View Full Version : Talking with my OT about strategies

07-02-14, 08:42 PM
I'm meeting with my OT on Monday after I see my psychiatrist. I need to figure out how to manage university. I thought I was doing fine, but really I'm not.

I have never mastered sitting through long classes, or reading the textbook effectively, if at all. I'm a music and theatre major, so most of my classes are more applied, writing orchestrations or acting. There have been a couple of history classes and I always bomb those because they are mostly listening to lecture and writing papers and reading textbooks.

Up until this point, I have somehow managed to pass these courses without reading the textbooks or attending all the lectures with a C+. I get As in the applied courses so my overall average isn't too bad, I think it's a B+ right now, but I'm not living up to the best I can do. I'm a smart guy, or at least, I always thought I was.

Suddenly I'm in over my head. I took a course this summer and while I'm interested in the subject, the lectures are 3 hours long and I can't sit through them, and it's very heavy reading - 2 time-consuming chapters from the textbook a week as well as a whole other book I need to read and do a report on by July 17th. It's taken me all week just to get through the first chapter of the textbook. I understand the reading. I'm interested in the subject. I just can't sustain my attention on it.

My OT suggested a while ago to set a timer for 5 minutes and start working for 5 minutes and then after that, choose to take a 5 minute break or work for another 5 minutes. Sometimes that works, but sometimes I just get distracted after the first 5 minutes and never go back to it. I've tried to just force myself to work and keep working, but it's like my brain burns out after 30 minutes and then I just stop understanding what I'm reading.

For the past two years, I've dropped out of school in October. Mostly this was for bipolar disorder, but I'm starting to think the stress of being ill equipped for classwork like this has added to my stress and is helping cause the breakdowns. Maybe if I can figure out some strategies, I can get back to my education without dropping out and ending up in the hospital any more.

My psychiatrist's office doesn't like labels, so I don't have an official ADHD diagnosis, just an OT who suggested I get tested. I'm so desperate I'm going to bring it up with my pdoc's office on Monday even if they shoot me down. I'm hesitant to ask for medication without the diagnosis, and stimulants are probably a bad idea with bipolar anyway. I'm going to write down what I wrote here to give to my OT. Even without a diagnosis, there has to be strategies that will work for me.

What has worked for you?

07-05-14, 03:36 PM
I'm a music major! I totally get the struggle with core classes vs music classes :)

For me!
I try to do audio books when I can, that helps me get through reading, I have a lot of issues reading off meds and don't like taking them to study. My school offers audio books at no extra charge to me so long as I rent/buy the textbook needed. This is only because I'm registered with student disabilities!

I have a recorder pen for long lectures so I don't miss stuff, if I happen to zone out, just replay the lecture!

I have a buddy with ADHD that is also a music major, we keep tabs on each other to ensure we finish stuff on time, friends really help me a lot.

As far as getting work done, I like to do it with people, I'm more engaged that way and there's plenty of people to help if I need it.

Something else that helps is not doing assignments in order, when I feel burnt out going one way, I'll start from the last question and go backwards or the middle and work out, this way my mind is a bit more engaged in what I'm doing.

Sitting in a long, boring class: if I'm off meds, I can't focus, I'm either surfing the web or doodling. The only things that have helped is taking abnormally detailed notes. It gives you something to do, or in history classes I like to string events together. Try to find out why something happened the way it did during class when you're bored, it'll both help you retain info and prepare you for the test, it may even give you insightful questions to ask the professor after class!

Writing papers: with exception of any music history class, I hate this. Sooooo, I follow a very specific formula for every single paper.
Para 1:
Introduce topic, introduce x amount of important things I can expand on in topic
Para 2-x:
Specific points explored.
Last para:
How these points equal the topic.

^^Works for me every time!^^

Since your psych doesn't like labels, find an independent psych that specializes in testing, this is how I received my diagnosis. It's a long process, but for the rest of your life you have documented proof a professional has thoroughly checked your mental abilities and believes what he/she believes for these specific reasons. (My test results are like 8 pages long with specific examples from my testing plus stuff I told him I had issues with growing up. He gave me a copy and keeps my file in record incase I need the results to be sent anywhere)

Friends to keep you on track
Audio books
Record lectures
Get tested by a testing specialist
Follow a formula for papers
Feel free to do stuff out of order!
Take crazy detailed notes to escape boredom

Hope this helps! And I apologize for any bad grammatical/spelling stuff, I often don't post because I know I make lots of mistakes but I didn't want you to go without any advice!

