Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Monday, August 7, 2017

Being Different Doesn't Mean Being Irrelevant

I have been thinking about the wonderful, varied, and interesting lives our students bring to law school.

Each student comes to our law schools with a unique and authentic experience. Unfortunately, some of these experiences are sometimes deemed insignificant. The person who has lived the experience may be too anxious or ashamed to share it. Or, others around this person may be too afraid to acknowledge that their individual experiences may not be the only way to have experienced some “thing.”

Each student comes to our law schools with an individual story that can enrich our learning environment and augment the law school experience for other students. For example, how one student responds to the facts of a particular case or identifies with the rationale or policy supporting some legal authority may provide a different insight and promote more critical thinking than the most qualified professor alone. This insight and critical thinking begins to grow, encouraging others to be more willing to take their blinders off and expand their narrow view of an issue, or better yet, of the world.

As we prepare to start a new law school semester, let’s remember what makes each of us unique and authentic. Let’s embrace, not obscure, our differences. And let’s try to foster our students’ abilities to recognize and appreciate differences. Being different doesn’t mean being weak. Being different doesn’t mean being irrelevant. Being different doesn’t mean being unworthy of success. (OJ Salinas)

August 7, 2017 in Advice, Current Affairs, Disability Matters, Diversity Issues, Encouragement & Inspiration, Professionalism | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 17, 2017

Some Thoughts on the NYT article "The Lawyer, The Addict"

The New York Times recently published “The Lawyer, The Addict”—a very compelling article about a tragic event. The story describes the death of an influential Silicon Valley attorney. The interplay between (1) addiction, stress, and mental health and (2) law school and the legal profession is referenced in an honest and, for many, eye-opening manner. The article has rightfully generated much discussion on the Internet, including a fascinating conversation on my colleague Rachel Gurvich’s Twitter feed. If you are looking for further insight about the article from a variety of faculty, practitioners, and students, I encourage you to check out Rachel's Twitter feed (@RachelGurvich). Much of the conversation can be found here.

There are many interesting points one can focus on from the NYT article. Perhaps, I’ll explore some other points in the future in the blog. For now, I’ll focus today’s blog on two points: (1) Larry Krieger’s work on subjective well-being; and (2) how hard it is for students to acknowledge that they may be suffering from a problem.

  1. Larry Krieger’s Work on Subjective Well-Being.

The NYT article interviewed Professor Larry Krieger and referenced his work "What Makes Lawyers Happy". As many of you know, Krieger’s work was an empirical study on “attorney emotional health” and “subjective well-being.” Part of Krieger’s findings and recommendations focused on shifting the definition of “success” for law students away from extrinsic rewards, like grades, journals, and high-paying jobs to more personal and intrinsic values and motivations.

I remember Larry Krieger's work was one of the first things that Ruth McKinney discussed with me when I arrived at UNC.  Since her retirement, we have tried to continue to incorporate the message of Krieger’s work into our pre-orientation program for incoming 1Ls.  We try to remind our students to remember the intrinsic reasons why they decided to come to law school—particularly during those times when they may feel overwhelmed, defeated, or unworthy. We also try to remind our students that “success” can mean many different things to different people and that there are many ways to “succeed” in law school. We often talk about these topics while disclosing some of our personal struggles and experiences from law school. This personal disclosure often helps build a foundation where we are better able to assist with the problem discussed in part two below.

  1. Acknowledging a Problem is often a Problem.

For those of us who work closely with students, the article’s story on how law school and the legal profession can change you—physically and mentally—is not a surprising tale. We know that the combination of stress, anxiety, and the competition for external rewards can create a very challenging and intimidating environment for our students. The environment can feel crushing and insurmountable when you add difficult finances, family issues, health concerns, implicit bias, or stereotype threat to the mix.

