Thursday, June 24, 2010

For Caroline Manzo, Albie and Dreams

I am going to jump into a foray that I know very little about. Ok some of you may say that is generally how I live a lot of my life, but here goes anyway. I was perusing the internet and came across an article about the Real Housewives of New Jersey, specifically the recent incident concerning Caroline Manzo and her son Albie. Albie, a hard working youngman with dreams of becoming an attorney, basically did not maintain the appropriate GPA and was asked to leave his law school. It was revealed that he has a language processing disorder and that it had been difficult for him that first year. It was also revealed that a law professor was nasty and condescending in telling Albie that persons like him won’t do well in the law field. Now I do not know any of the actors in questions in this drama, but what I do know is something about law school and something about higher education and accommodations for disabilities.

To begin with, that law professor is an asshat, big time. Of course, that should also come as no surprise for those of you who have been through law school and even remain in the practice of law. It seems that there is an overwhelming abundance of asshats in the legal profession, and yes a lot of them go into politics; republican, democrat or independent. (OK that is going to be my only foray into that for right now). I have to say that over the decades since I graduated from law school the tone of the legal business has even changed. It is no longer a “gentleman’s profession”, there is a reason the lawyers are also called “esquires.” It is because the English gentleman esquire was considered the epitome of legal decorum. What has happened however is that the legal profession has turned into a knock down drag out fight to the finish and may the best person, or the one who can connive the best win. This is not to disparage the descent among the attorneys (hubby being an amazingly honest, forthright and most descent of human beings and attorney), who are the overwhelming majority. But remember that song, “one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch,” or at least give the whole bunch a really bad name.

That professor is such an intolerant and ignorant man without the concept and understanding of what a disability is and how people with disabilities can learn to function in the neurotypical world. Does anyone not think that there are thousands of lawyers in this country and the entire world that have disabilities of every kind? Me thinks that that man needs to get his head out of the world of education and allow someone who understands teaching and preparing future minds do the job. There is no way that that professor should be telling anyone what they should or should not do with their lives. Apart from the fact that this may actually rise to the level of some form of discrimination on the part of the professor, it also reminds me of what collegeman went through with the Dean of the Drama department at his college. (Here) So asshats are not found in law school alone.

I have to say that there are many roads that a student with a disability can take in college and graduate school. In fact, under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) there are accommodations that the schools should be giving to persons with disabilities. Now, post-secondary education is not like K-12 where there is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), that ensures not only accommodations but mandated supports and therapies for those with quantifiable and diagnosed disabilities. But there are enough supports and accommodations under the ADA that can be given and that are basically de rigueur in today’s world. In fact, the Bar Exams of every state has an application process for persons with disabilities. (Maybe someone should show that professor the law of the state where he lives).

Some of these accommodations are (but not exclusively): alternative location for exams, use of a computer, double time for testing, use of a note taker during class, the allowance of service animals, readers for the blind and interpreters for the deaf and even study programs for those with disabilities. Some post-secondary instructions allow the student to tape the lectures so they can review them at a later time, and there are even laptop programs that allow you to record and type at the same time. But be sure to ask the professors permission before you record. Some states do not allow you to record without someone’s knowledge and still others consider the lectures intellectual property.

As far as collegeman has been concerned, his college has a wonderful area where he goes and takes his exams. It is a private and quiet area, with its own computers. The people that run the program are truly wonderful and seem much invested in him doing well. They make sure that he has everything he needs and that if something is not understood there is intervention with the professors. As I have said before, apart from the odd issue, this has been a very welcoming and wonderful place for collegeman. They have allowed him to grow and develop like any other student. He is such a different youngman than he was when he entered that school two years ago and I know it’s only because they allowed us to implement the program that he needed. For that both hubby and I will always be grateful.

I have also mentioned the use of college coaching and the creation of a private program for all students with disabilities. It is not a bad thing at all. In fact the transition from highschool, to college to law school is daunting for anyone never mind someone who has executive functioning and organization issues. The world we live in is very different than 25 years ago when I first graduated from law school. There is so much more that we have learned about disabilities and how to help those with neurotypical differences that there should be no excuse for any school to shirk their responsibilities. It is a total shame if they do.

To Albie and Caroline Manzo, I would like to offer some support. I also did not reach the respected GPA at the end of my first year of law school. I was allowed to apply and request to be reinstated, which I was. I later graduated, albeit not on law review, but I passed the bar. Do not let anyone tell you, you cannot in this world. Counselors, teachers, doctors have told hubby and myself that our children can't from the time they were diagnosed. I tell them all, push off. I tell my children that you have a right to your dreams and you have a right to reach your goal in life. By the way, collegeman is also gearing himself for law school. I'd like to see someone tell him he can't. They will get one big boot up their butt.(See, you don't have to be from New Jersey to not take crap, ok, however, I did spend some formative years there. Actually my attitude may come from being a Bronx born baby.)

By the way, just for Albie’s own edification, it is my understanding that it took the Honorable Justice Louis Brandeis (perhaps one of the most brilliant jurists to ever sit on the US Supreme Court) 6 tries to pass the bar exam. Just saying…..

Until next time,