Access Services / Winona Campus

Faculty Resources

Resources for Faculty

Legal Background

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 are the two primary pieces of legislation that impact postsecondary institutions and students with disabilities.

Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) describes equal access in several forms, including the following: “A public entity shall furnish appropriate auxiliary aids and services where necessary to afford an individual with a disability an equal opportunity to participate in, and enjoy the benefits of, a service, program, or activity conducted by a public entity.”

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was designed to empower individuals with disabilities to gain employment, economic self-sufficiency, independence, inclusion and integration into society. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was designed to ensure that any institution or program receiving federal assistance does not discriminate on the basis of disability for “otherwise qualified” individuals. No “otherwise qualified” individuals, solely by reason of their disabilities can “be denied the benefits of, be excluded from participation in, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

An individual with a disability is defined as any individual who:

  1. Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, for example: walking, hearing, seeing, speaking, learning or caring for oneself
  2. Has record of such impairment or
  3. Is regarded as having such an impairment.

Some impairments, such as mobility impairments are readily apparent or “visible” while other impairments, such as learning disabilities, chronic health conditions, or psychiatric disabilities like depression, are not as readily apparent or are “invisible”. Factors such as chronic fatigue, pain, or medication side effects can also impact an individualʼs ability to perform specific life and academic-related tasks. In all cases, postsecondary institutions have a responsibility to provide program access to qualified students with disabilities.

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Though not always visible and sometimes seemingly minor, TBI is complex. It can cause physical, cognitive, social and vocational changes that affect an individual permanently.

Symptoms

Depending on the extent and location of the injury, symptoms caused by a brain injury vary widely. Some common results are:

  • Seizures
  • Loss of balance and coordination
  • Difficulty with speech
  • Limited concentration
  • Memory loss
  • FatigueLoss of organizational and reasoning skills
General Considerations
  • A neuropsychological test battery is generally an accurate assessment of cognitive recovery after TBI. Conversely, a traditional intelligence test is not an accurate assessment of cognitive recovery following TBI. Students with brain injuries might perform well on brief, structured, one and two-step tasks but have significant deficits in learning, memory and executive functions. Often long term memory of information learned before the trauma remains intact.
  • Recovery from TBI can be inconsistent, and a “plateau” is not evidence that functional improvement has ended.
  • TBI can substantially alter self-perception. The person may recall abilities and personal management skills prior to the injury but be experientially unaware that these skills are no longer the same.
  • When current performance fails to meet pre-disability performance expectations, depression often ensues.
  • Common accommodations for student with TBI may include time extensions on exams, taped lectures, instructions presented in more than one way, alternative plans to complete assignments, peer note takers, course substitutions, priority registration, consultations regarding study skills and strategies, use of memory strategies and alternative print formats.
  • Typical manifestations are a limited ability to assess situational details, make plans and follow through. Class attendance may be irregular.
Instructional Strategies
  • Include a disability access statement in the course syllabus such as: “To obtain disability related accommodations and/or auxiliary aids, students with disabilities must contact Access Services as soon as possible by calling 507-457-1465.”
  • Keep instructions as brief and uncomplicated as possible. Repeat exactly without paraphrasing.
  • Assist the student in finding effective peer note takers from the class.
  • Allow the student to record lectures.
  • Clearly define course requirements, the dates of exams, and when assignments are due. Provide advance notice of any changes.
  • Present lecture information in both an auditory and visual formats (e.g. chalkboard, overheads, PowerPoint slides, handouts, etc.).
  • Use more than one way to demonstrate or explain information.
  • Have copies of the syllabus ready no less than six weeks prior to the beginning of the semester so textbooks can be converted to alternate formats.
  • When teaching, state objectives, review previous lessons and summarize periodically.
  • Allow time for clarification of directions and essential information.
  • Provide study guides or review sheets for exams.
  • Provide alternative ways for students to perform tasks (e.g., substituting oral for written work).
  • Provide assistance with proofreading written work. Stress organization and ideas rather than mechanics when grading in-class writing assignments.
  • Allow the use of spell-check and grammar-assistive devices when appropriate to the course.
  • Allow use of memory aids on exams if it does not alter the content of what is being evaluated.
  • When in doubt about how to assist the student, ask him or her as privately as possible without drawing attention to the student or the disability.