It is not uncommon for academic success folks to work with students who are facing some significant non-academic issues that impact their academic performance. But, these non-academic issues are often not easily identifiable. Let’s try to remember that it is often difficult for our students to acknowledge to themselves that they may be going through a very problematic time. Like anyone, they have pride. They have all been successful undergrads or had elite careers prior to law school. They don’t want to think of themselves as “failures” or “unworthy” of being a law student.

Since our students don’t want to think of themselves as “failures” or “unworthy” of being a law student, they will likely hesitate before seeking help because they don’t want others to see them as “failures” or “unworthy” of being a law student (and the mental health questions on the bar exam applications don't help either, but that's a topic for another day [if you are interested, my former colleague, Katie Rose Guest Pryal has a great piece here]).

Disclosing some personal vulnerability to someone else is an added challenge to an already stressful time in our students' lives.  Think about it: if it’s hard for you to acknowledge some potential weakness or flaw to yourself, do you think it will be easier for you to acknowledge that weakness or flaw to someone else? Now think about that someone else as a law professor or administrator. I know; it’s pretty scary. That’s why we, as academic support professionals (and others who work closely with law students), should try to practice good active listening skills and remain nonjudgmental, empathetic, and encouraging when we work with our students. It’s a difficult job. But, we are lucky to be able to do it. (OJ Salinas)

July 17, 2017 in Advice, Current Affairs, Disability Matters, Diversity Issues, Encouragement & Inspiration, Miscellany, News, Orientation, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 5, 2017

Difficulty Reading - It May Be a Rare Vision Problem

Louis Sirico has had a recent post on the Legal Skills Prof Blog about a former law student whose vision problem caused reading difficulties. The happy ending includes a correct diagnosis years later and a new type of corrective glasses. The post can be found here.

June 5, 2017 in Disability Matters, Miscellany, Reading | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Character and Fitness Questions on Bar Applications

Hat tip to Katherine M. Bender at The Dave Nee Foundation for sending a link to a video yesterday (Law Student Mental Health Day) that the State Bar of Washington has launched to openly discuss the mental health questions on many bar applications. The video can be found here: Questions of Discrimination. (Amy Jarmon)

March 29, 2016 in Bar Exam Issues, Disability Matters | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 14, 2015

Mental Health Questions on Bar Applications

The ABA (finally) adopted a resolution that encourages state bar licensing entities to eliminate questions about mental health on bar applications. Many of us have advocated for such elimination for years due to the potential damaging effects that these types of questions may have on law students. The stigma that these questions produce may discourage law students from seeking much needed mental health treatment or therapy while they are in law school. By eliminating these questions, law students do not need to fear the character and fitness/bar application process if they do decide to seek mental health treatment.

(LBY)

August 14, 2015 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Current Affairs, Disability Matters | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

LSAC Settles Dispute over LSAT

This week, the Justice Department filed a landmark consent decree to settle claims that the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) practices violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  Many of us work with students who may have been affected by LSAC’s “flagging” practice, which identifies applicants who received extra time on the LSAT.  This decision not only helps to remedy past discrimination, but also helps ensure that applicants with disabilities are protected in the future.  This excerpt taken from the Department of Justice webpage lists the details of the agreement.

            Under the consent decree, LSAC has agreed to:

  • put a permanent end to the practice of flagging the LSAT score reports of individuals with disabilities who take the LSAT with the common testing accommodation of extended time;
  • pay $7.73 million to be allocated for a civil penalty, compensation to individuals named in the United States’ and other plaintiffs’ complaints, and a nationwide victims’ compensation fund;
  • streamline its evaluation of requests for testing accommodations by automatically granting most testing accommodations that a candidate can show s/he has previously received for a standardized exam related to post-secondary admissions (such as the SAT, ACT or GED, among others); and
  • implement additional best practices for reviewing and evaluating testing accommodation requests as recommended by a panel of experts (to be created by the parties). 

