Specific Disability Information

Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurobiological disorder affecting learning and behavior in approximately 2% - 5% of the school population. It is typically characterized by inattention, impulsivity, distractibility, possible hyperactivity. As many as 30% - 60% of individuals diagnosed with ADHD may have accompanying learning disabilities and/or other psychological concerns, such as generalized anxiety disorder, or obsessive compulsive disorder.

Students with ADHD often compensate for and accommodate the disability by:

  • becoming strong self-advocates
  • developing awareness of cognitive strengths and weaknesses
  • implementing appropriate learning and behavioral strategies
  • appropriately balancing and reducing course loads
  • using appropriate testing accommodations, most often a quiet testing area, extended time
  • using technology, e.g., accessible print, computer technology, FM systems
  • using note-takers and/or audio recording lectures
  • using tutorial support

Acquired Brain Injury

Acquired brain injury is when there has been a significant trauma to the brain whether by accident or disease.  These injuries commonly are the result of motor vehicle or motorcycle accidents.  The injuries can affect a certain cognitive function (e.g. short-term memory), and impact each student differently.

Students with ABI often compensate for and accommodate the disability by:

  • becoming strong self-advocates
  • developing awareness of cognitive strengths and weaknesses
  • implementing appropriate learning and behavioral strategies
  • appropriately balancing and reducing course loads
  • using appropriate testing accommodations, most often a quiet testing area, extended time
  • using technology, e.g., accessible print, computer technology
  • using note-takers and/or audio recording lectures, smart pens
  • using tutorial support

Related Links
Brain Injury Association of America

Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a group of developmental disorders.  The term “spectrum” refers to a wide range of symptoms, skills, and levels of impairment.  Some of the commonly known terms may include Asperger’s disorder, Pervasive developmental disorder.  Students on the Spectrum can have a wide range of conditions that can include social and communication impairment. 

Students who are on the Spectrum often compensate for and accommodate the disability by:

  • becoming strong self-advocates
  • developing awareness of cognitive strengths and weaknesses
  • implementing appropriate learning and behavioral strategies
  • appropriately balancing and reducing course loads
  • using appropriate testing accommodations, most often a quiet testing area, extended time
  • using technology, e.g., accessible print, computer technology, FM systems
  • using note-takers and/or audio recording lectures
  • develop a good working relationship with their Specialist in SAS
  • using tutorial support

Related Links
Autism Speaks

Blind/Visually Impaired

Students who are blind or visually impaired have significantly impaired vision on a continuum, based on their diagnosis. The primary challenge facing students who are blind/visually impaired in higher education is accessing the tremendous amount of necessary print material in an accessible format at the same time as their sighted peers. Textbooks, handouts, class outlines, class schedules, supplemental readings, overheads, board work and exams all pose accommodation challenges.

Students who are blind or visually impaired often compensate for and accommodate the disability by:

  • access to all visual materials in appropriate alternative print format, e.g., Braille, large print, audio tapes, electronic format, computer disk, raised line charts and drawings
  • actively using faculty and TA Office Hours for information clarification
  • using appropriate testing accommodations
  • using lab aides, tutors, readers, and research assistants
  • recording lectures, and/or access to note takers or technology as appropriate, e.g., talking electronic note taking devices, lap top computers
  • developing skills for efficient/effective use of technology, e.g., computers with speech
  • spelling and/or grammar software, talking calculators, character recognition scanners with speech capabilities
  • developing solid and effective study skills, organization/time management skills
  • ongoing orientation and mobility

Related Links
American Foundation for the Blind

Deaf/Hard of Hearing

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders in 2010, “approximately 17 percent of American adults report some degree of hearing loss.”  Hearing loss can be described medically by describing the amount and type of loss (i.e. mild conductive loss, or profound sensorineural loss, etc.).  It can also be described culturally as in Deaf culture which takes into account the shared linguistic attributes of those individuals who communicate primarily through American Sign Language.

