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Letters to the editor – Legal edition

Dismissed grad student with ADHD responds
I just read your article about my case (“Federal court denies ADHD disability claim against Loyola,” Oct. 20, 2009). I will clarify a few points and hope that you can somehow help to set the record straight:
*    It is true that my ADHD behaviors angered Loyola’s faculty, and were misunderstood.  However, I never said anything as demeaning as “my laundry is more important than your class.” I once left class early because I was struggling to balance the demands of my dissertation with the demands of classes.
*    Montana State University was willing to help me learn from the [overture] incident (a pretty innocent mistake that got blown out of proportion), but Loyola stepped in and pulled the plug just before my dissertation defense and graduation (after pursuing the degree for 5 years). The student, by the way, was also a graduate student (NOT an undergraduate). This graduate student never made a formal complaint and there was never a formal investigation, because there was nothing to investigate. I asked her if she wanted to have lunch. She said yes. When I followed up, she was clearly misinterpreting my behavior and so I dropped all contact and felt badly that I caused this misinterpretation.
*    I have sometimes checked “no” regarding my disability because I am ashamed of it and because I feared being prejudiced-against because of it — like I was at Loyola.  People don’t have to indicate what race they are; I saw this as no different.
*    I do not know how Judge Bennett ruled that I had not proven that my ability to learn is “substantially limited.”  Ask any of my friends or former colleagues and they will tell you that ADHD regularly affects my life and ability to learn.  Better yet, ask renowned ADHD expert, Dr. Kathleen Nadeau.  I don’t know why Judge Bennett did not ask her.
*    Loyola flip-flopped as to why they were kicking me out, depending on the day.  They said repeatedly that they did so because of patterns of behavior.  The only patterns of behavior that I see are ADHD symptoms that rubbed them the wrong way … behaviors like being late to class, being disorganized, and learning through trial and error. In my college appeals hearing, Loyola clinical director Jeffrey Lating stated that some of my difficulties with learning, that led to my dismissal, could be related to ADHD.
What Loyola did is simply wrong.  Becoming a psychologist is my dream.  On top of everything, Loyola has further invalidated me by claiming this has had no impact on me.  Ask my wife about how I cried myself to sleep on many occasions after they did this.  Google salary differences between masters level practitioners and doctoral level psychologists. Check out job requirements for different mental health settings.
Loyola should be ashamed of themselves.
Tim Herzog, MS, Ed.M.
Bozeman, Mont.

Ruling typifies misperceptions about ADHD
As a member of the nonprofit advocacy organization Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD), I want to clarify some misconceptions raised by the article, “U.S. District Court denies ADHD disability claim against Loyola.”
Despite a medical diagnosis of ADHD, U.S. district Judge Bennett’s opinion denied Timothy Herzog’s disability claim.  The National Institute of Mental Health, the American Medical Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledge ADHD as a neurobiological disorder affecting children and adults.  Under specified criteria, people with ADHD are eligible for protection by the American with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Rehabilitation act of 1973.
Medical research demonstrates ADHD’s association with impairments in the brain’s executive functions including organization, focus, emotion, self monitoring and behavior regulation; patients encounter difficulties with everyday tasks and social skills taken for granted by most.  People with ADHD can struggle with personal interactions at home and work due to impulsivity or an inability to adequately judge others emotions or reactions.   The resulting school or workplace problems can lead to underemployment, more frequent job changes and being mislabeled as underperforming, lazy or unsociable.  ADHD is not linked to intelligence and its signs and symptoms can go unnoticed particularly in smart people who develop compensatory behaviors.
ADHD is a reasonable explanation for Mr. Herzog’s reported academic and relationship problems but it is not an excuse for unacceptable or irresponsible behavior.  With medical treatment and family support, most people manage the daily struggles of ADHD leading successful and productive lives.
The judge’s unfortunate contention that Mr. Herzog’s dismissal from graduate school was due to behavioral issues unrelated to his disability typifies the lack of public understanding and associated social stigma that deters individuals from getting help or disclosing their disability to their school or employer in order to receive appropriate accommodations and protection from discrimination.

Marc A. Berger, Ph.D.
Yardley, Pa.