Transformations Magazine January 2014 - page 10

to them. They knew I still carried
the trauma from third grade. I did
not use accommodations my first
year in college. When my circle
of friends finds that my major
involves reading and writing, and
that I have a disability whose chief
characteristics involve limitations
in reading and writing, they are
always amazed. At first I was
going to be an English teacher. I
did one day of student teaching
and realized I did not want to work
with high school students.
I remember a final exam for a
history course in college. I had
not asked for accommodations
and the test was a blue book essay
exam. The test was administered
in an auditorium classroom
at the University of Kentucky
with about 300 other students.
Because my father had a masters
degree in history, I had been a
part of discussions about history
my whole life, so this was not
unfamiliar territory. I was trying
to write out my essay as I would
think it, but with my handwriting
and my spelling, and other errors,
I really couldn’t communicate
that way. I had to dumb it down
so that I could execute. It was
so frustrating that I gave up.
Instead, I doodled a picture of
Lincoln waving his top hat and
saying “Grrrr, South!” I left the
classroom and cried.
At that same time, there was an
edition of
Time
magazine that
reviewed the different learning
disabilities and it just happened
to be in my dorm lobby. I read
it and said “That’s me.” I talked
to my mom and she said “You
were in special education. We
know this.” So I went to the
disabilities services coordinator at
the University of Kentucky and he
received my documentation from
the third grade, told me I needed
to get retested as an adult and we
did the testing. I was then eligible
for accommodations. In 1998, the
accommodations only involved the
extended time.
DR:
Were you able to use the
computer for your essays?
MS:
No. That just wasn’t
something that people thought of.
Here on the IU Southeast campus,
no one used the computer for
testing accommodations until I
was hired. I did receive extended
test taking time because I was
registered with the disability
services office. I also self-disclosed
to my professors and advocated
for myself. Most professors were
willing to work with me. I stayed
on the dean’s list for the rest of my
academic career.
DR:
So, no more “Grrrrrs?”
MS:
There were a few, mainly
in Spanish. Think about it: if
you struggle with elements of
English, a foreign language will
be difficult. Having said that, I
was able to earn “Bs” in all my
Spanish classes. I really could see
the benefit of learning a foreign
language to understand English.
The difference between “who”
and “whom” makes a lot more
sense when you see it reflected in
some of the Romance languages.
I’m definitely a fan of the foreign
language requirement.
It took a long time for me to be
comfortable showing a professor
the accommodations letter,
or disclosing to a professor, a
stranger, or a best friend, because,
again, it takes me back to the
childhood trauma. I remember
telling my best friend in high
school that I had something
important that I needed to disclose
to him. When I told him I had a
learning disability. He said “Yeah,
I know.” Then he started laughing
uncontrollably. He continued,
“I thought you were coming out
of the closet.” To an individual
with any hidden disability, it is
like coming out of the closet. After
that, I started being an advocate
for myself and for other students
who were registered with the
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