These guidelines were adapted from guidelines used by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Winona State University.

ADD/ADHD
Attention Deficit Disorder / Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Current opinion is that these conditions are caused by insufficient activity of the neurotransmitter, which maintains synaptic connections and which focuses and sustains attention. For example, norepinephrine is associated with focused attention and maintenance of mental arousal, and a deficiency causes attention to wander involuntarily. Similarly, acetylcholine is associated with voluntary and involuntary motor activity, and a deficiency of that chemical causes involuntary muscular movement.

When these chemicals are insufficient, voluntary effort to pay attention and to suppress activity is not possible. Increased effort to organize is unproductive. Stimulants may be used medically to increase the synaptic connections. For non-prescriptive assistance, informally, individuals may turn to caffeine and other stimulants.

Considerations

The academic manifestations of ADD/ADHD include distractibility in class and while doing homework, impulsive and unplanned reactions to environmental stimuli, inability to maintain regular schedules of any type, and the habit of procrastination until urgency helps to focus attention.

  • When a singular work assignment is being procrastinated, the technique often has moderate success.
  • When work assignments are long and complex, last minute efforts cannot be compressed into the available remaining time.
  • Because of the inability to correctly perceive the passage of time, the following behaviors are frequently manifested: poor nutrition, insufficient rest and sleep, as well as the development of communicable infections.
  • The student may experience a reasonable uncertainty about due dates being met, causing anxiety about performance quality to occur.
  • The individual often becomes discouraged and expresses emotional detachment.
  • ADD/ADHD may serve to undermine mental health, especially after individuals with these disabilities have made exhaustive efforts over a period of time to produce quality work without success.
Instructional Strategies

The following strategies are suggested to enhance the accessibility of course instruction, materials, and activities for students ADD/ADHD.

  • Include a disability access statement in the course syllabus such as: “To obtain disability related accommodations and/or auxiliary aids, students with disabilities must contact Access Services as soon as possible by calling (507) 457-1465.”
  • Keep instructions as brief and uncomplicated as possible. Repeat exactly without paraphrasing.
  • Assist the student in finding effective peer note takers from the class.
  • Allow the student to record lectures.
  • Clearly define course requirements, the dates of exams and when assignments are due. Provide advance notice of any changes.
  • Present lecture information in both an auditory and a visual format (e.g. chalkboard, overheads, PowerPoint slides, handouts, etc.).
  • Use more than one way to demonstrate or explain information.
  • Have copies of the syllabus ready no less than six weeks prior to the beginning of the semester so textbooks can be converted in as timely a manner as possible.
  • When teaching, state objectives, review previous lessons and summarize periodically.
  • Allow time for clarification of directions and essential information.
  • Provide study guides or review sheets for exams.
  • Provide alternative ways for the students to do tasks (e.g., substituting oral for written work).
  • Refer the student to the Writing Lab for help in proofreading written work. Stress organization and ideas rather than mechanics when grading in-class writing assignments.
  • Allow the use of spell-check and grammar-assistive devices when appropriate to the course.
  • When in doubt about how to assist the student, ask him or her as privately as possible without drawing attention to the student or the disability.

These guidelines were adapted from guidelines used by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Winona State University.

Hearing Loss

The causes and degrees of hearing loss vary across the deaf and hard of hearing community, as do methods of communication and attitudes toward deafness.

