Panel gives students with ADD, ADHD and anxiety a voice


Student panelists discuss their struggles with ADD, ADHD and anxiety during Multicultural and Diversity Education Council's Hearing Diverse Voices Series Oct. 2 in the Charles V. Park Library.

Tawas City junior Bren Sowerby has dealt with attention deficit disorder, dissociative disorder and tics since he was five years old. In the spring, Sowerby was hospitalized because of his mental health. The music theater major spent more than half of a month away from classes and is still dealing with repercussions. 

Most professors were unhelpful upon his return, he said. However, Sowerby had an accommodating music theater professor, who allowed him to observe and absorb missed information. As a result, Sowerby said he later gave his best performance ever.

“I try to be transparent for those who can’t be,” Sowerby said. “Mental disorders can be hard to talk about. There needs to be a general consensus of care in a classroom environment,”

Sowerby was one of seven student panelists at Multicultural and Education Diversity Council’s (MDEC) Hearing Diverse Voices Series Oct. 2. Panelists discussed their struggles with ADD, anxiety and other mental illnesses in classroom settings. More than 40 Central Michigan University faculty, students and administrators joined them on the fourth floor of the Charles V. Park Library.

MDEC is a committee of faculty and students charged with promoting diversity and inclusion on campus. MDEC partnered with the Office of Curriculum and Instructional Support to host the event.

Chair of MEDC and education leadership faculty member Matt Johnson said the committee recognizes CMU is not meeting the needs of students, particularly in classrooms.

“MEDC tries to better serve various marginalized populations of students,” Johnson said. “These panels help us understand student experiences, so we can better serve them as instructors in the way we teach and the policies we issue.” 

Panelists stressed the importance of the first week of classes for students with anxiety. They said they sometimes need occasional off-days, but attendance policies are often unobliging to their mental health.

Beaverton senior Lynn Heiple listed four things professors have done that have helped her:

· A well-laid-out class schedule.

· A "flipped classroom" that implements instructional videos and interactive content.

· Frequent quizzes that prepare students for exams.

· Being approachable outside of class.

Birmingham graduate Sarah Fischer closed the panel with two words for those  who attended: “Just listen.” 

Mimi Gonzales-Barillas, diversity communications specialist for the office of institutional diversity, equity and inclusion, had a full page of notes as the event concluded. 

“I jotted down two words in particular: “heard” and “trust” — professors need to listen when students are sharing what is most vulnerable to them,” the administrator said.

MEDC will meet again at noon Oct. 9 in Charles V. Park Library room 413 to explore possibilities of action. For example, providing syllabus language and examples of attendance policies to faculty, Johnson said.