SSD works with staff and instructors to ensure students with disabilities have equal access to the information. materials and experiences in class. Below is information about working with students who are registered with SSD as well as guidance for how to help students get registered.
For more general information on working with people with different types of disabilities, please visit our About Disabilities Page.
Working with Students Registered with SSD
Students who are registered with SSD can request individual Accommodation Letters for their instructors that outline the accommodations approved for that student by SSD. Instructors should discuss the Accommodation Letter, and any associated handouts, with the student to clarify which accommodations the student may need to use in the class and how it will be provided. The student’s assigned Disability Services Coordinator can answer questions that may come up during this conversation or any any point during the semester.
Below are a few general tips when talking with students with disabilities about their accommodations.
- Ask how, not if: Use phrases such as “How will be the best way for you to participate in class discussions?” or “How can I make sure the class materials are accessible for you?” Many students have experience when it comes to navigating their disability and using accommodations so it can be helpful to start the conversation by asking the student what has been helpful in the past, not if they can be successful in the class.
- Make sure you and the student have a conversation about the accommodations they need to use in the class and both you and the student know how the accommodations will be implemented. Consider sending a follow up email summarizing your conversation so both you and the student have a written document to refer to later in the semester if needed.
- Make a plan to keep lines of communication open: After you discuss accommodations the student would like to use, make a plan for how any changes will be communicated. It can also be useful to let the student know you will follow up with their Disabilities Services Coordinator if there are questions.
Working with Students Not Registered with SSD
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. Below 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 Resourcesfor more information.
- If a student expresses concern about reaching out for support, 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 Monday through Friday which can be a resource for students, faculty or staff who have questions or want more information about SSD or accommodations.
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