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CarlySoup

Epilepsy and School

Hey everyone,

I am very new to epilepsy, and I am trying my best to be my own advocate when it comes to medical treatment, and in regards to my academic career as well as my job.

Long story short (you can see my first post, if you want some background information), I started having debilitating seizures and post-seizure recovery periods in the beginning of March. My Spring semester at my university began at the end of January. I tried my best to cope and make it to the end of the semester, but I just can't; I can't even leave the house some days because the seizures are so constant (despite taking medication).

This semester, it was very difficult to get in touch with my academic adviser because he is so overworked. Furthermore, I have been in the hospital three times since the seizures began. Despite this, I tried my very best to make it to the end of the semester. But, most days, my brain feels like "cooked spaghetti"; I just can't follow one line of thought through to the end. In the last 3 weeks, I haven't even been able to make it in to class; the seizures have gotten worse and worse.

I asked my adviser to petition for a "Withdrawal Excused", which means I would be able to be withdrawn from my classes, and allowed to re-enroll at a later date, without them affecting my GPA. He said that it was too late in the semester to petition the Dean of my college for a Withdrawal Excused. He added that another student had tried this, and that the Dean had denied her, too. Now, I am left to receive whatever grades are given to me, and re-take the classes next semester. Luckily, this won't impact my financial aid award next semester. But, I don't think this is at all fair.

I had no idea I had epilepsy until the middle of March, and I had no idea how bad it would be - or, that it would cause for me so many learning disabilities. Is there anything that can be done? I know that because I will have to re-take all of these classes, my financial aid award will probably run out before I even graduate. I am annoyed, and I feel like I am just being thrown aside for now - but, this is going to be a BIG problem for me in the future. What should I do? Who do I ask for help?

Comments

Re: Epilepsy and School

I am sorry that this is happening to you. Unfortunately, it seems as if you missed the deadline to withdraw your classes. All schools have a deadline for this, ask your counselor if there is an extension for circumstances like yours, but it all boils down to school policy. Timing was really bad in your case. I am very very sorry. You can, however, ask for an extension on turning your papers, that they can do. Talk to the special needs counselor, that is his/her job to do. I hope you get better and continue with your studies, Best wishes!

Re: Epilepsy and School

Hi CarlySoup,

Your academic adviser being so overworked is no excuse for the adviser nor the dean.

The university should have similar listings of policies for such matters (the policies must satisfy the ADA guidelines also, so, any "everybody is treated that way" Catch-22 should fail in practicing the university's probably illegal stance), for more legal compliance, as does (for example):

http://www.ccis.edu/nationwide/academics/AHE_catalog/archives/2004-05/Ad...

page 2:
"Withdrawal Excused: A student may request a
withdrawal excused (WE) at any time during a
session. The student must submit an
Add/Drop/Withdrawal form with a letter addressing
the extraordinary circumstances...."

"Generally, extraordinary circumstances are
narrowly interpreted to mean the development of
unforeseen, unexpected circumstances beyond a
student’s control that prevents continued attendance
in all classes, e.g., serious illness; death in the
immediate family; significant change in the terms,
location, and conditions of employment; call to active
military duty or TDY, etc. Mere inconvenience,
discomfort with the academic workload, or minor
schedule changes in employment are not deemed to
meet the definition of extraordinary, mitigating, or
extenuating circumstances...."

Even before the laws were made stronger, many older cases illustrated the legal obligations of an institution in being a "university" or "school":
"The View From/Hartford; Epileptic Student Files Discrimination Suit Against University"
http://www.nytimes.com/2002/02/03/nyregion/view-hartford-epileptic-stude...
http://articles.courant.com/2001-12-21/news/0112210386_1_seizures-epilep...
The case settled: http://www.plainsite.org/flashlight/case.html?id=113227

Many bizzare technicalities are often encountered:
http://fl.findacase.com/research/wfrmDocViewer.aspx/xq/fac.20070809_0000...
http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1297279.html
http://www.paed.uscourts.gov/documents/opinions/11d0859p.pdf
http://www.paed.uscourts.gov/documents/opinions/12d1114p.pdf
http://www.etownian.com/news/former-student-sues-college-over-alleged-di...
http://chronicle.com/article/Federal-Case-Over-Banning-a/129349/

There are so many Catch-22 roadblocks that the few successful cases are about frequent enough to meet criteria indicating possible exceptional indicators for the convenience of justifying the possibility of law:
http://www.natlawreview.com/article/rite-aid-to-pay-250000-to-settle-eeo...

Sometimes institutions will tend to follow parts of the law simply to avoid the quagmire of each technicality in contrast to the laws being fully addressed before the right, and/or need, to sue in court is reached. Even if that works, future retaliation remains nearly certain.

Tadzio

Re: Epilepsy and School

Thank you for your response, the information you provided was very helpful. Do you work for a college or university, are are you a student, too?