LBY

May 21, 2014 in Current Affairs, Disability Matters | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Lawyers with Mental Health Issues

This will be a short post today; I just want to alert readers to an New York Times article about the difficulties facing law students with mental health issues and the bar exam. I think the article brings up a lot of issues we need to think about in ASP and as a profession.

I don't know if I completely agree with the author. I have worked with many, many students with mental health issues and disabilities over my nine years in legal academia. I do believe most law students with mental health issues should be allowed to practice (if they meet all the other qualifications for the bar). I think the question posed on many character and fitness evaluations discourages law students from receiving the mental health assistance they need, and I think the question should be removed. I am troubled by the tiny, tiny minority of students (I can count them on one hand) who do not have their issues under control, and then threaten to sue under the ADA when their "deeds" (to use the same term as the author) lead to their removal from law school. Their "deeds" are a function of their mental illness, and they argue they should be allowed to continue because they are being persecuted based on the label, not the deed. The threat to sue stops law schools from acting in the best interest of the student and their peers. The threat stops some law schools from notifying the bar that the student may need assistance before they are fit to practice. This tiny minority of students use their diagnosis as a defense and a weapon. It is unfair that a fraction of law students with mental health issues cause disproportionate harm, but the bar needs to consider the threat lawyers can pose to the public.

I know that I will receive a number of angry comments because of this post. However, I am not discussing the students who have their issues under control, and I do think that the vast majority of students have their issues under control; I think we need a better way to help and support students with mental illness. I am questioning a blanket ban on inquiries stemming from mental health issues.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/06/opinion/lawyers-of-sound-mind.html?hp

 

August 7, 2013 in Disability Matters | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A new resource: Learning outside the box

Leah Christensen, Thomas Jefferson School of Law, has recently published a book entitled, Learning Outside the Box: A Handbook for Law Students Who Learn Differently.  The book covers specific strategies for law students with learning disabilities, reading disabilities, ADHD, Asperger's, or other learning differences.  The author notes in her introduction that other law students can also benefit from the strategies.  I just received my copy in the mail today and am looking forward to learning additional ways that I can help my students who learn differently.  (Amy Jarmon) 

June 9, 2011 in Books, Disability Matters | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Adapting to new or newly discovered disabilities

Each year I have a few law students who work with me as they adapt to disabilities that are either new or newly discovered.  A new disability might occur when a student has lost an arm in a car accident.  A newly discovered disability might occur when a student is diagnosed with ADHD or learning disabilities after successfully compensating in earlier education but under-performing with the overwhelming amount of work and one-exam system in law school.

Depending on the timing of the new or newly discovered disability, some students will be adjusting to the diagnosis itself still as well as trying to determine different strategies for their studies.  They may have some hurdles to get over before they are comfortable with their circumstances.

Some students are shaken by the fear that they are "no longer just like everyone else."  They are not certain how to proceed.  As time progresses, I see them grow more comfortable in their new circumstances.  They learn to manage the disability, whatever it is, through physical therapy, medication, accommodations, and other appropriate methods.  Some turn to our university counseling center for assistance in their adjustment.  Later in the year, they will often tell me that they have accepted the circumstances and moved on from the initial uncertainties.  They also comment that they have rediscovered themselves and realize that they are just like everyone else, but have a unique circumstance to manage.      

Some students worry about using accommodations because they fear accommodations mean "having an unfair advantage" rather than "levelling the playing field."  They do not want others to resent them because they get extra time on exams, laptop use in classes where they are banned for others, or note-takers in class.  It is sometimes hard for them to realize that the accommodations are very fair - after all, that is why they are given.  Even if some other students' reactions are negative, those reactions merely indicate the immaturity of those other students.  After all, none of those other students would opt for the disability; none of them would give up accommodations if they had the same circumstances.

Some students are concerned that accepting accommodations will mean that "everyone will know" when the disability is otherwise invisible.  This concern is often harder for students because it resurfaces the concerns about not being like everyone else and being open to criticism from students who react negatively about accommodations for disabled students.  Most students realize, however, that achieving their true academic potential is ultimately more desirable than hiding their disability.  (An added aspect is that many boards of law examiners will look at accommodations in law school to determine accommodations on the bar exam.)

