Summer 2009 Retreat

Summer 2009 Retreat

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Disabilities by Edith C.

I wrote a short personal essay on the topic of mental disabilities last semester that I would like to share for this journal. I haven't really experienced a disability in school but this essay I wrote about a family member explains a little about what I feel about it. To summarize what I wrote, I think being labeled with a disability can have many negative effects for a person with it. Especially because mental disabilities come with many misconceptions and stigmas.

I have a cousin who was diagnosed with Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) when he was small. It is one of the most common childhood disorders and can continue through adulthood. Symptoms include “difficulty staying focused […], difficulty controlling behavior, and hyperactivity” (NIMH). Only his parents and his mother’s sisters, including my mom, knew he had it. I never knew about it until a year ago. When growing up, my siblings did see that as a child my cousin was a little “trouble-maker.” We didn’t think much of it. After all, he was a little kid and he soon began to mature and act like any other teenager. When he was a boy the doctor recommended my aunt to give him medications, but my aunt felt that the medications just made him more hyperactive. She also didn’t want him to receive any special education because she didn’t want other people and himself to be stigmatized by the label she felt he would receive. People with ADHD are defined “successful” if they are able to do well in school and lead productive lives (NIMH). Although my cousin never did well in school, I argue that my aunt’s treatment to recovery to make ADHD a small and hidden part of his life was the best treatment for him. The stigma’s attached with mental disorders would affect his life and the big blur there is between how much his environment and the disorder play in his life could have led to the wrong treatment or report of progress.

His life would have been affected negatively if people, besides certain family, knew he had ADHD. Since mental disorders come with many stigmas and misconceptions, society does not know how to deal well with such delicate matters. Because of this my aunt was afraid that people would see him as “slow” or “dumb;” both which have negative meanings in our society. For example, to be honest, I think me and my siblings would have seeing him differently. I would have attributed the disorder to many of his behaviors as I do now that I know he has it. I try to avoid it, but I question if any of his actions, his unsuccess in school, and or personality has anything to do with ADHD. I, a close family member, am uncertain of how to think of his disorder. My aunt did right at making the disorder only a small part of his life because I believe it could have affected the way he also views himself. Not being labeled, has avoided him feeling abnormal in school, and thus others and himself have not lowered his expectations. He puts the same effort in school and in his social life as others. When he has trouble in school, he asks for help like any other person who has trouble with their studies and he tries his best even if he has trouble in school.

However, he is “successful” in his social life (he has many friends), but has been unsuccessful in school. He has trouble focusing in school, which makes me and my mother wonder if maybe receiving special education would have helped him. I know, he tries his best, but he finds it really hard to concentrate to do his homework and to focus in school. For as long as we’ve known him, he doesn’t do as well as many other students do. Some of the symptoms of ADHD are the following: People with ADHD are “easily distracted, miss detail […] frequently switch from one activity to another, “have difficulty focusing on one thing,” “become bored with a task after only a few minutes” (NIMH). All of these symptoms are related to some of his troubles in school which makes me wonder if maybe he did need help at finding studying strategies.

However, there is no way of knowing if his behavior in school is related to his disorder. His environment could also play a role in his school troubles. His dad was an alcoholic for many years of his life, which very much lowered his self-esteem. My brother says, “a father is a very important role model for a men.” It was for my cousin as well. My cousin told me how his dad’s behavior has affected the way he does in school and life. In addition to this, although there is a big controversy in why, Latino youth and African American American’s tend to do dropout of schools at a higher rate than other races and ethnicities. He goes to a Latino populated school and does not receive the best quality of education. If both of these examples play a major role in his school life, then it is hard to tell how much each his environment and his disorder affected his “success” in school. Ultimately, attributing his behavior in school to ADHD could have led to ignoring environmental issues and wrong report of progress of recovery if he would have received special education treatment.

Therefore, I agree with his mother that the best treatment for him was to make the disorder a small and hidden part of his life. The cons of receiving a treatment out-weight the pros. Yes, he has not done well in school and could have had troubles in school related to the disorder. However, he is very “successful” in other aspects of his life. In addition to this, my cousin could have also been affected in school by his environment; his dad’s alcoholism and his school environment. Even though he struggles in school, he has received help in school, like any other person who has trouble focusing in school without being labeled as a person with ADHD. Labeling people with mental disorders sometimes negatively affects the way we perceive the person and the way the person with the disorder perceives himself. The consequences of this is that this would to some extent lead to ADHD defining him instead of ADHD only being a small part of his life. Nevertheless, each mental disorder and each individual with a mental disorder is different. In my cousin’s case the best treatment for recovery was no treatment at all.

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