Discrimination in University

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    • #100456

      Hi there folks.

      I hope I am posting in the right forum but I felt compelled to post given the nature of my story. I am a 38 year old male who was formally diagnosed with ADHD last December. The diagnosis at the time turned my world upside down as it forced me to recontextualise almost four decades of my life and it went a long way to explaining alot of very extreme behaviour on my part for alot of my life. During this time I also felt very raw and emotionally exposed and self-conscious. I struggled in my first year in university (which I decide not to return to,for other reasons) as I was basically left to deal with having the condition for a few months after getting my ADHD screening results in the university until getting the formal diagnosis. I basically had to fight them to obtain any form of academic support during this period as I had yet to be formally diagnosed (but still fundamentally knew that I had it after the screening).

      I got my diagnosis two or three days before Christmas and admittedly I found it very hard to engage with college after the Christmas break,to the extent where I missed many classes. I was due a class in a particular subject one day which would have been my first after the Christmas break when I realised that I had misplaced my textbook for the subject (I am awful for losing and misplacing things!) so I thought “Okay,I can either go in without the book but at least show that I have interest in the subject or opt to not go in and miss yet another class). I opted for the former. At the end of the class the lecturer addressed (before my classmates had even left the classroom) and mentioned that I had not sat my Christmas exam. One of the challenges I face is retaining certain types of information,mainly academic. He then proceeded to chastise me for not taking notes during class. During this I told him that I had been at a meeting in town and did not have time to return home to get the necessary materials as I was too embarrassed and quite honestly,somewhat ashamed,that due to my ADHD I had yet again misplaced something. I told him about my ADHD diagnosis and explained some of the details such as my meetings with the university’s disability support service to him but he did displayed no empathy or understanding and seemed visibly irate. He then told me that I could not use the disability support services as what he termed a “blank cheque”. He was effectively accusing me of using my ADHD to not put in the work.I felt so small and humiliated,a 38 year old man belittled by somebody not much older than me. I felt discriminated against for the first time in my life.

      I was incredibly upset after the event. When I got home I sent him an e-mail asking him to never speak to me like that again and I told him the real reason I did not have the necessary class materials with me that day. He then apologised and agreed that what he said was inappropriate but went on to try and justify his actions by accusing me of giving the impression that because of my diagnosis and being registered with the university’s disability support exempted me from assessments and class participation. Anybody who knows me knows that I am a pretty humble guy and I would never use my diagnosis to not work at something or not commit to it. Bare in mind that this guy was making this assumption based on one class that he had taught.(He only taught us a few classes in the year as the department had a number of different lecturers teaching us.)

      I was outraged at his response and the accusation he made and so sought to bring the matter further. It took weeks for this meeting to be organised. When the meeting finally happened he apologised more than once (though again inferred that there was a justification for his treatment of me) and the department were keen to highlight their impeccable track record of dealing with people with disabilities. When I asked why that approach did not apply to me I was not provided with a satisfactory answer.

      At the time I was also going through a cancer scare (which I have subsequently found out I don’t have) so despite my ire at the way that meeting went I could not see any further avenue to take. I have recently decided to pursue it further in order to obtain sufficient accountability. It is something that I felt the need to highlight as I ws shocked to have been treated like that on the basis of having a disability and like I said that at the time if it was an 18 or 19 year old who had just started university and was less self-assured and less confident than I am it could have crushed them. It had a serious effect on me!

      I would very much welcome any advice from you folks on this and your opinions on it.

      Thank you.

      • This topic was modified 3 years, 3 months ago by MOVIELOVER45.
      • This topic was modified 3 years, 3 months ago by MOVIELOVER45.
      • This topic was modified 3 years, 3 months ago by MOVIELOVER45.
    • #100582

      Your post drew my attention because I am 47 years old, in my final year of graduate school, and was diagnosed last Spring with ADHD. I’ve suspected for years that I had it, as I fit the bill perfectly: chronically late, lose things constantly, work in circles like the energizer bunny starting more things than I can finish, forget appointments and deadlines, and so hard on myself every time I keep someone waiting, lose or forget something. On the flip side, I can hyperfocus on something that grabs my attention, be really fun and silly like a bright light on a good day, and love to help pretty much anyone around me. I often offend people without meaning to with my honesty and blunt delivery or thinking something funny that may seem inappropriate, and appear nosey because I offer to help people who don’t ask for help and talk to anyone in line next to me.