Types of Hearing Loss
  • In general, there are three types of hearing loss:
  • Conductive loss affects the sound-conducting paths of the outer and middle ear. The degree of loss can be decreased through the use of a hearing aid or by surgery. People with conductive loss might speak softly, hear better in noisy surroundings than people with normal hearing, and might experience ringing in their ears.
  • Sensorineural loss affects the inner ear and the auditory nerve and can range from mild to profound. People with sensorineural loss might speak loudly, experience greater high-frequency loss, have difficulty distinguishing consonant sounds, and not hear well in noisy environments.
  • Mixed loss results from both a conductive and sensorineural loss.
General Considerations
  • Given the close relationship between oral language and hearing, students with hearing loss might also have speech impairments. One’s age at the time of the loss determines whether one is prelingually deaf (hearing loss after oral language acquisition) or adventitiously or postlingually deaf (hearing loss after oral language acquisition). Those born deaf or who become deaf as very young children might have more limited speech development. In addition, students with learning disabilities, which affect auditory processing, may exhibit behavior resembling a hearing impairment.
  • The inability to hear or process language quickly does not affect an individual’s native intelligence or the physical ability to produce sounds.
  • Some students who are deaf are skilled lip readers, but many are not. Many speech sounds have identical mouth movements, which can make lip-reading particularly difficult. For example, “p”, “b”, and “m” look exactly alike on the lips, and many sounds (vowels, for instance) are produced without using clearly differentiated lip movements.
  • Only about one third of all English words can be lip-read. Many of those words that can be lip-read are identical to other words. Students who lip-read pick up contextual clues to fill out their understanding of what is being said.
  • Make sure you have the visual attention of a student who is deaf before speaking directly to him/her. A light touch on the shoulder, a wave, or other visual signal may be helpful.
  • Look directly at a person with a hearing loss during a conversation, even when an interpreter is present. Speak clearly, without shouting. If you have problems being understood, rephrase your thoughts. Writing is also a good way to clarify.
  • Make sure that your face is clearly visible. Keep your hands away from your face and mouth while speaking. Sitting with your back to a window, gum chewing, pencil biting, and similar obstructions of the lips can also interfere with the effectiveness of communication.
  • Common accommodations for students who are deaf or hard of hearing include sign language or oral interpreters, assistive listening devices, Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf (TDDs), volume control telephones, peer note takers, captioned videos, and time extensions for assignments and exams.
  • For many students who are deaf English is a second language. Their first language is often American Sign Language (ASL), which utilizes English syntax and grammar. This creates some difficulty when writing papers and essay examinations. Students who are having difficulty with English grammar and syntax will need to utilize the services of the Writing Lab. For in-class essay exams you should allow some flexibility when grading for grammar or syntax.
Modes of Communication
  • Not all students with hearing impairments are fluent users of all of the communication modes used across the deaf community, just as users of spoken language are not fluent in all oral languages. For example, not all students who are deaf can read lips.
  • American Sign Language (ASL) is a natural, visual language having its own syntax and grammatical structure.
  • Signed Exact English (SEE) is a manual system, which utilizes English syntax and grammar.
  • Fingerspelling is the use of the manual alphabet to form words.
  • Pidgin Sign English (PSE) combines aspects of ASL and English and is used in educational situations often combined with speech.

Nearly every spoken language has its own unique accompanying sign language.

In addition to sign language and lip-reading, students who are deaf also use oral language interpreters. These are professionals who assist person who are deaf or hard of hearing with understanding oral communication. Sign language interpreters use highly developed language and Fingerspelling skills; oral interpreters silently form words on their lips for speech reading. Interpreters also use voice, when requested. Interpreters will attempt to interpret all information in a given situation, including instructors’ comments, class discussion and pertinent environmental sounds.

Instructional Strategies

Include a disability access statement in the course syllabus such as: “To obtain disability related accommodations and/or auxiliary aids, students with disabilities must contact Access Services as soon as possible by calling 507-457-1465.”

