Educating The Educators About OCD

By Gail S. (parent)

“Providing schools with information and tools is critical to the success and self esteem of our children.”

When my daughter was diagnosed with OCD at age 13, I knew it was critical that her teachers be aware of her condition. So, each year we had a knowledgeable individual meet with her core teachers to explain what OCD is, and specifically review how her symptoms impact her learning. Very few of the educators were familiar with OCD and every year the teachers would express their gratitude because the session allowed them to improve their ability to teach my daughter. They would make the adjustments that were necessary - extended time on tests, reducing the number of math problems for homework, or privately answering questions after class if she had been distracted during a lecture - all in an effort to help her succeed in school.

Through the sessions they learned that her distracted thoughts took up real time - during tests, when listening in class, and while doing homework. They began to understand that the accommodations provided were necessary to "level the playing field" - to provide her with the same time that the other students, who weren't struggling with OCD thoughts for hours a day, had to accomplish the same tasks. The educators learned that OCD literally robbed her of time to focus on school work. Due to these sessions, they understood her emotional and educational needs and, as a result, she did succeed. This year she is graduating from a top university, something that might not have happened without support of teachers throughout her younger years.

Now she is an advocate for herself and for others with disabilities, but a young child would not yet have developed the skills to be a self advocate. Providing schools with information and tools is critical to the success and self esteem of our children.

“We need to advocate for our children by providing school systems with information so (OCD children) can receive the support and respect that they deserve. “

One example will always stand out in my mind. At the beginning of one school year, the teachers had not yet had their information session on OCD. My daughter had a history exam and in the middle of it a classmate asked to borrow her pencil to use its eraser. Unfortunately, he happened to sneeze while holding the pencil. My daughter sat immobile, unable to touch her pencil again or complete the exam. After class, she asked the teacher for additional time. Not aware that she had OCD, or what that meant, he said that it wouldn't be fair to the other students. The next day, when the situation was explained, he gave her time to complete the test, which she did easily. Four years later, when she graduated from high school, that teacher approached me with tears in his eyes and told me that he had never forgotten that moment and how proud he was of my daughter for continuing to persevere despite her challenges.

Support only comes with knowledge. We need to advocate for our children by providing school systems with information so that they can receive the support and respect that they deserve.

I have more respect for my daughter and her willingness to pursue her dreams, despite her struggles with OCD, than I have for anyone else that I know. I believe that every child or adult who is coping with challenges deserves that respect, and providing knowledge is the key.

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