It is with great pleasure that I introduce you to Kathryn. She is an undergraduate student who has a blog entitled Rheumatoid is a Funny Word.
As it has been many years since I’ve been in university, I felt that a fresh (and young) perspective was needed. Kathryn graciously accepted my request to do a guest post.
Here it is:
Rheumatoid arthritis is one of those diseases that can take on a life of its own. The symptoms can change rapidly from morning to night, or even hour to hour; they can progressively worsen, as was my case during a fall semester at university. I made it through (somehow) with decent grades, but my body and mind were devastated.
It was only after I had completed my terrible semester that I finally took the advice of my favorite professor, who had encouraged me to seek out Disability Services. At the time, I didn’t feel as if I deserved help; I had yet to accept my debilitating illness as a disability. After watching the quick work stress made of my already deteriorating body, though, I realized that I needed some support.
From the minute I sat down with my new advocate, I knew I had done myself a grave disservice by shying away from this valuable resource. My advocate listened intently, took extensive notes, and provided me with the professional support I needed to focus on school. I came to realize that Disability Services was not there to make the conditions of my degree easier, but instead to provide knowledge and advocacy, taking away the stress of managing and explaining my RA.
Together, we worked out a number of little solutions that might make my semesters less stressful:
- use a laptop to take notes
- remove or lessen attendance requirements
- write an impact letter describing the ways in which RA affects my education
- distribute the letters to my professors to encourage dialogue.
I will never have to advocate for myself again. If ever a professor refuses to make changes, my counselor with Disability Services will stand by my side. When my arthritis began to take over my life, I wondered if I would ever graduate.
Having a chronic illness is life changing, whether you are still a student or are far beyond school. Take advantage of the helpful resources provided for you, and reduce everyday stress on your already struggling body.
Information about the American with Disabilities Act can be found here.
In Canada, please see the Council of Canadians with Disabilities.
I am thankful for the progress that has been made in terms of support, services and legislation. When I was diagnosed at the age of nineteen, the university didn’t have an advocacy department.
To read the full article, please visit Reducing Stress by Accepting Help: Advocacy at the University Level.