When 58-year-old Randy,* who was diagnosed with MS 10 years ago, decided to go back to school, he had a lot to deal with. His friends thought he was crazy. He was worried about balancing his school and family responsibilities, and about whether he'd still remember anything from his school days. He was also concerned that his MS symptoms might interfere with his learning. But Randy had always wanted to finish the university degree he'd interrupted in order to take care of his family, so he forged ahead.
Randy decided that since he'd been out of school for so long, he needed an action plan for going back. His first step was to get organized. A few of weeks before going back, he bought a personal organizer and entered his school schedule into it. He also stocked up on textbooks and school supplies early to avoid the rush. Getting organized helped him feel less stressed.
Next, Randy contacted the university to check on accessibility services for students with disabilities. He was pleased to find out the university offered a number of services he could use, including study tips for adult students, barrier-free access to his classrooms (Randy gets around using a walker), an accessibility handbook for students and professors, and classroom accommodations.
Accommodations are changes a professor or teacher can make to allow people with disabilities to participate in a regular class. Each person may need different accommodations. Accommodations that may be helpful to a person with MS include:
Randy went to each of his classes ahead of time to introduce himself to the professors. He then arranged the accommodations he needed with the professors and the accessibility services department at the university. Knowing he had the right to reasonable accommodations removed one source of stress for Randy. His professors also appreciated the advance notice.
Randy talked to one of his adult friends who had recently gone back to school, and learned that although they may feel out of place sometimes, adult students do have some advantages. They value the educational experience even more after having to wait for it, and they can draw on their past experiences to help put new knowledge in context. This left Randy feeling more confident and less stressed.
What can we learn from Randy's story? Talking to other adult students and getting organized can help you feel more at ease, and finding out more about the accessibility services at your school can help ensure your MS symptoms don't become a barrier to learning.
* The stories in this health feature are hypothetical patient stories based on the combined experiences of a variety of different people with MS.
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