Headlines in the news about the rising diagnosis rates of ADHD in the US after a long decline and plateau. After a sharp peak, Autism spectrum disorders seem to be slightly declining, though there's of course not enough data to tell if ADHD is the new Autism spectrum which was the new ADHD. In other words, real conditions that become instant outs for self-diagnosed fuckups, shitty parents, and the inconvenience of kids just being kids.

Or maybe they changed the formula in the vaccines again. Shit, I don't know. Something to muse on.

In any case, a couple of things have really stood out to me lately as an angry old fuck surrounded by 18 and 19 year old snowflakes and people in the 7th year of a 4 year degree plan. Today, though - today was something really neat.

This morning as I waited outside the classroom, I overheard two girls talking a few benches over. They were discussing their respective reasonable accommodations and what they "got" in order to be eligible for certain accommodations.

For those of you not familiar, universities and colleges in the US universally offer what are called reasonable accommodations for disabilities, in the same way that an employer is obliged to do for an employee. In fact, the requirements for both schools and businesses fall under the same federal law - the Americans with Disabilities Act. What exactly constitutes a reasonable accommodation is very much a case by case basis, although there are certain de facto standards in various areas. Trackballs instead of mice, ergonomic chairs, wheelchair ramps, replacement of doorknobs with handles, and similar will be familiar to most.

In an academic setting, though, these accommodation are often not necessarily physical.

One of the girls said that she was doing so much better now that "they have to give [her] free tutoring and double the [normal] time on tests and stuff". The other asked "Oh, what did you get for them to do that?"

"I had to get ADD or ADHD or one of those."

"Oh, I wish I had known that. I got PTSD so they let me use notes on tests sometimes because it causes memory problems. They wanted me to go to some counseling thing but I just told them it made my anxiety worse so I don't have to."

And they cheerily discussed how they would be "getting" things next semester, and offered tips and advice on what they would need to say to various doctors and counselors, which forms to fill, and who to file them with.

"Yeah, and if you tell them that it was undiagnosed for a long time sometimes they'll let you re-take classes and you can get a way better grade on your transcript that way. You like, still have to pay for it, but they just erase the old grade and replace it with the new one."

And if you can't pass the courses even with reasonable accommodations, you can just sue.

On voting and other forms of useful feedback

I'm the Municipal Liaison in my NaNoWriMo region, which means that I must not only write 50,000 words during November (to set an example to my fellow writers) but I must also monitor our regional board, set up Write-ins and other events, answer emails, semi-curate our Social Media pages (Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr mostly) and nag the Post Office wondering where my 8-bit stickers are.

I enjoyed the competition that SuperMegaNodeFestQuest 2013. Shazam! provided and it left me wanting more competition. I couldn't enter the Halloween Quest for personal reasons and Iron Noder seemed like the perfect chance to get me in another competition. Except it gets in the middle of NaNo.

After careful deliberation, I decided that I wouldn't be a mere spectator of the show and volunteered to be a Panelist. I promised myself to read, vote and comment on every single IN node, which seemed easy in the beginning. Even if I could drop everything my job requires, giving honest critique to others isn't easy, but I never knew it before this.

My normal voting pattern is usually:

  • Upvote for interesting and well written writeups
  • Downvote for low effort writeups (shoutout to average64 and that other obnoxious kid that was on the catbox)
  • No vote for writeups about subjects that don't interest me or about which I have no solid position (due to ignorance)
  • Comment for extraordinary situations that require more communications (congratulations, suggestions for a writeup I have faith in, etc.)

During IN, however, I have to read even the WUs that I'm not interested in and those that deal with topics that I may know nothing about; and I have to give meaningful feedback on every one of them. This has led me to several internal problems, namely:

  • Poems. I like reading poems, I love savoring good poems. The thing is, I'm not a good poet myself and I feel rather inadequate to judge other's poems. You like me in all the wrong rooms is an awesome collection of poems and I don't feel prepared to rightfully judge any of them
  • Writeups about things I don't know about. I'm a bit ashamed to say that I didn't understand low-level format (how-to), although I could if I went through a thesaurus or related source.
  • Writeups about things that I don't really care about. Gone Away is one example: I'm neither a fan or a hater of The Offspring; I just haven't listened to their music (maybe except Staring at the sun). I have to get past the apathy about it and judge what is written and how it's written
  • Sad stuff, like November 7, 2013. I find it difficult to judge such things objectively. My empathic feelings say I should upvote it regardless of how well it's written. Is this a bad thing to do? I don't know

