How Can I Get Students to Talk to Me
(at the right time!)
About Their Accommodation Needs?
faculty are more than willing to discuss accommodation and to provide
appropriate accommodation, but they don’t find out until too late that
accommodation is needed because the students don’t come forward. It has been
asked if the support service provider couldn’t provide a list of students with
disabilities at the beginning of each new term so that the instructor could
approach the student if the student didn’t make contact.
While willingness to take the initiative in such matters is appreciated, it is
neither legal for the service provider to offer such a list nor is it in the
best interest of the student. Legally, students have a right
to be identified as disabled, if they so choose. They will not receive
accommodations unless they identify themselves, but that too, is their choice.
While faculty are concerned with maximizing the learning experience in class for
students, the service provider must also be concerned with helping students
develop independence and self-advocacy that will help them outside the classroom
while in college and beyond.
For all these reasons, it is appropriate for the students to take the
responsibility of identifying themselves and their need for accommodation to
you, rather than vice versa.
There is, however, something that you can do to help students in this process.
It is very difficult to have to identify yourself time after time, as being
“different” – and more so for the learning disabled student whose disability is
invisible and whom you could not identify otherwise. Students will feel more
comfortable about identifying themselves in this manner if they are approaching
someone whom they believe to be receptive to the discussion. You might try
including a sentence like the one below in every course syllabus you put
you need course adaptations or accommodations because of a disability, if you
have emergency medical information to share with me, or if you need special
arrangements in case the building must be evacuated, please make an appointment
to talk with me. My office location and office hours are: . . . “
By putting this statement on your syllabus you have identified yourself as
someone who understands that accommodations may be appropriate and, perhaps, has
a little knowledge about the accommodation process. You did not say “I’ll give
you anything you want” – you merely said “Let’s talk about it!” Such an
invitation can go a long way toward encouraging learning disabled students to
approach the instructor early – which is what you want and they