Auger & Auger wishes to congratulate our most recent Spring 2021 Disabled Scholar Award Winner: Madelyn Gilbert. Diagnosed with Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD), Madelyn experienced difficulty in her school career clearly processing instructions and information.
The condition led her to increase her own workload in order to study harder, rewrite her extensive in-class notes, and apply herself to the fullest with every single assignment and task. Her dedication also manifests on the softball field, where she earned her varsity jersey. Through her work in the classroom and on the field, Gilbert discovered that it is necessary to advocate for yourself and push yourself if you want to overcome challenges to succeed in your personal goals.
Gilbert is currently enrolled in the College of Charleston pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Psychology, and she plans on getting her master’s in forensic psychology. Her ultimate goal is to serve as a forensic psychologist, so she can help the justice system better understand the psychology of suspects and those facing prosecution.
We anticipate further success in Gilbert’s future, not just because of her dedication but also because of her willingness to hold herself to a high standard. Her story shows the importance of acknowledging the need for accommodations for those with cognitive and sensory disabilities, especially accommodations we provide ourselves through our own preparation and diligent study.
A Rare Condition That Spurred Gilbert to Work Harder and Find the Inner Support She Needed
The push to make public accommodations accessible to those with physical disabilities has led to tremendous advances in not just design but also public thinking. However, accommodations on par with these are not always easy to find for those diagnosed with sensory and learning disabilities, even in the field of education.
“Imagine for a moment, reading the first line from a paragraph and unknowingly, skipping to the first line in the second paragraph, continuing on as if the story made sense, fidgeting in your seat, all while 20 other students narrow their eyes and stare at you in disbelief.”
This was the opening of one of our Spring 2021 Disabled Scholar Award Winners, Madelyn Gilbert. Initially diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), it was only recently discovered that she actually had a rare cognitive condition called Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD). Individuals with CAPD have difficulty processing information, which can extend to other senses beyond just hearing.
“With my situation, I can hear clearly but I have a difficult time receiving, organizing, and processing information that I am being told,” Gilbert explained. The effects of her condition have led to “an inability to hear the correct sounds and words, poor social skills, many difficult years of learning to read, an inability to screen out background noise, being extremely sensitive to certain sounds and loud noises, and significant difficulty with multi-step directions.”
Being unsure of her full diagnosis and in the classroom with people unfamiliar with her conditions initially led to great academic, social, and personal challenges for Gilbert. But instead of feeling discouraged, Gilbert endeavored to give herself the accommodations, tools, and practices needed to level the playing field.
Gilbert recounted to us that “with all these outward obstructions seeming to impede my ability to obtain a purposeful — and identical — education, I have only ever known that I am the student who has to study harder, dedicate many more hours to re-writing my class notes and reviewing the lectures, taking the time to re-read passages and books so that I am able to comprehend the ideas in such a way that it aligns with the understanding of the teacher and the other students.”
While all of this doubled-down effort made Gilbert twice as busy as the average student, her efforts yielded very visible, positive results. She was recognized with the “Wando Warrior Award” for two consecutive years, which was a monthly award given to a select student in each grade who exemplifies the positive qualities the school seeks to cultivate. The award recognizes a student who “demonstrates a positive attitude, academic progress, respect, acts responsibly, offers services to help others, and for being prompt and prepared for class.”
Gilbert’s high school at the time had a student population of over 5,000, making her achievement all the more commendable considering her ability to stand out as a shining example.
It is certainly unfortunate that Gilbert was compelled to work twice as hard to be graded on the same scale as the other students, her experience taught her that it is important to understand yourself in order to give yourself the best chances of success. This same lesson would provide even greater personal rewards on the softball field.
Playing Hardball to Excel at Softball
Through her drive to accomplish her personal goals, Gilbert learned that she could meet her own high standards, which allowed her to later meet the high standards of others. During her high school career, she wanted to play softball and represent her school on the field. She was intimidated by the fact that she came from Upstate New York, an area with a very short practicing and play season compared to South Carolina, which as we all know has baseball-worthy weather nearly all year round.
“I was so very nervous during the tryouts,” she confessed to us, mentioning that the other students had “confidence that I yearned for.”
On top of things, the coach she was trying to impress “was tough; no joking around with the players at all. He told us what he wanted, how he expected it to be done, and when to have it done, and physical exhaustion would be the punishment if his demands were not met.”
To her surprise, Gilbert found that she actually thrived in this situation. Perhaps it was familiar territory considering how hard she pushed herself academically, or perhaps it was the hyper-clear nature of the expectations being put upon her. Either way, “I found that I thrive on order and discipline,” she revealed to us.
Her efforts earned her a Wando High School softball jersey, and also new heights for her own sense of what she was capable of.
“I had dug deep to earn that accomplishment,” she told us. “I was so proud of myself.”
Gilbert explained that “this is when I learned that I had to start advocating for myself.”
Onwards Towards a Bright Future as a Forensic Psychologist
Throughout her experiences, Gilbert learned that she must recognize her obstacles in order to devise a strategy to overcome them. Some subjects, like Social Studies and Physical Education, came naturally. But others, like Math and English — which often form the bulk of standardized tests and placement exams — were more difficult.
Even on the softball field, certain moments had the potential to catch her off guard if she was unprepared. But, thanks to her dedication, she was never unprepared. She practiced for different scenarios and strategies based on the number of outs and the number of players on base.
That same dedication will apply to her future academic and professional career, no doubt. Gilbert explained to us that she plans to take copious notes and rewrite them for her future college courses. She also plans on attending office hours and having face-to-face conversations with her instructors so that she can get a clear read on their expectations and so they can understand her own individual needs as a student. She also plans on attending the Center for Students with Disabilities in order to gain access to resources and accommodations as needed, especially when it comes to writing and testing skills.
On her journey, Gilbert was never alone, of course. She points to her family, her academic support group that includes teachers, her guidance counselor, and the positive influence of coaches through her years of playing sports. At the same time, she recognizes the role her own self-motivation played in getting her to where she is. When asked what she would say to a young child struggling with similar obstacles, she said:
“I would tell them that they need to find the strength within themselves to have the confidence to know that everything will work out the way things are meant to be. I would additionally encourage them to work hard, stay positive, and learn good study habits as these will benefit them in both academics and in their careers.”
This solid advice shows maturity as well as self-recognition. We aspire to embody these qualities in our own work and as we interact with others in our profession and in our community. We wish Madelyn Gilbert the best of luck in her future endeavors, but given her tenacity, we can safely assume she won’t need it.