07-06-14, 09:15 PM
Thank you so much, this is gold.

I'm not sure audiobooks would work for me, I've tried to listen to audiobooks before and I just get lost in my own thoughts and miss huge chunks of the story. I HAVE found that for some reason I can concentrate better while reading ebooks on my kindle than I can with the textbook. I wonder if the school would provide me with ebooks? Currently I have found a copy of the book I need to read for the essay in ebook form and that's working. I wish I had the textbook in ebook though.

I might see if I can get accommodations to record lectures too. That would be super helpful.

I would like to be tested by a specialist, that's what my old OT recommended, but I was misdiagnosed with Aspergers a few years ago and when I asked my psych nurse about testing she said I couldn't have both ADHD and Aspergers. Well, they removed the Aspergers diagnosis so maybe they'll test me now. They KNOW I have these problems, I complain about them every visit. Maybe not vehemently enough. I see my psychiatrist AND my new OT tomorrow. I'll see if I'm brave enough to bring it up. In any case, I'll ask if they can help me get accommodations to record lectures because that will definitely help. I get accommodations for notetaking though, I have access to a notetaker. Maybe that's enough. I get most of the accommodations I need. Who knows, from the accommodations my new OT sent to the school, maybe they're already treating me as if I have ADHD. I just know I'm not officially diagnosed because I saw the diagnosis form they sent to the school and it only had Bipolar I and GAD on it.

That's cool you're a music major too! I'm leaning more heavily toward Theatre & Film and I'm currently in a combined major with both Theatre & Film and Music. I want to finish my degree soon, so I'm probably going to drop the Music half down to a minor and finish the major in Theatre & Film because I have enough Music credits for a minor.

Thanks again for your help!

07-07-14, 02:45 AM
No problem, good luck with everything! :)

07-07-14, 05:23 PM
I didn't bring up ADHD today because everything is going reasonably well other than the attention difficulties, which is an accomplishment given I've ended up in the hospital at least once a year. In any case, they're advising me as if I have it, just not putting it on paper. My pdoc suggested I get active during my study breaks, like go for a walk or do pushups or something, which I've read in strategies for people with ADHD.

I met with my OT afterwards and she was really helpful. We identified the biggest problem was the readings and the essay, and we planned out that if I read 50 pages of the book for the essay every day I'll finish it by Saturday, then on Sunday I write the essay outline, and then I have 3 days to write the essay, which needs to be at least 6 pages. Writing is easier than reading for me. Next Monday I'm meeting with the OT again and we're going to make sure I'm on track.

I committed to those 50 pages a day but it's hard. I'm about halfway there today so I should make today's goal. I'm doing it in 15 minute chunks - she said if I was burning out after 30 minutes to spend less time and just do more chunks. 15 minutes seems to work, and then I take a 15 minute break. So it takes 2 hours to do 1 hour of studying but whatever works. I started out working for 10 and taking a 20 minute break, but 15 and 15 seems to be good too.

My school also has "learning strategists" available so tomorrow I'm going to go and see if I can get an appointment.

07-11-14, 08:40 PM
I can't believe I've been in university doing my undergrad since 2009 and only now decided to go to the learning strategist. She's helping me with my essay, which I got an extension on. She also talked to my program coordinator (the person at the disability office that manages my accommodations) and I should be able to get some sort of program that will give me all of my textbooks in an electronic format, so I can either listen to them or read them electronically.

Maybe I will finally live up to my potential instead of scraping by with Ds. Maybe I won't drop out this year.

08-01-14, 02:19 AM
I use pretty books like the ones you get from Kikkik, smiggle etc so I stay interested and use coloured markers to make notes so I can pay attention later on (coz I love colour and pen is boring! Lists are another thing too. It devides the focus so Its only on one part of the task at a time. Planning before is my savior. I keep a diary of due dates and scedule study and anything I need to do! Not just that but before a task I look at what I need to do and devide it into steps and make a timeline roughly so for an assignment I know I'll need to research so I do notes on each paper I find for it so I don't have to rescan the whole article again (usually between 10 - 20 pages of text). Making time to plan speeds up the actually typing and checking phase so its a better peice of work.