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The Discourse of Disability in Communication Education

Narrative-Based Research for Social Change

Edited By Ahmet Atay and Mary Z. Ashlock

This book examines the ways in which communicative practices influence the lives of students and faculty with disabilities in higher education. Offering their own experiences as teachers and students, the authors use qualitative research methods, mainly narrative and autoethnography, to highlight the intersections among communication, disability, diversity, and critical communication pedagogy. While embodying and emphasizing these connections, each chapter defines the notion of disability from a different point of view; summarizes the relevant literature; provides suggestions for different ways of improving the experiences of people with disabilities in higher education; promotes social change; and in some cases, promotes policy change. Overall, the volume promotes more effective, mindful, honest, and caring interaction between able-bodied and disabled individuals.
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Chapter Seven: Caught in the Rhetoric: How Students with Disabilities Are Framed by DSS Offices in U.S. Higher Education


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Caught IN THE Rhetoric

How Students with Disabilities Are Framed by DSS Offices in U.S. Higher Education


I was not officially diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) until I was 23 years old. My late diagnosis was due, in part, to my family’s inability to afford health insurance and partly because I never stayed in a school system long enough for a counselor to diagnose me. I was constantly switching schools because my single, economically impoverished mother moved from place to place to stay ahead of debt collection agencies. I had no idea that I learned differently than other students. I never felt like the way I thought or processed information was a disability until I reached college. There I had to learn content through large lecture classes and long standardized exams. I felt overwhelmed by a system of learning that everyone else seemed to be able to negotiate naturally. I began to lose the motivation to go to classes because I did not think that I was smart enough or worthy to be a college student.

I decided to go to the Disability Support Service (DSS) office to talk to someone about receiving accommodations for my learning disability. After waiting nearly an hour, I got the chance to speak with a doctor about ADD/ADHD medication. My inquiry was immediately responded to with what I interpreted as...

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