Dear Professors, Here's What You Need to Know About Your Student With Health Challenges

Dear professors,

I enjoy learning a lot and am grateful for you taking the time to expand my knowledge. I want to be successful and am sure you want your students to succeed as well. I’m not a “normal” student though. You probably received the e-mail from the campus disability office about my accommodations. Yes, I am allowed extra time on tests, absence leniency, and the ability to leave the classroom during class. There are some things I can’t get accommodations for that I want you to know about too.

There are times when I can type and take notes fine. This is rare though. Most of the time I have a finger or knuckle dislocated and both activities are excruciating. This won’t be visible to you and I might not tell you because it happens so often. I often don’t know until the middle of class. If I suddenly stop taking notes, don’t freak out and assume I’m not listening. Chances are, I have turned on the dictation program on my computer to type for me.

I may show up to class in a brace or on crutches. This means I dislocated something — probably doing something that wouldn’t hurt a healthy person. I would prefer to not give you the whole story. I have been ridiculed enough for breaking my hand in yoga and playing charades. Just trust that if my injury will affect my work, I will talk to you myself about accommodations.

Sometimes I have barely dragged myself out of bed to be in class. I will not look my best on these days and will probably answer questions wrong if called on, due to this awful thing called brain fog. If I look like a zombie, please don’t call on me that day.

I am pretty good about communicating when I can’t be in class. There are times though where I might not get the chance to shoot an e-mail or make a phone call. I am not being disrespectful. I was probably rushed off to the OR for a procedure and they frown on taking phones into a sterile environment. The minute I can, you will hear from me.

When I do have an absence and a doctor’s note excusing me, please don’t ask for more details. If I feel like sharing why I was gone, I will. Some things are just too personal, especially if you are a professor of the opposite sex.

Lastly, you are privy to the information that I am ill. It is not something that I want broadcasted to all of my other classmates or professors. If I feel like sharing with them I will, but please do not expect me to share my experiences in class or assume other people know. I have to trust you with this information to be successful in your class. I know I am not your average student, but that doesn’t mean I am not trying my best to appear to be to everyone else.

I am a person first, a patient second.

I did not choose to be different, it just happened to be the hand I was dealt. Please respect my privacy and contact me directly for questions. Like every other student, I just want to do my best in your class.


Your Chronically Ill Student

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