Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Nature vs. Nurture

My younger daughter has epilepsy and takes anticonvulsants every day. This is a medical condition and I know that she has no conscious decision-making capabilities when it comes to having a seizure or not. I know what she would choose if she could. So despite any misgivings about putting potent chemicals into her body every day for the last three years, we do it. We also educate her teachers and friends about this and make sure to avoid the pitfalls like overtiredness and the flu as best we can. Why do we do this? Because she is seven and we are her parents. But, as maternal as my ASP style has been noted to be, I am not the parent of anyone in this building; and the most I can hope for (and would be appropriate) is a nurturing role.

I went to a lecture yesterday about ADHD and ADD in high IQ students and how that all relates to Executive Function. The gist of the lecture was that ADD and ADHD are chemical problems that have a chemical solution. And while I understand that this is a medical condition that cannot be consciously willed away, I was frustrated by the lecture because I was hoping to gather more insight on how to work with these students in an ASP setting. Without a prescription pad, I am, evidently, at a loss. The only advice that was applicable to my position was that we need to help provide some outside structure to keep these students on track: advice on time management but really more on how to stick to your medicine schedule while away from your real parents.

The lecture was attended by Academic Support type folks from graduate and undergraduate institutions, disabilities coordinators from a bunch of school (Deans of Students and the like) as well as at least one person from a university health services office. But, again, without being a licensed psychologist or having medical authority, I didn’t see the role ASP would play in this area. And yet, we probably see students with these issues (as well as, as our lecturer put it, other comorbidities like depression and anxiety) more than anyone. It was both helpful and then again completely unhelpful to learn that these students are not lazy (I knew that), or lacking willpower (I am pretty sure I knew that too). Why? Well, the skills I can teach a student only work if the student learns and applies them, which may not happen despite however motivated the student may be.

I cannot help a student’s brain chemistry right itself-nor can I force a student to get out of bed and take medication each day. I can cajole students and nag and sometimes even place a well timed phone call to make sure they get to class, but not much more. I have told students that the coping behaviors they engage in to accommodate themselves is far more draining than asking for help at the law school. I tell them that this energy could be better spent reading, outlining or even sleeping. But I cannot, and would not, even if I could, force students to stick to a medicine regime. Not because I don’t believe it would help, I really do think that the medication is a wonderful thing, but more because my students are adults and I need to treat them that way.

Now, let’s see if I can remember that when my children go off to college. (ezs)

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