Each student adapts differently to a new or newly discovered disability.  For some, the adaptation occurs rapidly.  For others, it takes a bit longer.  And, for others, it is an on-going process.

How can we help as ASP'ers? 

  • Listen carefully.  There is often a sub-text if we are alert to it.  
  • Provide a safe environment.  Allow the student to talk about concerns and fears as well as study habits.
  • Work with the student on specific study strategies tailored to the disability.  Often the doctor or testing report will suggest specific strategies.  Brainstorming can assist the student in selecting possible strategies. 
  • Make referrals.  Support from your university's student disability services, counseling center, or doctors can be valuable to the student.
  • Turn to the experts on your campus if you need more information about a disability or suggestions on how to work with a student on study strategies.

All law students have adjustments to make during 1L year and throughout law school.  And they make the adjustments at different speeds.  By layering on a new or newly discovered disability, the students may need some additional time and assistance.  (Amy Jarmon)  

 

 

 

April 4, 2011 in Disability Matters | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Job Openings: 2 jobs in disability services (related to ASP, but not ASP)

Below are two job listings related to ASP, but not in ASP. Disability services are often a part of an ASPer's duties, and these jobs require a working knowledge of the ADA and FERPA.

Assistant Director of Disability Services, Suffolk University

Suffolk University is seeking an Assistant Director of Disability Services. Our office works with approximately 350 undergraduate and graduate students. The position is available immediately. For more information please follow this link. http://hire.jobvite.com/CompanyJobs/Careers.aspx?c=qg19Vfw5&page=Job%20Description&j=od1FVfwy.

Coordinator, Student Life/Disability Services for Students, University of Rhode Island

This is a fulltime, permanent position.  Visit our website at https://jobs.uri.edu to apply and to view complete details for job posting (#6000422).  Applications for electronic submission will end on April 7, 2011, and will require two attachments in PDF format: 1) a cover letter, and 2) CV which includes the names and contact information for three references, one of which should be a previous supervisor.  The University of Rhode Island is an AA/EEOD employer and values diversity.

March 29, 2011 in Disability Matters, Job Descriptions, Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

ADHD in adults (in law school)

I thought this was interesting, especially as so many of us are preparing students for finals.

"I see adults with ADHD who are in medical and law school or running companies, and at some point, they hit a ceiling. Their coping mechanisms aren't effective anymore," says Peter Jaksa, a clinical psychologist who works with ADHD patients in Chicago.

Many people in law school are incredibly smart, and managed to succeed in college (and sometimes a prior career) because their intelligence overcame their inability to focus or concentrate.  No matter how naturally smart someone is, reading cases and fact patterns requires prolonged focus and concentration, which is why many students "hit the wall" when they get to law school.  

However, it's sometimes very difficult to get a sense of what the real issue is with a student. I don't know any MD ASPer's, but most of us aren't qualified to make any sort of diagnosis, only suggest testing by a specialist. Students who don't like law school, who find the cases boring and work monotonous, can have similar "symptoms" as students with undiagnosed ADHD.  It's not our place to diagnose students, just give them their options and suggest testing.  ASPer's should not feel like they have to have an answer for every student issue.  Sometimes what we are seeing is more than an academic issue, and has a medical cause. (RCF)

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304620304575165902933059076.html?KEYWORDS=ADHD

May 5, 2010 in Advice, Disability Matters | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Thanksgiving, and Reminding Students to Really Be Thankful

Every once in a while I will recommend an article or story to students that has nothing to do with law school. The article usually reflects on what it means to really appreciate everything they have, even in a terrible job market, with debt, with grade-anxiety.  I think that taking a look outside the law school (and legal market) echo chamber to  read about real struggles and real triumphs does not diminish their concerns, but reminds them that they still have reasons to smile.  Law student concerns are real, significant, and can be debilitating, but it is also good to remember that the world is much bigger than their law school.

