Case Study – Geography and Anxiety / Stress

The following case study was taken from: The Geography Disciplines Network (GDN) Inclusive Curriculum Project (ICP) Case Studies, HEFCE Project, University of Gloucestershire ,(information extracted and accessed September 2006).

A second year student finds her epilepsy worsens under stress, and struggles to get the recognition she feels she needs for the adverse affects of her illness on her studies Leigh is a second year student with epilepsy. “First thing this morning at about 7.45am I didn’t feel too well. I suffer from Juvenile myoclonic epilepsy or “cornflake” epilepsy as my neurologist describes it. Basically, my body jerks, twitches and I drop things, cups of tea clothes etc. When I am like this, I find it difficult to care for my son. And this is what happened to me this morning. This saddens me as it also effects me trying to get to work on time as I can’t rush because of the drugs, and if I rush this worsens my jerking, which in turn could provoke a grand mal seizure. I feel that my epilepsy will hinder my career opportunities.

I feel that my epilepsy tends to worsen under stress. Especially close to deadlines, I seem to panic and this increases my myoclonic jerking. As a result, I find it difficult to concentrate throughout the day and it also affects my typing as my hands tend to jerk slightly throughout the day, on occasions like this.

The university, in truth had let me down, as I only found out in my second year that I was entitled to support, and this happened by accident when I went to the Disability Unit for them to sign a DSS disability allowance form that the department of social security sent me. I am entitled to financial help from the state, as I am classed as an individual with a hidden disability according to the rest of the UK, except for this university, who only describe dyslexia as a disability that warrants special attention. Had I not gone to have my DSS form signed, (which they refused incidentally) they would not have checked their records.

Once checked, it emerged that I did fill out the forms in 2000/1 and they just forgot about me. In short, I feel let down by the university Disability Unit as they have not had a case like mine before, and claimed that it doesn’t effect my academic work (how do they know?). I was very upset by this and felt that they didn’t care. To them if you don’t have dyslexia, your impairment isn’t classed as a disability that has an impact on academic work. In order to back up my case, I did produce documentary evidence from my neurologist and GP to confirm that I have epilepsy and its physical impact on me under stress. As a result, the Disability Unit then decided to take my case seriously.

In short, I feel that the Disability Unit have let me down and have not provided me with suitable help for my hidden disability. Universities must be more aware and knowledgeable and less ignorant about people with epilepsy, as this condition does have an affect on their academic work and their life in general. It is important that the university makes it clear that they are there to support people with epilepsy and other disabilities, and not just people with dyslexia. Universities must be seen to be transparent about all different forms of disabilities and not just focus on dyslexia.”


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