Re: Epilepsy and School

Hi CarlySoup,

I've been unemployed since my final graduation from university. I majored first in psychology, and during graduate work in psychology, I also completed a B.S. degree in business management/accounting. In addition to junior colleges, my universities were UNM, UCSC, & SJSU (with some records from SFSU).

What is now known as partial complex seizures of epilepsy and effects of neurocutaneous syndrome disrupted my academics at UNM back in 1973 when a doctor tried to treat the effects with strong tinctures of opium, then another tried various other diagnoses, all proving incorrect over a few months. The only thing they labeled almost correctly was my rare & rather large Becker's Nevus (which is a strong clue to the family of neurocutaneous disorders in some books, and in hindsight, explains most all of the then signs & symptoms of uncommon genetic disorders). The two of my six classes that repeated radiological testing happened to interfere the most with, I timely dropped, but in one of the two classes (Political Science), I had greatly angered the instructor when I voiced my strong deja vu that first Agnew would resign in disgrace, then Nixon would soon follow (at the time, nearly everyone claimed to have voted for the talented & outstanding pair of political geniuses). Despite my being timely under the standards, the instructor superseded the standards & cited my free choice to follow the doctors' faulty drug advice, and then awarded my course performance as a failure (Rockefeller was pushing his new "Rockefeller Drug Laws", too). This also wrecked all the scholarships (a scandal in high school over my nevus didn't help either).

Another priest fascinated by my nevus then taught me the high art of playing Tadzio (besides, just the poetry doesn't pay in money), while speaking for Petronius. The Geschwind Syndrome from temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) generally helps with the Western Canon, so my return to university in the late 1970's had no need for scholarships. Luckily, epilepsy posed no great problems till the final semesters, when a seizure in class led a psych professor to tell me about possible TLE and my peculiar predicament of often being a statistical outlier in testing (such as the "epileptic MMPI personality profile"). Epilepsy chilled the Business School's entertaining my graduate level pursuits, while I was chilled by the graduate Psych School's clinical treatment of the homeless population.

I did well enough in university to be in many outstanding scholar programs with federal employment, but even though I was well enough placed on federal registers for employment that many federal agencies were obligated to give me a priority job with any opening, the various agencies repeatedly violated the employment regulations, and the federal courts placed me in the Catch-22 that my epilepsy is not a severe enough disability for ADA protection, while the same courts held my epilepsy was so severe as to be a total disqualification for any employment (the MSPB held that anyone claiming to have epilepsy was necessarily a failure at employment exams). The Supreme Court & the ADAAA didn't partly resolve similar paradoxes until early this century (without making the resolutions retroactive, so tough luck for my decades long legal cases).

Presently, when any Catch-22 prone legal entity dumps on me any of their prejudices about my epilepsy, I try my best to utilize every possible aspect of all such legal technicalities for a geometric growth of applicable regulations to saturate them with their own Catch-22 utilization. I often may not "win", but they most always lose at least valuable time and resources as the expense of their holding onto such prejudices.

Tadzio

Re: Epilepsy and School

Wow, that is fascinating. You are very knowledgeable and well-educated. It is a shame about your maltreatment.

As an aside, I had previously not heard of Geschwind syndrome, but it does sound *a lot* like me, in terms of the circumstantiality of speech, hypergraphia and also the "intensified mental life (deepened cognitive and emotional responses)" (via Wikipedia). Thank you for mentioning that.

I also appreciated your statement, "Presently, when any Catch-22 prone legal entity dumps on me any of their prejudices about my epilepsy, I try my best to utilize every possible aspect of all such legal technicalities for a geometric growth of applicable regulations to saturate them with their own Catch-22 utilization. I often may not "win", but they most always lose at least valuable time and resources as the expense of their holding onto such prejudices."

Re: Epilepsy and School

I am glad to say that after much consideration, I went above my adviser's head, since I was not particularly satisfied with his response. This resulted in me at least getting a chance to petition for a Withdrawal Excused. I e-mailed the assistant dean, the disability office, the interim dean, and my adviser with a very long letter detailing my condition. I hope that my request is granted.

Here is what I wrote in my letter:

Dear Dean "X",

I am writing to you in hopes of gaining some guidance in regard to my current medical and educational predicament. I understand how hectic it must be for you at this time, given it is the end of the spring semester and graduation is approaching. I would like to preface the rest of my letter to you by stating that I feel the length is necessary, in order to explain the full breadth of my situation, and why your help and guidance is essential.

I have had a very difficult time getting in touch with my academic adviser, Mr. "Y", partially due to the nature of my illness, but also due to the fact he is very overwhelmed as the only adviser for the Speech-Language and Hearing Science major. This has produced for me a significant quandary, in that he has informed me that it is too late to petition for a Withdrawal Excused based upon medical necessity, and that it will more than likely be denied. I understand that timing is essential in an academic context, but I feel that consideration for my situation is necessary. Please allow me to provide for you some background information.