There are not a lot of articles that I believe fit the bill; many are just depressing (and law students don't need any more reasons to be depressed) or have a negative tone. I seek the rare article that discusses a real challenge, where there may not seem to be a lot of hope, but perseverance of spirit makes all the difference. It doesn't need to have a traditionally happy ending, but it needs to remind students that the basic things in life are, indeed, things not be forgotten.

The first article I recommended to students was more than a few years ago, while at was at Arizona State. The article was "The Ballad of Big Mike" about Michael Oher. Michael Oher story's is now in movie theaters as "The Blind Side" with Sandra Bullock (I haven't seen the movie).The article made me cry, but made me happy to be human, an American, to be blessed with so many things I don't think about (like a bed or parents). Law students concerns don't go away when they read a story like Michael Oher's, but it can remind them that law school, as well as friends, family, and health, are tremendous blessings not to be ignored.

This week I read an article that I will pass on because it had the same effect on me; "Would My Heart Outrun It's Pursuer?" by Gary Presly. The author is a quadriplegic, at both the beginning and the end of the story. It's not about miracle cures or treacly sentiment. It does, however, remind the reader of why friends are amazing things, limbs that work are a gift, and why we need to believe in ourselves, even when we have real reasons to think we are not worthy. 

I don't feel that I am preparing students for careers in the legal profession if I don't help them remember their humanity and their worth.  Right now, law students are in a pressure-cooker, and positive news in a law school is rare.  But theirhumanity, their spirit is something that needs to be nourished no matter what the economic conditions look like, no matter how many exams they are facing. (RCF)

December 3, 2009 in Disability Matters | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Secondary Stress Disorder and ASP

There has been considerable attention on secondary stress disorder (SSD) in the past few weeks as a result of the horrible, tragic events at Fort Hood. SSD is common in caregivers who work with people who have survived traumatic events. Care givers can take on the stress of the people they are caring for, and sometimes suffering PTSD as seriously as the people that are trying to help.

SSD relates to ASP in two ways. As ASPer’s, some of us work with students who have experienced considerable pain and suffering in their lives, enough tragedy to interfere with their learning and bring them ASP. SSD also effects our students who are care givers, who may not have suffered the tragedy themselves, but are spouses or widow(er)s of service men and women, or are caregivers to sick parents or children.

In both cases, we need to recognize that SSD is real, and it does make an impact on learning and working. SSD is not recognized among the general population, and it is particularly pernicious when those around people with SSD don’t understand or don’t believe that it is a real issue.  Not everyone is effected to the same degree, but ASPer’s who spend their days one-on-one counseling students can’t help but absorb some of the stress that surrounds them.  (RCF)

November 23, 2009 in Disability Matters | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Article on Learning Disabilities: Dyslexia and Time

For those of you interested in articles dealing with learning disabilities, you will want to read the article by Suzanne Rowe in the most recent volume of the Journal for the Legal Writing Institute Volume 15, Issue 1.  The article is entitled Learning Disabilities and the Americans with Disabilities Act: The Conundrum of Dyslexia and Time.  Suzanne is an Associate Professor and Director of Legal Research and Writing at Unviersity of Oregon School of Law.    Thank you to the Legal Writing Prof Blog for the link.  (Amy Jarmon) 

June 2, 2009 in Books, Disability Matters | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 3, 2008

Accommodations for ADD/ADHD and LD Students

Most of us work with multiple students who have been diagnosed with ADD, ADHD, or learning disabilities of some type.  In fact, with each new 1L class, our Student Disability Services usually sends letters of accommodations for at least 5 or 10 students. 

Those numbers reflect the students that we know about first semester.  The numbers increase the second semester as grades come out, and additional students come forward.  A few more students come forward at the end of the first year when further probations and academic dismissals are announced.  I suspect even then that we have seen the tip of the iceberg, and some other students may hover just above our academic minimums without being identified.

