Celebrating Disability Awareness Month: Eden Stone
As an undergraduate, Eden Stone spent many sleepless nights getting through her homework assignments and prepping for tests. Yet for reasons unknown, she was barely staying afloat. Frustrated with her lack of focus, she sought medical attention and was soon diagnosed with ADHD.
We caught up with her to learn more about her experiences navigating college life with an invisible disability, and how she’s helping students advocate for themselves and others.
Putting the “A” in accommodations…After getting her diagnosis, Stone secured accommodations at the University of Alabama to stay on top of her studies. She later transferred to UT Austin and immediately contacted Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) to get the resources she needed to keep up the momentum. “After getting accommodations, my grades turned around drastically. I was making a 4.0—and before then I was not even close to that path. It made me realize that I finally had equal opportunity to excel.”
The power of self-advocacy…One of the biggest challenges student have to overcome, she says, is talking to professors about accommodations. “It can be overwhelming talking to professors—and even more nerve-wracking talking to them about and adjustment you need in class. As a student, I can tell them that I know how that feels and that we’re here to help if you’re not being accommodated.”
Dispelling misconceptions…Another challenge, Stone notes, is when students are diagnosed with stigmatized disabilities that many people don’t understand. “A lot of students don’t realize that SSD keeps the diagnosis confidential, which can be a relief when professors don’t consider your disability to be real. Now in this time of advanced technology, people tend to think that ADHD is a term for lazy people who are constantly on their phones. When I tell people about my disability, I don’t know how they’re going to respond or what they’re really thinking.”
Finding her career path…For several years, Stone worked as student intern at the SSD office and is now taking on new responsibilities as a student services coordinator. “I’m so grateful to be in this role, especially when students first learn about the accommodations they never knew existed. It feels good because I’ve been there, and I know exactly how they’re feeling. It adds a different layer to my desire to work with students and see them grow.”
On the right path…After completing her bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2016, Stone chose to pursue her graduate studies in a field that would allow her to find meaningful work in counseling. “Now that I’m in this graduate program, I know I’m in the right place. The people in my cohort are very passionate about helping others and are very interested in learning about people with disabilities, especially the language. For example, they’ve learned that some terms like ‘wheelchair-bound’ can be offensive.”
A word of advice… “One thing I wish I knew earlier is to focus more on strengths rather than weaknesses. We all have strengths and weaknesses. Once you capitalize on your strengths, you’ll feel more in control.”