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Leadership Ability

Delta Alpha Pi president helps others learn about disabilities

Published Feb. 9, 2015
Story and photos by Derek Poore

Marie Claire Dwyer

English major Marie Claire Dwyer leads a meeting of EPIC, Mizzou's undergraduate literary arts magazine.

Attending college. Moving out on your own. Entering the chaotic world of university life, where you must balance social, academic and career needs, could be difficult for even the most focused and diligent students.

But imagine entering that world with disabilities.

For Marie Claire Dwyer, a Mizzou English major with an eye toward law school, living with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and hyperhydrosis — a condition that causes a person to sweat uncontrollably — only added to the challenges she faced coming to college.

Dwyer hasn’t let the fact that she is a student with disabilities preclude her from taking on busy course loads, leadership positions in multiple student organizations and being heavily involved in the Phi Mu sorority.

“I used to hide my disability. I was hesitant to acknowledge it to anyone,” Dwyer said. “Now I’m more confident in myself.”

Dwyer said one big help was the Mizzou Disability Center, which she said helped her navigate campus life and learn how to get additional help completing her class work.

Marie Claire Dwyer

Dwyer says her Mizzou experience, including leadership roles in student organizations, helped her develop confidence.

As a child, Dwyer would often receive poor grades, but not for a lack of effort. Teachers would often comment on how hard she worked, but didn’t know why her grades were not improving.

Education about people living with ADHD has progressed rapidly in recent years, said Dwyer, who group up in greater St. Louis. “No one actually thought a rambunctious child might have a learning disability.”

After being diagnosed with ADHD in middle school, Dwyer’s parents helped her learn how to live with the condition. In high school, she often would need twice as much time or longer to complete tests as other students. She took copious notes and learned how to focus on homework.

She has become heavily involved with various student organizations as means of social connection, and is also president of Delta Alpha Pi, an honors society for students with disabilities.

Dwyer said she loves helping others learn about disabilities, especially when she is part of forums on campus. “People are terrified to ask questions. But in an open forum they love to ask questions,” she said.

Some days she will have four meetings back-to-back. She has leadership roles in student organizations within the English department. Throw in class and homework and Dwyer’s schedule is always teeming with responsibilities.

Education at Mizzou, for her career and her disabilities, has brought Dwyer great confidence. Before, she would shy away from talking about her disabilities; now she is an open book.

“Some people misunderstand” people living with disabilities, Dwyer said. “But I don’t care what they say about me or what they say to me.”

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Last updated: Aug. 15, 2017