There are times when a faculty or staff member recognizes that a student may be struggling because of a disability but may not know how to address these concerns and make a referral to SSD. Here are some suggestions to help connect a student to useful resources and supports.
- Provide a safe and supportive space to have this conversation (ideally a private space when you have time to give the student your full attention)
- Respect privacy: some students may not want to go into details about their disability. You can still provide support and referrals without knowing all of the details.
- Know the resources available on campus. See Campus Resources for more information.
- If a student expresses concern about reaching out for help, explore potential barriers (financial, fear of disclosure) and what you can do to reduce those barriers or correct misconceptions they have about asking for help or connecting with services
- Contact the Behavior Concerns Advice Line if you have concerns about a student and aren’t sure how to help
Reflect What You Observe
Rather than trying to diagnose a student or suggest that they may have a disability, try simply sharing your observations with the student. Students often appreciate that someone cares enough to notice their distress and is willing to talk with them about their struggles. Many students have been connected with SSD because a faculty or staff member made a referral to our office. Often these students were able to continue successfully in their coursework once they were connected with the support they needed.
Below are some suggestions on ways to approach this type of conversation and provide an opening for discussing their challenges and concerns.
- “At the start of the semester you seemed to really enjoy this class, but recently you’ve seemed really down and appear to have lost your motivation. I just wanted to check in and make sure you’re alright.”
- “I’ve noticed that you never seem to finish your exams on time even though you seem to know the material. Has this always been a challenge for you?”
- “It seems like you have a hard time staying awake/paying attention in class. Is there anything I could do to help you stay focused?”
- “I’ve noticed you’ve been missing class and not turning your work in on time recently. Is everything ok ?”
After engaging in a conversation, you may want to suggest that the student check out some of the resources available on campus, including the Counseling and Mental Health Center, University Health Services, Services for Students with Disabilities, or Student Emergency Services.
SSD offers Drop In hours between 9am-4pm Monday through Friday. During these hours, students can come in and meet with a Disabilities Services Coordinator to learn more about the support SSD can provide and the process to register with SSD. Faculty and staff are also encouraged to make use of Drop In hours (either by calling or coming in person) to ask questions or request assistance and problem-solving support.
Students are often grateful to have someone willing to listen and start a conversation about the difficulties they are experiencing. These positive experiences are often the subject of an SSD Appreciation Award nomination:
“He [my professor] took the time to prioritize my emotional well-being and recommend that I see a counselor.”
She [CARE Counselor] is the one who has shown me the CMHC groups that I have participated in, and gave me the information I needed to register for SSD in the first place. Without her I would be long gone from this university. Instead, I have been able to pull myself off of probation and into good standing with the university.
“Her genuine concern and support made it much easier to take advantage of my accommodations without feeling guilty or ashamed about it as I often do.”