Students with a hearing loss often compensate for and accommodate the disability by:

  • becoming strong self-advocates
  • using Sign Language interpreters
  • using Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART)
  • using Captions when watching video based materials
  • using technology, e.g., hearing aids, cochlear implants, and/or assistive listening devices such as FM systems
  • using note-takers
  • relying on facial cues, lip movements, and body language when conversing with others
  • relying on printed rather than verbal instructions and announcements

Related Links
National Association of the Deaf
Hearing Loss Association of America

Learning Disabilities

Learning disabilities is a general term that refers to a heterogeneous group of disorders manifested by significant difficulties in the acquisition and use of listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning, or mathematical abilities. Areas most commonly impacted by specific learning disabilities are: reading, written expression, mathematics, listening comprehension, oral expression, reasoning, attention, thinking, learning efficiency, memory, organization, time management, or social perception. Keep in mind that no one person will manifest difficulties in all areas.

What are the most common accommodations used by students with learning disabilities?

  • appropriate testing accommodations, e.g., extended time, readers, scribes, computer technology, private room
  • note-taker, tape recording classes and/or using assistive listening technology
  • front row seating
  • reduced course loads

Physical Disabilities

Physical disabilities, sometimes referred to as orthopedic disabilities, are conditions that affect the supporting and locomotive structures of the body, e.g., bones, muscles, joints, etc.  These disabilities may result in mobility limitations, manual dexterity, strength, endurance, coordination and range of motion.  They can vary in intensity from mild to severe.

Students with physical disabilities often compensate for and accommodate the disability by:

  • becoming strong self-advocates
  • developing awareness of cognitive strengths and weaknesses
  • appropriately balancing and reducing course loads
  • using a lab aide
  • using appropriate testing accommodations e.g., extended time, use of computer, scribe
  • using technology, e.g., accessible print, computer technology
  • using in-class note-takers and/or audio recording lectures
  • using an accessible table on which to write
  • using tutorial support

Psychiatric Disabilities

Psychiatric disabilities are persistent psychological, emotional or behavioral disorders which result in significant impairment of educational, social or vocational functioning. The diagnosis of psychiatric disabilities must be based on appropriate diagnostic evaluations completed by a qualified professional (i.e., licensed or certified) e.g., a psychiatrist, psychologist. The criteria most often used to diagnose psychiatric disorders are found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 5th Edition, (DSM-V). Keep in mind that in order for the disorder to rise to the level of a disability under the ADA, the impact must substantially limit one or more major life activities. Documentation must specify the functional limitations of the individual that meet the disability criteria. As such, beyond the DSM-V criteria, additional assessment is often required.

Students with psychiatric disabilities often compensate for and accommodate the disability by:

  • becoming strong self-advocates
  • developing awareness of cognitive strengths and weaknesses
  • implementing appropriate learning and behavioral strategies
  • appropriately balancing and reducing course loads
  • discussing how attendance can be impacted
  • using appropriate testing accommodations, most often a quiet testing area, extended time
  • using technology, e.g., accessible print, computer technology, FM systems
  • using note-takers and/or audio recording lectures
  • using tutorial support

Related Links

National Institute of Mental Health

Systemic Health Disabilities

A systemic health diagnosis is given when a person experiences a chronic, debilitating health problem. Some typical examples are as follows: asthma, cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, HIV, heart disease, epilepsy and diabetes. These disabilities are often, unpredictable, creating chaotic situations for the student. 

In addition to the individual characteristics of the disability, the presence of medication/s can have a profound effect on cognitive functioning at times. Some medications can create varying physiological states, e.g., sedation, some can create various psychological states, e.g., depression, anxiety, hyper-vigilance and some impact cognitive processes, e.g., memory, concentration, speed of processing. 

What are some of the compensation and accommodation techniques commonly used by college students with systemic health disabilities?
The compensation techniques and accommodations used by students with systemic health disabilities will be specific to the individual and the specific disability. There may be times they will function well without the need for accommodation. There may be times when there are significant functional limitations due to the disability and accommodations are required. These students typically develop and maintain close relationships with outside health care providers who also provide guidance to DR in the process of determining reasonable and effective accommodations when necessary. 

What are some of the common in-class accommodations used by students with systemic health disabilities?
As noted above, the compensation techniques and accommodations used by students with systemic health disabilities will be specific to the individual and the specific disability. They can vary considerably from none to extensive accommodation needed. As appropriate, some of the most common accommodations include:
  • reduced courseloads
  • alternative print formats, e.g., taped text
  • note takers
  • testing accommodations
  • assistive technology
  • physical accessibility

Quick Links

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