I am always glad to see accommodations letters from Student Disability Services before fall semester begins or during that semester in time for at least exam accommodations if not classroom accommodations.  It means that those students have a level playing field in place.  The Associate Dean for Students and Diversity meets with them, and many students will follow up for discussions with me. 

It is the students who go through the procedures to gain a level playing field after bad grades that concern me greatly.  The damage to their self-esteem, the stress of probation, and the academic hole from which they have to dig out exacerbate their situations.  With new accommodations and hard work, we see them succeed at new levels.  But some are unable to turn it around because of the extremely low grades before they received accommodations. 

Occasionally a new diagnosis is made for students who surface after bad grades.  The problem never showed up in prior education because the student could compensate and do very well.  Let's face it, the national statistics tell us that high schools, colleges, and universities often have grade inflation and require little work for bright students to excel.  When undiagnosed students start law school they suddenly come up against an overwhelming amount of reading, the need to stay focused for longer periods of time, course grades based on one exam, exams with strict time mangement requirements, and competition from the best and the brightest.  It is no wonder that they get surprised by bad grades.

However, I have found more and more that the students were previously diagnosed with one of these disabilities and had prior accommodations, but decided not to ask for assistance as law students.  Some students (with their doctors agreement) decided to discontinue medication before law school to be "like everyone else."  Other students decided to forego accommodations because they did not want anyone to know.  Some students decided that dropping prior accommodations would create a level playing field because it would be unfair to other students if they had accommodations.

I can understand these students wanting to be like everyone else and not wanting anyone to know.  However, the potential damage to their academics makes these desires high-risk for some of them.  Because they do not realize the many ways in which law school will be a different academic experience, they make their decisions on insufficient information.  There is a summer communication to all students about accommodation requests.  In orientation, an announcement is made to all students to encourage disabled students to apply through Student Disability Services for accommodations if they have not already done so. 

Some undiagnosed students or students who had initially decided against accommodations will be identified during the first semester.  Our Legal Practice professors often recognize problems because of the intensive writing assignments and the small class sizes.   Others are identified by doctrinal faculty or administrators.  Timing is important if accommodation requests are to be processed before the semester ends (especially for undiagnosed students who must also undergo testing) .

A new twist has developed regarding identified students who have acommodations for laptops in the classroom.  Several students have told me that even though a laptop helps their learning they will not use this accommodation if a professor has banned laptops.  Other students will realize that they must be disabled if they are allowed to have a laptop when everyone else cannot.  It is very sad that students who need this legitimate accommodation have to make this decision.  The banning of laptops is vogue right now, but the consequences for students with disabilities (and different learning styles for that matter) are not always recognized.                

As an academic support professional, I can refer students for accommodations, work with students on strategies to improve their learning, and advocate for them.  Hopefully, more students will self-identify or be discovered before the semester results in bad grades.  (Amy Jarmon)   

October 3, 2008 in Disability Matters | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

More from the Learning Differences Conference

The Learning Differences Conference at Harvard was great. Although it was designed for Pre-K-12, there were a number of excited ideas and trends in teaching all students presented at the conference.

1) Most studies on ADHD have not been on all children; they have been on boys. We know very little about the science of ADHD on girls, and what we do know is the brain develops in different ways and in different developmental stages in girls.   This will have ramifications on the accommodations and modifications for girls (and women) with ADHD.  As women cross the 50% mark at most law schools, we need to learn more about ADHD in female law students. 

2) The mind and body are connected.  Some people need to move in order to activate the brain to think. This is not isolated to children.  We need to think of ways to teach that includes movement--even if it is just switching seats--to truly use the learning moment in class.

3) We need research on the needs of professional and graduate students with learning differences.  I avoid saying "more" research because there is virtually nothing out there on students over 25 with learning differences. If we want to provide the best legal education, we need to know how to teach all students, not just the best and the brightest, who may  be the most easily adaptable, but not really the brightest.

