the fieldwork sites have accomodations, I will be fine once I graduate.

“You basically have a full time job, or live a double life taking care of your medical issues”
            Taking care of our health is a full time job, because it is so time consuming.  Between dealing with doctors, clinics, and insurance to name a few, we are drowning in emails.  We are trying to keep ourselves healthy, and alive while surviving an accelerated college program.  Also we do live a double life, because they have no idea we are bloggers.  They know that we are big on advocacy, but they have no idea we created this.  And on a side note, if this professor ever happens to find this, we both say hi, and think that you are amazing.

            College isn’t easy for anyone.  As always, chronic illnesses are things that never fail to make life (at least) 10x harder.  We are working incredibly hard to be able to graduate, and have a future.  All we want to be able to do is live our lives, and have a future.  Some professors make life more difficult, but some are invaluable.  

Just remember...

-Nemo, Tremors and Secret Agent Puppy 

Friday, February 2, 2018

Welcome to the Good Place

**If you want to watch the show The Good Place, do not read this blog post as there are spoilers throughout the post.**

We have been watching The Good Place on Netflix and have realized that you really don’t need to die to experience the phenomenon in this show, it is all around us.  Everyone has heard the saying that college is the best 4 years of your life.  Let’s just say that we don’t agree with this statement. The person that came up with college is the best four years of your life was not trying to get through an accelerated medical program while managing multiple disabilities.
When you tour a college and look at a school they talk about the opportunities found on campus. There are many degrees, beautiful buildings, and organizations for students to engage in and become well rounded leaders. Similarly, the brochure is diverse and always shows students studying on a sunny lawn. I have never once seen a student studying on the lawn at this school (I have seen people sleeping, and watching Netflix, but never studying). Similarly, the website talks about all the wonderful accommodations that are available for students with disabilities. The reality is that there is one person in the disability office, there is no wheelchair accessible single room, and even if there was a wheelchair accessible single that student would not be able to get to any of the classrooms. That is NOWHERE on the school’s website. They show images of students smiling in while having a discussion with a professor who is smiling next to them.  It’s not all smiles when you are called in to a professor’s office to talk about your grades, or what was wrong with your paper.  More often than not, when a student is called to talk to a professor they are terrified. Also, the dining hall food looks amazing online, and during the tours you think it is amazing.  In reality, we are eating the same 3 mediocre meals, and let me tell you it gets old really fast.
The campus is beautiful, there is no denying that. This is why we call our school the fake good place. In a picture when everybody is on the lawn or walking to class they all look happy, but that is not the case. When you start talking to people in the pictures you find out their story. You are likely to hear things like ….
“I am exhausted, I only got four hours of sleep last night”
“I am behind on my homework because I have a full time job to help pay for school”
“I am close to failing my class”
“I don’t have time to go to a study group because I commute two hours a day because    I can’t afford to live on campus”
“The professor doesn’t understand that I am trying”
“I am too ashamed to ask for help, the professor thinks this material is easy, and my classmates understand it”
“I am never going to be able to get a job”
“How am I going to pay back my student loans?”
The list goes on and on
Now, if you have seen the show The Good Place, you know that there is something few know about the neighborhood.  While is looks sunny, and happy, it is actually something else entirely.  It is The Bad Place in disguise, where everything beautiful causes the residents pain and suffering.  While you may now be thinking we are overly dramatic for comparing our college campus to essentially hell, we would like to show some similarities.  

1.     Students are told that everyone is supported in their learning, however, students are constantly academically put against each other for things like graduation cords, honors society, and even a spot to remain in the program.
2.     Students are told that being different is okay, but are failed immediately if they are not good at taking multiple choice tests, or cannot do an essay exam.
3.     Students are told that it is okay to have a disability, but if a student is in a wheelchair they can not get anywhere on campus.  Forget going to certain floors of the building, or visiting friends in the dorms, but technically they are welcome so this is all forgivable in the eyes of the school.
4.     Students are told that their dorm room is going to be amazing, but in reality it is a small room with a broken heater, a leaky sink, and stained curtains.  Forget being able to use the bathroom when you want, because the people you share with are always in there.
5.     Students are told that it is important to find a balance and space out their studying, yet teachers do things like put three midterms all on the same day. Forget balance, when you have to save your GPA. That is when students chug coffee, stay up all night, and in some cases even abuse drugs like adderall. This is because we are told our grades are the most important thing in the world.
6.     Students are ranked by GPA and rewarded when they are at the top, but the reality is that the students on the top have anxiety disorders and go to great lengths to be the best because they think if they get a C the sky will fall. This encourages dangerous habits, and in reality leads in to why college students have such a high rate of mental illness. While teachers say anxiety is bad, their actions are rewarding the students willing to abuse their bodies to succeed in school.
7.     Students are told it is okay to make mistakes, but when they do make mistakes they get punished. For example, many college students drink before they are 21. On some college campuses there is a get home safe rule where students are given amnesty for being drunk as long as they get home safe. This is to encourage students to talk to authority if they friend needs medical attention and to try and prevent assault. At this campus if a student is drunk before they are 21 they have to face the conduct board get written up, and can face further punishment. This leads students to try to hide their friends when they are drunk, even if their friend needs immediate medical attention. This is dangerous because students can die from alcohol poisoning because they were to afraid to get in trouble with the school