  • Circular seating arrangements offer students who are deaf or hard of hearing the best advantage for seeing all class participants.
  • When using a FM wireless assistive listening device (ALD) for group discussion it would be helpful to pass the microphone around to the class members who are speaking.
  • When desks are arranged in rows, keep front seats open for students who are deaf or hard of hearing and their interpreters.
  • Repeat the comments and questions of other students, especially those from the back rows. Acknowledge who has made the comment so students who are deaf or hard of hearing can focus on the speaker.
  • When appropriate, ask for a hearing volunteer to team up with a student who is deaf or hard of hearing for in-class assignments.
  • Assist the student in finding effective peer note takers from the class.
  • If possible, provide transcripts of audio information.
  • Most videos produced in recent years are closed-captioned for the hearing impaired. Be sure to arrange for a video monitor that is capable of displaying the closed-captioning. Familiarize yourself with the controls for turning on the captions. Older videos may lack captioning. These videos may need to be captioned or a script needs to be prepared in advance to allow the hearing-impaired student access to the material.
  • Allow several moments extra for oral responses in class discussions.
  • In small group discussions, allow for participation by students with hearing impairments.
  • Face the class while speaking; if an interpreter is present; make sure the student can see both you and the interpreter.
  • If there is a break in the class, get the attention of the student who is deaf or hard of hearing before resuming class.
  • People who are deaf or hard of hearing often use vision as a primary means of receiving information. Captioned videos, overheads, diagrams, and other visual aids are useful instructional tools for students with hearing impairments.
  • Be flexible: allow a student who is deaf to work with audiovisual material independently and for a longer period of time.
  • When in doubt about how to assist the student who is deaf or hard of hearing, ask him or her as privately as possible without drawing attention to the student or the disability.
  • Allow the student who is deaf or hard of hearing the same anonymity as other students (i.e., avoid pointing out the student or the alternative arrangements to the rest of the class.)
Guidelines for Working with Interpreters
  • Interpreters are bound by the code of ethics developed by the National Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, which specifies that interpreters are to serve as communication intermediaries who are not otherwise involved. Thus, when an interpreter is present, speak directly to the deaf person rather than to the interpreter and avoid using phrases such as “tell them” or “ask her”.
  • Relax and talk normally, noting that there may be a lag time between the spoken message and the interpretation. Interpreters listen for concepts and ideas (not just words) to render an accurate interpretation.
  • When referring to objects or written information, allow time for the transition to take place. Replace terms such as “here” and “there” with more specific terms, such as “on second line” and “in the left corner”.
  • Be aware of the fact that the deaf student cannot read or write at the same time that the instructor is talking, since their eyes cannot be watching the interpreter and looking down at the paper or book.
  • Reminder: If videos are shown, they must be closed-captioned. Interpreting a video is a major challenge to both the interpreter and student.

These guidelines were adapted from guidelines used by the Division of Disability Resources & Educational Services at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Loss of Mobility

Loss of mobility may range in severity from limitations of stamina to paralysis. Some mobility challenges are caused by conditions present at birth while others are the result of illness or physical injury.

Injuries to the spinal cord cause different types of mobility impairments, depending on the areas of the spine affected. Quadriplegia refers to the loss of function to the lower extremities and the lower trunk. Students with paraplegia typically use a manual wheelchair and have full movement of arms and hands.

Other cases of mobility challenges include, but are not limited to, amputation, arthritis, back disorders, cerebral palsy, neuromuscular disorders such as muscular dystrophy or multiple sclerosis and fibromyalgia.

