Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Time To Learn

Janet writes: The spring 2010 issue of Momentum has an interesting article on memory loss, starting on p. 38. It goes into a lot of detail about the different types of memory and what memory functions are involved for most people with MS. The article gives an in depth description about why people with MS take longer to learn new information.

This article reports that, when given extra time, people with MS are able to learn and remember tasks just as well as people without MS. They just perform slower. The article poses the question “If students in school who have learning difficulties can have extended time, why can’t adults with learning difficulties have the same accommodations on the job?” (Genova, p. 41).

Tim has experienced this problem in the past. He had jobs that had deadline requirements and projects that required a lot of input from a lot of other people. He could not keep up with the demand. I used to hear Tim say “I can’t do it!” quite often. Through trial and error and a lot of encouragement from me, Tim has found that he can do quite a few things, in fact, but it takes him a longer period of time to learn a new process. He also needs an environment with no distractions when he is learning something new. Given these two accommodations, however, he has managed to learn quite a few things. I don’t hear “I can’t” as much anymore. Now I hear “I need more time” and “Make that #@$% dog be quiet!” (Tim loves his dog but his bark is very loud.) (The dog’s bark, not Tim’s.)

I think this is an important point to remember if you are trying to survive the working world with cognitive symptoms resulting from MS. More time, rest breaks, and extended deadlines might be your key to keeping your job. I realize this is dependent on having an employer who is willing to work with you and will not discriminate based on your disability, as employers are supposed to do. However, these accommodations are quite easy and, for the most part, inexpensive for companies to make. In the right environment, a little self advocacy might not hurt. In the wrong environment…well, if your employer is ready to boot you out the door because of your MS, it’s probably time to find a new job anyway. And maybe a good lawyer…

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