            While college looks all happy, in reality there is something darker underlying.  We immediately started drawing comparisons between the “fake” Good Place, and our campus.  This is because as students we are oftentimes not told the whole truth, both when applying and after we get in. I (Nemo) was so excited to go to college, but the stress and competition has made me much sicker than I could have ever imagined.  At first, we both believed that we were in this happy, and exciting place, however overtime we discovered that it was all a facade.  What we thought was something great, and amazing, was actually the opposite.  Now, you may not be in college, but the idea is universal.  There might be something, or somewhere that you think is much more evil than it looks, but no one else sees it.  Know that you are not alone.  Also, if we are still talking about the show, if we have to be in the fake good place, can we please get a Good Janet here, because that would definitely be a appreciated.

Monday, January 29, 2018

College Survival Tip #5: Service Dog in a Dorm

Having a service dog live in the dorm is something that has NEVER happened on our college campus before.  As one professor stated, Nemo is the “trailblazer,” but being the trailblazer can come at a cost. One cost is that almost everybody in the dorm is afraid to ask about the dog because they think it is a hostage situation and that I am hiding him from the RAs. If that were true I would be doing a TERRIBLE job. My door has a picture of the dog as well as a beware of my friendly dog sign. Similarly, the first thing I did when moving into the dorm was introduce the dog to both RA’s. He got his own name tag (Thanks RAs). Similarly, I take him to every class so every teacher (I have) also knows that he is on campus.

Items you need to successfully keep a dog in your dorm room.

  1. A crate - Sometimes you just have to. For example, if I have to go to fieldwork, I need a place to leave him. Also, it gives him a place to call his own. Now, he doesn’t sleep in there, but it still is a place that he enjoys hanging out in from time to time.  
  2. Make sure that people know there is a dog in the room - In this case, there is a sign, picture, and name tag stating that there is a dog in the room.  Also, he was introduced during the hall meeting, so people knew that he was allowed to be there.  If people know that there is a dog in the room, people know that a bark is normal. Also, they tend to be a little bit quieter than they are in other areas of the hall, because they know that a large dog (with an even bigger bark) lives there.  
  3. A toy to fill with peanut butter or another treat that your dog loves - This is very important for when you have a lot of homework or want to leave your dog in the crate in the room alone.
  4. Have a room that gives your dog space to move, or have his own space - Your service dog needs space.  If your room is too small, they will not have room to move, and be a dog.  Not saying that they need room to sprint, but enough so they are not cooped up when they are home.
  5. Dog bones - Your service dog needs a treat too at the end of the day.  This can keep him/her busy when you are doing homework, or even provide them some entertainment.  Just make sure that they know the limits of
  6. Dog food and bowls - This one is pretty straight forward, dogs are alive and therefore eating and drinking is a must if you want your new dorm friend to stay alive. 
    7. Interactive  Toys - These are important for when you have a lot of homework and don't have time to spend with the dog. This can be any toy that your dog can entertain themselves with for a substantial amount of time. It is different for each dog. For secret agent puppy he has prefilled bones which he will chew on for hours. I personally get the filled Redbarn bones as he can not break the bone and will spend hours on end trying to get the filling out. Similarly they come pre-filled which makes my life much easier. 
    8Dog bed - While secret agent puppy is needy (and by needy, I mean he wants love 24/7) and thinks he is to good for a dog bed it is important that he has a place to be alone. This is a place where he can chew on his bone as they are not allowed in my bed. By no means does he sleep here because again he is very needy but for a normal dog this would be a great place for them to sleep.
    9.Service Dog Gear - Everybody loves to see a dog on campus, however, when he is working he needs to be focused on me. A vest or his mobility harness is very important because it shows that he is working and therefore is not here for being a pet.  
    10. Friends - While this is not in your room, it is very important to have supportive friends who you trust to watch your dog. Sometimes you need to leave your dog even if it is just for 2 minutes. When I have to leave my dog to do something like run out of the classroom I always leave him with Tremors.

While I love my dog very much and it is really nice to have him living on campus it does take a lot of work. Just like with anything else you get out what you put in, and being prepared will make having a dog in your dorm much easier. There is not always a lot of room in a dorm so it is important to have toys that can be used in a small space but still require a lot of mental energy.

For all of you out there being a trailblazer, with or without a service dog

-Nemo, Tremors and Secret Agent Puppy