      All that said, I have struggled with whether or not to tell my professors and advisors of my online graduate program, as I feel I’m barely hanging on much of the time. I’m always on the verge of missing a deadline and struggle with rote memorization. I had a bad experience at a week-long intensive clinic this past summer (speech pathology) that was the result of miscommunication with a supervisor, difficulty meeting tight report deadlines (needing a brain break after 6-hour days of giving intensive therapy), and being misunderstood as defensive when I thought I was just having open communication about feedback. They called me in at the end of the clinic to tell me I would not be passing (a C grade in grad school is a no pass) because some of my reports were late and my supervisor thought I was defensive and aggressive in my communication with her, which was not how I felt at all. FYI, I have had straight As for two years running in my grad program, so this was a huge blow to me. What I thought was a discussion of feedback at the end of each day, she thought was an argument on my part. I was blown away at how I missed that she read me that way (again, a common occurrence for me to offend others without meaning to or realizing until too late). I am older than her, and our personalities are very different (she is very strict and no-nonsense). In tears at hearing a would “fail” (get a C and have to remediate), I finally told her that I was diagnosed ADHD recently, that I struggled with deadlines and sometimes my communication came across as too blunt when I was really trying to be honest and open, and that I can miss subtleties in communication. I apologized and tried to explain misunderstandings, but she told me I was making up excuses and not taking responsibility for my mistakes. She went further, making personal judgements, telling me I did not care about my clients and only had a “check the box” mentality (likely because as the week progressed and she was criticising me more and more, I was compensating by trying really hard to please her which she interpreted as only caring about a grade). Anyone who knows me knows that I am very passionate about my clients, become very attached to them and care deeply. You couldn’t be in a therapy field if you didn’t care and want to help others! She further told me she had doubts about whether I would pass oral exams to exit grad school, or be able to pass my professional exam. Talk about rejection sensitive dysphoria (have you read about that on this site?). I came home barely able to function for a week. I was in a really bad depression and wasn’t sure I’d go on with my program.

      In the end, I’ve picked myself up slowly and am moving along again, but I learned even in a field where we constantly work with people with disabilities, including kids with ADD, people don’t seem to take ADHD in adults seriously. In kids it is better accommodated, but as adults I feel we are supposed to “know better” by now how to manage our time and our brains. Women are even more overlooked than men, IMO. My ADHD affects my parenting, my school career, my social life, and I’m trying to rebuild my marriage after 9 months of separating but now realizing how the emotional side of ADHD affected my marriage. Now that I’m taking Straterra (or a generic form of it), an edge of anxiety has been melted away, I can breathe easier and I can see how I treated others when I became overwhelmed. I can be short with people or shut them out altogether, I snap at my kids and my husband so I can be left alone when I’m overloaded and my brain is overstimulated. I fall into depression when I’ve forgotten something yet again and hate myself for it, which affects everyone around me. I’m learning to cope in small ways now like using noise reducing headphones, making tons of lists and calendar alerts, and meditating and doing yoga to calm my crazy brain. My counselor is having me work on eliminating the negative self-talk, which is a long-running habit that takes me down a rabbit hole of self loathing.

      I hope you can get some support, but you may do well to seek it through medication, lots of compensatory strategies to help you organize and focus, and possibly counseling instead of expecting others to understand and cut you any slack. I have found I am getting the love and support I need from friends and family, and occasionally self advocate to others if I think it will help, but I don’t count on it. And I don’t joke about it if I tell them I’m ADHD. It’s usually in some form of apology for forgetting something important and I try to let them know I’m truly sorry about it. Now that you know why you are the way you are, you can start finding ways to manage and advocate for yourself as best as you can. I do think it best to tell teachers or employers up front so that it doesn’t sound like an excuse later when something ADHA-related inevitably happens.

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