The Other Side of Disabilities

The Office for Students with Disabilities Newsletter
Division of Student Affairs

Volume X, Issue 4 September-October 2009 Editor: James Walborn

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IN LOVING MEMORY

This issue is being dedicated to the memory of Caitlin Rose  Brondolo, who died this past May. Her mother, OSD Learning Specialist Jill Brondolo, is establishing a non-profit charity in her name to fund golf scholarships for young women who are preparing to enter college to play on the golf team. This was Caitlin’s dream, as the 12 year old had been playing golf for four years and was venturing into her second year of tournament competition.

As part of her future, she had wanted to turn pro and also teach. An energetic volunteer, Caitlin joined her mother in participating in the Heart Walk on behalf of the Owls Supporting Diversity Club for the last two years, and she was very active in the childrens’ ministries of her church. “I am very proud that both of my girls have grown up around diversity,” affirms Jill, who is legally blind. “It’s been so much a part of their life, through my job as well as having several friends with various types of disabilities. It’s so natural for them. Most kids don’t get that type of opportunity.” For more information about the scholarship fund you can e-mail Jill at jbrondol@fau.edu. There will be a special ceremony held at Loggers’ Run Middle School as two trees will be planted in memory of Caitlin and her best friend, Amber.

CARBON MONOXIDE

Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S. according to the Centers for Disease Control, causing over 400 deaths and 20,000 emergency room visits a year. This colorless odorless gas is caused by the combustion of fuel, making everyone at risk. The most common symptoms are nausea, headaches, dizziness, weakness, and confusion, and inhalation can cause unconsciousness and death. The body’s red blood cells absorb CO faster than oxygen, so when the air is filled with CO gas the body starves and the tissues and organs begin to die.

If symptoms are suspected, immediately move everyone out of the enclosed area into fresh air. Seek medical attention, telling the personnel about suspicions of CO poisoning. A quick blood test can confirm this.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) encourages consumers to buy CO monitors, but warns that they vary widely in their ability to detect carbon monoxide. Research reputable testing publications (such as Consumer Reports) before purchasing. Above all, the EPA stresses equipment prevention and maintenance, and the use of common sense.

CONFIDENTIAL SPOTS

The University already recognizes the need for student confidentiality during completion of the Student Perception Of Teaching (SPOT) evaluation form at the end of each semester. Now, realizing that students who have processing issues or physical or visual impairments have difficulty with maintaining their confidentiality in completing the SPOT since a classmate must help them with the evaluation, FAU will now allow these students to complete the SPOT forms utilizing the assistive technology available at the OSD. The OSD personnel will then hand deliver the SPOT form to Testing and Evaluation for processing, thus maintaining the student’s right of confidentiality, just like every other student.

LAUREN UPDATE

Lauren R has Cerebral Palsy and uses a walker or crutches as mobility aids. A 2005 FAU alumnus, she has acquired her Master’s Degree from UCF in Non-profit Organizational Management. Despite her obvious qualifications, the companies would invite her in for an interview, but then not hire her. “Often I didn’t even get a call back,” she states.

“I’ve become very perceptive about what makes people uncomfortable. The employers do not see the disability when reading the resume. When you walk into the interview, they perceive that they might be able to hire someone who may not need accommodations.”

She had heard that Stand Among Friends was assisting college students with disabilities find employment and she was delighted when they offered her a position as research/grant writer. She feels that she was made for Stand Among Friends and has worked there for a year.
“Besides gaining my education, I’ve dealt with so many non-profit agencies as a client that I’ve been provided with a unique perspective for seeing  both sides.”  In her current position, Lauren can often telecommute. “Grant writing and fundraising are tasks that you can do from home, even if mobility is an issue.”

She loves communicating her ideas to others. “I enjoy writing and public speaking, and am  very passionate about the rights of others.”  She is very family and friends oriented. “I’m the one that everybody goes to when they have a problem.”

Anything unusual in the refrigerator: “People may find it unusual that I like all of my food plain.”

DISCUSSING DEPRESSION

We are very grateful that a FAU professor agreed to share her story with the readers of this newsletter. She explains, “There’s such a stigma attached to mental illness that many people can’t get past the label.  This forum can tell people more about the condition, itself, and how they live with it. That is the reason why I wanted to say something here - so other people are more informed and aware, and more sensitive to this kind of issue.”

“I was diagnosed with depression when I was twenty. It was pretty severe and affected my schooling as it took me quite a while to get through college.” She had some professors who were patient and willing to work with her. Sometimes ten hours of courses was all she could handle. “My family members were very supportive, as I wanted so badly to get my education because it would open more doors for me than what were available.”

Initially, her mother noticed. “Somewhere between my sophomore and junior year of high school my grades dipped, and sometimes I’d sleep 16 hours at a time. Previously I had been an upbeat person.” Due to lack of insurance coverage, she went undiagnosed until college.

“I was taking a psychology class in which we could participate in experiments for extra credit. They told me that I had scored high on the depression scale and should do something about it.” The school psychiatrist was able to provide her with medication and therapy. “Sometimes the medications stopped working, and the therapy took a long time.”

Cognitive therapy is utilized to confront the negative thoughts. “One of the problems with depression is that you quickly look at the worse side of every situation - it’s automatic. You think, It’s raining today; it’ll rain all week; it’ll rain all summer.” But the cognitive therapy forces the person to apply logic to the statement. “But wait a minute, it doesn’t rain all day here; it doesn’t rain all week. The therapy tries to debunk some of those thoughts by emphasizing more objective reasoning. It is quite effective as I’m definitely not as pessimistic as I used to be.”

There is a genetic component. “I hadn’t realized until many years later that my father’s sisters had depression as well, and they largely went untreated.” She describes being drained of energy and having problems with concentration. “Everything just felt real heavy. It was hard to take care of myself and keep up with my classes. Simple daily functions zapped me of energy.”

The medication and therapy hasn’t cured her depression, “although it has made it more manageable. But my career gives me a lift that the medication and the therapy doesn’t quite give. It’s because of all of those things that I’m able to see the best in everything and be happy.”

She is encouraged that knowledge about depression and anxieties continues to grow. “It has affected my treatment for the better. Some of the medications are much better and some of the forms of therapy more effective than other types.” Her advice for those seeking treatment: “There’s nothing wrong with asking for help when you need it.” She notes that it is important to find a therapist with whom you have developed a good rapport. “A good relationship with the professional is very therapeutic.” She advises, “Surround yourself with people who are supportive and not judgmental of your situation.”


We want to encourage comments and contributions from our readers. Please address any comments to jwalborn@fau.edu. Feel free to share this newsletter with friends and colleagues. Current and past issues are available at http://www.fau.edu/osd.

This newsletter is available in alternate format upon request from the Office for Students with Disabilities. Boca: SU 133; phone 561.297.3880, TTY 561.297.0358. Davie: LA 240; phone 954.236.1222. Jupiter: SR 117; phone 561.799.8585, TTY 561.799.8565. Treasure Coast: JU 312; phone 772.873.3441.

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