My next update will be from the SALT Conference in Berkeley. This has been my crazy conference week (3 conferences in 10 days in 3 cities, on 2 coasts) and I will be back posting 2-3 times a week when I am home in Vermont. 

(Rebecca Flanagan)

March 13, 2008 in Disability Matters | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Using the Star Strategy to Case Brief

I am reporting from the Learning Differences Conference at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Lynn Melzer, PhD, of the The Research Institute for Learning and Development, developed a strategy for students with strong visual preferences to map information. Called the “Star Strategy”, this strategy would be wonderful for our visual learners to use as a case briefing method.

 In contrast to the traditional case briefing system that is very linear for a visual leaner, the Star Method conceptualizes law as a dynamic system. Each case is an interaction between facts, parties, procedure, and systemic restraints. Shift one part of the star, and other sides shift as well.

(I can't add the visual of the Star Strategy, but it is a Star of David or interlocking triangle design, where each open point is space to write. The center of star is the rule, and each point would be labeled

1) Procedural History--Time
2) Procedural History--Place/Jurisdiction
3) Facts
4) Parties
5) Rationale
6) Thoughts)

* For those interested in the visual for the Star Strategy, please email me and I will send a template--rflanagan@vermontlaw.edu)

For more information on the Star System in general, see Strategies for Success: Classroom Teaching Techniques for Students with Learning Differences, 2nd ed., Melzer, Roditti, Steinberg, Biddle, Taber, Caron, Pro-Ed Publishers

(Rebecca Flanagan)

March 8, 2008 in Disability Matters | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

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)

 

October 25, 2007 in Disability Matters | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

ADD, ADHD, and the Law School Experience

A reader suggested to me today that this blog devote some discussion to the difficulties faced by law students with ADHD.  I think the suggestion is a good one.  Let me begin, at least, with a recommended article.  Professor Robin A. Boyle recently published "Law Students with Attention Deficit Disorder:  How to Reach Them, How to Teach Them," 39 J. Marshall L. R. 349 (2006).

Among other things, the article gives a helpful overview of empirical research concerning ADD and ADHD, as well as the implications of that research for law school pedagogy.  Included in those implications are twenty-five insightful, practical suggestions for more effectively addressing the needs of law students with ADD and ADHD. (dbw)

October 24, 2006 in Disability Matters, Learning Styles, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Lawyers with Disabilites

The most recent (March 2006) issue of the ABA publication Student Lawyer includes (see page 34) a conference notice of interest.  Quoting from the magazine ...

"The ABA Commission on Mental and Physical Disability Law ... in conjunction with ABA president Michael Greco and the EEOC, is sponsoring a National Conference on Employment of Lawyers with Disabilities.  Participants will discuss ways to further the employment opportunities for and promote the hiring of recent law graduates and young lawyers with disabilities."

The conference is on May 22 and May 23.  "The conference," the notice continues, "encourages law students to attend the conference.  To support student participation, the commission will offer a reduced registration fee as well as scholarships to students demonstrating need."

Encouraging news: "With proper accommodations and open lines of communication, lawyers with disabilities have proven themselves to be as successful as their peers without disabilities."

In the academic support field, most of us work with students manifesting a variety of disabilities (visible and invisible); and many of us contend with comments by students, faculty and lawyers along these lines, "Why is she even going to law school?  Who is going to hire a lawyer with (fill in the blank)?"  Oh, that gets to me.  Between your school's Career Services office and its Academic Support office ... somewhere ... we need to be able to provide accurate, up-to-date answers to these inquiries ... not only for those who ask the questions above, but, more importantly, for those who ask this question: "Will I ever get a job if they find out about my _________?"

For detailed conference information, visit the commission's web page. (djt)

February 26, 2006 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Disability Matters, Encouragement & Inspiration, Meetings, News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)