The Arthritis NewsletterFall 2017
Back to the BooksBy Alexandria Klemm
University can be extremely stressful and difficult to get through for the average person – not to mention coping with the extra burden of having arthritis. However, there are many ways that you can ease the load during your education. Whether you’re going to school for your Bachelor’s Degree, your Master’s or even your doctorate, there are options and resources at your disposal to help you through.
First, when you decide to go back to school, consider how you are feeling and whether your condition is reasonably stable and you are managing well. Are you confident that you can manage a full course load and assignments, or is it more realistic to spread out your studies with a reduced course load?
Second, if you’re not living on campus, take into account how far you’ll have to travel back and forth to school, and the timing of your classes. Are the commute times reasonable to be able to fit in that early morning or late evening class, or will you find it too tiring? Also, make sure you visit the campus before classes start to become familiar with the distances between classrooms and/or buildings and their accessibility.
A big question you’ll have to ask yourself is will it be necessary for you to work part-time to fund your studies? If you have an honest, full picture of what your average day, week and month will look like, you’ll be more prepared and able to cope with juggling both if it’s necessary.
Possibly the most important step after enrolling in a university or college program is to ensure that you’re actively registered with the school’s Access and Diversity department (note that each institution may call this department something different, such as ‘Disability Services’ or ‘Accessibility Services’). They will require documents from your doctor or specialist confirming your diagnosis but will not disclose this information to anyone else. After you register, you may wish to contact each of your professors and work with them individually, especially if you require any specific accommodations to help you succeed.
Your school may also have notetaking services if you need assistance in that area and qualify for it – don’t be afraid to ask. These services hire your classmates to send you detailed notes weekly so you have less stress if you’re not able to keep up with the demand due to physical limitations or mental fog. Also, if you miss a class then this is a great help so you don’t fall behind. And remember, like any post-secondary student, always try to stay on top of the readings and be organized from day one so you can optimize your energy spent.
Last but not least, if you encounter any professors that are not as open to your requested accommodations as they should be, then your school’s Access and Diversity department will assist in creating the most successful environment for your learning. It’s up to you to decide the amount of medical information you want to disclose to your professors; don’t forget you always have a right to privacy!