However, seeing that November ends next Friday and I've been consistently been under the 25% mark of voted/commented writeups of IN, I declare myself incompetent to give out comments for every single writeup posted for IN. I will, however, continue my duties as a Panelist and will read and vote on every writeup as I did before and will only comment on those writeups that merit so because of excellent writing or in desperate need of help.

I'm sorry, Iron Noders.

We all have our own hot topics, buttons that when pushed cause a visceral response. For me, making judgments about people who are different for whatever reason, hits too close to the heart.

From my experience in the field of special education, I remember each and every child, teenager, and adult who relied on the Americans with Disabilities Act and whatever accomodations helped them get through each day.

Early intervention, particularly but not limited to autism, is crucial. Many parents are in denial, or don't see the warning signs, especially in infants who develop in unpredictable but varied ways, sometimes taking their own sweet time to reach the milestones given in the numerous child development books available to parents. One might expect that pediatricians are trained to look for the warning signs. With the exception of Down syndrome, which has very specific visual signs, many brain-related diseases are not initially detected and diagnosed in infants. (I worked privately with one family who had two sons with autism. Sadly, the pediatrician told the mother, "Boys develop later than girls, don't worry." Valuable time was lost getting both boys the help they needed.)

Thus, when there is a delay in treatment or therapy (physical, occupational, mental) that could make a significant difference in the person's ability to navigate through a world many people take for granted, the situation is much harder. As far as drugs prescribed or doctors who are known to overdiagnose, or worse yet misdiagnose disabilities, I personally know three different school nurses from three different middle-to-upper class public school systems in New Jersey. It's common knowledge amongst these school nurses, that some children are indeed on medication for mental or behavioral reasons legitimately. It's also well known that some parents push for a diagnosis for exactly the reasons cited. And everyone knows which local doctor diagnoses ADD, ADHD, or dyslexia at the drop of a prescription pad.

In my experience, there is a reluctance to use medication in very young children while their brains are still developing at the fastest rate, unless the disability they have involves seizures. (Most medications are tested on adult males, hence the warnings on everything for pregnant women and young children of either gender.) When I worked full-time in special education, the school used behavior modification, in addition to medications, as needed. This was with middle school aged children, who could not function even with accomodations in a normal school setting. I'm talking 13 year olds, many of whom were more like kindergarten level, in terms of reading, writing, and mathematics. Hormonally, they acted just like ordinary 13 year olds. None of them liked taking medication.

Create a system and there will always be people who exploit it. Consider the parents who take Adderall or Ritalin, prescribed for their child, so that the parent stays fashionably thin and has more energy. Taking medication that is not precribed for you is a felony, and yet people do so. Parents do this and they don't talk about it, but some end up getting caught. Second to my button for children and teens with disabilities is my concern for the parents. Again, I'm speaking from my own experience in meeting with parents or grandparents or legal guardians, the ones who genuinely fight for help for their child. This is a war that rips apart marriages and changes lives irrevocably.

The overwhelming majority of those pre-schoolers, up to high school, college and beyond, who genuinely need accomodations have to go through exhaustive screening and testing, mandatory meetings once the IEP is in place. I have sat in on these meetings and it always shocked me that there was at least one teacher or administrator who thought "the problem will go away", or attributed the behavior to "being in a rock band" or "playing video games." I am dead serious. It was infuriating and embarrassing to the child, who hated having to attend these meetings.

In conclusion, even if the disability is emotionally based, as in cases of severe childhood trauma or abuse, it often manifests biologically and neurologically, becoming part of who the person is, peaking at intervals of normal human growth. Relatively recent research shows that human brains continue to develop well past twenty five or thirty years of age.

***(I realize I may be putting my life in jeopardy by responding to a person who has such a fondness for weapons but I hope he doesn't take this personally.)

***The above statement was not intended as a dig or insult. I was merely reacting to something I have strong feelings about.

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