The voice of and for USM students




ODA students search for balance working from home

Illustration by D.J. Reed

Online classes are definitely a chore many traditional college students didn’t expect. With a million deadlines pushed down throats and Canvas announcements blowing up phones, students should ideally be submitting work on time. However, that is not the case.

Many students cite procrastination as the reason they struggle with schoolwork. Students who use the Office of Disability Accommodations, however, have more reasons for struggling with schoolwork, especially in these hard times. 

Freshman Ashley Grantham is a biomedical sciences major with severe ADHD & anxiety. The benefits ODA gave Grantham on campus included taking tests in their office, access to powerpoints, ability to record in class and a good relationship with her professors. 

“It was really helpful because a lot of my professors understood I’m in a lot of classes that were 60-120 people. It’s hard to make a personal connection, but that [ODA benefits] really helped me connect with my professors so they knew me. They were very kind when reaching out to me, and it helped me so much to get ahead of my work,” Grantham said.

Now off-campus for the rest of the semester, ODA students have had to create new routines to stay on top of their work. Tarikat Khan, a sociology major, also has anxiety and ADHD.

“In the beginning, when I started maintaining a planner, I’d always think, ‘Why am I putting myself through all the trouble?’ But working on the planner seemed to be therapeutic for me, so I made it a habit. It helped me with feeling overwhelmed and calmed my nerves down a little, knowing that I had everything written down that needed to be done,” Khan said.

As Grantham and Khan planned their routines to get their work done, environmental changes, like working from home, still pose issues for students. Freshman psychology major Abigail Keenum, for example, lives in a crowded household.

“I live in a household with two younger brothers as well as my parents and my father’s service dog, which doesn’t institute for a quiet calm work and relaxation environment like I had on campus in my residence hall. I’ve had to mentally work a lot harder to force myself to fight the strain of what’s going on in the outside world while making sure I still complete my school work,” Keenum said.

Like students without accommodations from the ODA, these students said working online doesn’t provide the same feeling as being in the classroom.

“Learning from home does not have the same experience as going to a classroom and being able to enjoy those discussions and face to face meetings. That’s what learning has been for us since we were born. Discipline is also important in education which is hard to do on your own. But it has definitely helped me cope with anxiety since I am not missing any classes and I don’t have to abide by the attendance policy,” Khan said.

When speaking to some students who utilize ODA, there were mixed answers as to how ODA itself is assisting them in these times. Keenum appreciates the work being done.

“While it’s nice to have time to spend with family, the breakdown of normalcy has drastically impacted my mental health. ODA has been extremely helpful with the transition to this new learning style as much as they can, and they’re in constant contact with all of us through a mailing list. Our accommodations such as test time are still being implemented through online testing as well. Honestly, I believe ODA is doing an incredible job, and I don’t think I could ask any more out of them during this crucial time,” Keenum said. 

Students who wish to remain anonymous claim to have not received any emails since social distancing and remote learning began.

“There are a lot of organizations like SGA, NSRP, OTP posting tips for self-care and learning from home. While they’re great, it only works for me a certain amount of time. I think this is where ODA can come in and post tips for learning and advice for people who have learning disabilities. That would be really good since it would be more specified,” one anonymous ODA student said.

Their thinking aligns with Khan’s.

“I want to be able for ODA to inform my professors that I am having trouble grasping everything that’s happening around me, and it’s not just me anymore. It’s everyone in this world. We want to be able to have leniency with deadlines because it’s been very hard to keep everything going alongside making sure our mental health is okay,” Khan said.

In the midst of all of these hard times, this can still be an opportunity for  self-betterment and discovery for the fall.

“I’ve definitely learned that I like having a set routine, and when it’s broken, I get pretty thrown out of whack. I’ve also realized how much I took going to classes and living on campus for granted, which I regret immensely now,” Keenum said.

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ODA students search for balance working from home