Monday, Monday: Great Expectations or Great Assumptions?

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What’s the difference between an expectation and an assumption?

What’s the difference between ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and fidgety distraction, between a clinical malady and a plain ol’ undisciplined mind seething around in a widening gyre?

Some days, like today, when I’m feeling more creative than disciplined (in the parlance of alma mater’s Statement of Purpose), I feel like I’ll do just as well to power through my own mental brattiness. Squirrely pings be damned! Git ’er done!

“Joe now sat down to his great work…” [Great Expectations, clickable]

Other days, my calmer, more rational, inquiring mind wants to know more. On such a day recently, I visited Nance Longworth, disability resources and access coordinator in the Center for Teaching and Learning. Not only did I come away with a better understanding of the day-to-day forces in play on the landscape of the life of the mind in 2013, I have a fuller appreciation for the challenges of all college students today, and the resources available to them at Davidson.

“It doesn’t matter so much what it is,” Longworth says of the myriad designations that might be termed “disability.” “What matters is, ‘What does it do?’”

As a self-described campus McGyver, Longworth’s focus is to move quickly from defining a problem to finding a solution. And whether a student’s “symptoms” or functional limitations are physical, mental or emotional, the solution tends to involve some combination thereof.

In terms of learning disabilities, for instance, the very idea can be disconcerting for Davidson students, many of whom graduated in the top percentiles of their high school classes.

Sciurus carolinensis! (at Duke, hahahaha. Clickable.)

“When these students get to Davidson, what they feel is, ‘I was smart when I came to Davidson, and now I’m not anymore!” says Longworth.

Part of that feeling, of course, is the challenge since time out of mind for students here to adjust to the workload this place is built on.

And partly, that feeling speaks directly to the continuing illumination of the full spectrum of learning—abilities as well as disabilities.

For instance, a certain type and degree of ADHD might benefit quickly and directly from a visit to an M.D. who could prescribe medication. Where things really get interesting, from Longworth’s point of view, is the more in-depth work of a psycho-educational evaluation. This approach can include tests for general knowledge, IQ, depression and anxiety, working and longterm memory, retrieval and expression of those memories, and finally, diagnostics for clinical ADHD.

Mental “processing speed” is a critical concept across the spectrum, Longworth explains. That can be viewed as a discrete characteristic, measurable on its own. At the same time, it ties together all the points above, and more—up to and including the jump-start that a first-year student’s social and time management skills need in the shift from high school to college. That’s a lot.

All the more reason for a full array of resources for both teaching and learning in a center for same. From diagnostic tools and assistive technology to person-to-person tips for handling priorities and deadlines, the Center for Teaching and Learning is a good place to start exploring.

What’s in your expectations and assumptions?

 

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