Until March 13, I did not know that I was experiencing seizures on a daily basis. I assumed I was not getting enough rest, working too hard, or not taking adequate care of myself. On March 5, I experienced my first significant seizure in the presence of another person. This event was followed by several seizures on March 6. These led me to seek emergency medical attention on March 7. I was admitted to the hospital and stayed on observation until March 9.

I e-mailed my professors to explain to them my absence, as well as offered to provide them with copies of an excuse from the hospital, if they desired. When I returned from spring break, I provided copies of my excuse for Dr. "A", Dr. "B", and Dr. "C", as well as Professor "D". Dr. "A" did not request a copy. I was not able to see a neurologist until March 13.

On March 13, the neurologist at the university physicians, Dr. "E", had me discontinue my anti-depressant medications, which I took for Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), which was in remission at the time. He felt that the medications were increasing my seizure activity. He diagnosed me as having Temporal Lobe Epilepsy (TLE). He informed me that if I experienced further or increased seizures, to seek emergency medical attention. He also prescribed medication to help control my seizures.

When I returned to school from spring break on Monday, March 11, I e-mailed my professors in order to arrange meetings with them regarding my medical condition as well as my absences. Professors "A", "B", "C", and Krakow understood, however, Professor "D" did make it clear I would be receiving no clemency for my prior absences, or any following my hospital stay. Professor "C" also encouraged me to withdrawal from her course.

I fully understand that it is the responsibility of the student to attend class, and request accommodations via the office of disabilities as necessary. However, not knowing the status of my medical condition until well past halfway through the semester, as well as the extended periods between me being able to receive medical attention, has made my ability to attend class as well as seek help for my condition via the university’s office of disabilities difficult. In fact, the day I did have an appointment with Ms. "F" at the disabilities office, I was in the hospital.

I am sure you will want to know why I did not withdrawal from all of my classes on March 26. My reasoning was that I assumed the medication would control my seizures, and I would be able to continue my semester. I did not know how my epilepsy would progress and worsen.

My seizure medication has done little to control my seizures. I have spoken with Dr. "E", my neurologist, and he has doubled the dosage of my medication. Furthermore, I have been instructed to seek emergency medical attention as needed. I am experiencing an average of at least one to three seizure episodes daily. When I am in a post-seizure recovery period, I am disoriented. My seizure medication has caused headaches and severe migraines, which have continued unrelentingly for three weeks. I am also frequently dizzy and nauseous. In addition, the discontinuation of my anti-depressant medication, as well as the nature of TLE, has initiated a deep depression.

Within the past four weeks, I have had to miss a hugely inordinate amount of classes due to seizures, which have increased in both frequency and severity. This has made my life as a student extraordinarily difficult. I feel I am past the point of asking for clemency or understanding, as I feel my professors, and perhaps my advisor, Mr. Y, have likely lost patience with me at this point. I am unsure of what to do at this juncture. I have, despite my absences, produced satisfactory work in most of my classes, prior to the last four weeks.

According to Mr. "Y", my adviser, I am past the point of being able to petition for a Withdrawal Excused for medical reasons, and that I would likely be denied, regardless. I will likely fail most, if not all of my classes this semester, due to my inability to attend class consistently, or at all, for the last four weeks. Thankfully, this will not affect my financial aid status for the Fall 2013 semester. It will, however, make obtaining financial aid for my senior year very difficult, and it will also impact my ability to attend graduate school, as my transcript will demonstrate unsatisfactory grades.

I believe that at least allowing me to petition for a Withdrawal Excused is a reasonable modification. According to The Rights of Students with Disabilities in Higher Education handbook produced by the group Disability Rights California, and citing ADA Title III, “Specifically, colleges and universities are required to make reasonable modifications in their practices, policies and procedures… unless to do so would fundamentally alter the nature of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages and accommodations they offer, or would result in an undue financial or administrative burden on the institution.” I do not see any fundamental alteration in allowing me to petition for a Withdrawal Excused.

I would like to mention that professors I have had in the past, such as Dr. Aronow, Dr. Keach, Dr. McHugh, Dr. Wray, Dr. Jones, Professor Heard, and others, can all speak about the level of commitment I have to my education, as well as the quality of academic work I produce. Furthermore, I understand that it is my job to be my own advocate.

However, in regards to my medical conditions, I feel it is reasonable to request that I be allowed to petition for a Withdrawal Excused. If this request is not granted, then I understand, and will proceed with my next semester, as well as re-taking classes as needed. However, I do not see it as unreasonable to ask, and I appreciate your consideration.

If, however, it is considered not reasonable to request a petition for a Withdrawal Excused, I would like to be able to petition my professors for "I", or "Incomplete" grades, so that I may complete the remaining coursework at a later date.

Please advise me as to what the most reasonable accommodation would be, and how to proceed.

Again, thank you for your time and consideration. I apologize for the length of this e-mail, as well as if it has come across in any way aside from sincere and very concerned.

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