Some Considerations
  • Many students with mobility difficulties lead lives similar to those without impairments. Dependency and helplessness are not characteristics of physical disability.
  • A physical disability is often separate from matters of cognition and general health; it does not imply that a student has other health problems or difficulty with intellectual functioning.
  • People adjust to disabilities in a myriad of ways. Character traits (e.g. courageous or manipulative) should not be assumed on the basis of disability.
  • When talking with a wheelchair user, attempt to converse at eye level as opposed to standing and looking down. If a student has a communication impairment as well as mobility impairment, take time to understand the person. Repeat what you understand, and when you don’t understand, say so.
  • A student with a physical disability may or may not want assistance in a particular situation. Ask before giving assistance, and wait for a response. Listen to any instruction the student may give. By virtue of experience, the student likely knows the safest and most efficient way to accomplish the task at hand.
  • Be considerate of the extra time it might take a student with a disability to speak or act.
  • Allow the student to set the pace of walking or talking. A wheelchair should be viewed as a personal-assistance device rather than something to which one is “confined.” It is also a part of a student’s personal space; do not lean on or touch the chair.
  • Mobility impairments vary over a wide range, from temporary (e.g. a broken arm) to permanent (e.g. a form of paralysis or muscle degeneration). Other impairments, such as respiratory conditions, may affect coordination and endurance. These can also affect a student’s ability to participate/perform in class.
  • Physical access to a class is the first barrier a student with loss of mobility may face, but it is not the only accessibility concern. A sidewalk that hasn’t been shoveled, lack of reliable transportation, or mechanical problems with a wheelchair can easily cause a student to be late or absent.
  • Common accommodations for student with mobility impairments include peer note takers, accessible classroom, location, and furniture, alternative ways of completing assignments, lab or library assistants, and assistive computer technology and time extensions for exams.
Instructional Strategies
  • Include a disability access statement in the course syllabus such as: “To obtain disability related accommodations and/or auxiliary aids, students with disabilities must contact Access Services as soon as possible by calling (507) 457-1465.”
  • If necessary, arrange for a room change to an accessible classroom.
  • If possible, try not to seat wheelchair users in the back row. Move a desk or rearrange seating at a table so the student is part of the regular classroom seating.
  • Height of tables should permit wheelchair access. Tables can be easily raised using blocks of wood under the legs.
  • Make field trip arrangements early and ensure that accommodations will be in place on the given day (e.g. transportation, site accessibility).
  • Make sure accommodations are in place for in-class written work (e.g. allowing the student to use a scribe, to use assistive computer technology, or to complete the assignment outside of class).
  • Be flexible with deadlines. Assignments that require library work or access to sites off-campus will consume more time for a student with mobility impairment. Student with chronic and medicated pain may need extended time or additional explanations of material covered in class or pending assignments.
  • Students using wheelchairs or other utility devices may encounter obstacles to getting to class on time. Others may have periodic or irregular difficulties, either from their disability or from medication. Faculty can help by being flexible in applying attendance and promptness rules to such students.
  • When in doubt about how to assist the student, ask him or her as privately as possible without drawing attention to the student or the disability.
  • Allow the student the anonymity afforded other students (i.e. avoid pointing out the student or the alternative arrangements to the rest of the class).

These guidelines were adapted from guidelines used by the Division of Disability Resources & Educational Services at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Visual impairments

Visual impairments vary greatly from individuals who have some form of partial sight to individuals who are totally blind. The condition may be permanent or temporary, and/or stable or progressive. The disability may be congenital, or have come about as the result of injury or disease. Consequently, students with visual disabilities present with a wide range of abilities and functional limitations.
Individuals who are blind or visually impaired face unique challenges in the classroom. Instructors can ease these struggles by offering different accommodations for students with visual disabilities and structuring courses around these learners.

*NOTE: The instructor is responsible for ensuring that all instructional materials, including lecture notes, overheads, handouts, videos, course websites, etc. are available in alternative formats, as needed. If you need assistance please contact Access Services.

Partially sighted students often require many of the same accommodations as totally blind students. This includes readers, texts in alternate formats, describing visual cues in class, etc. In addition, depending on their level and type of vision, partially sighted students may use large print textbooks, handouts, and tests; a closed-circuit TV magnifier or other magnifying device; or a large print typewriter. Large print is usually 18 to 22 pt., but varies from student to student.

You can assist a visually impaired student by offering a thorough orientation to the physical layout of the room, indicating the location of all exits, desks, raised floors, low-hanging objects, and your lecture position. Indicate the location of restrooms, as well. When giving directions or describing locations, say “left” or “right,” “step up” or “step down.” Convert directions to the visually impaired student’s perspective.

Applying Universal Design Principles

  • Determine which textbooks are course requirements as soon as possible, and share this information with the campus bookstore. It can take up to 60 days to locate or arrange for alternative text formats.
  • Have copies of the syllabus and reading assignments ready prior to the beginning of classes to assist with converting materials into alternate formats.
  • Double-space all materials and choose a clear, easy to read font.
  • Be flexible with deadlines if assignments are delayed by the document conversion process.
  • Pace the presentation of material so that when referring to a textbook or handout, students have time to find the information.
  • Convey in spoken word what is written on the board or presented on overheads and in handouts.
  • Encourage students to identify themselves when engaging in course discussions.
  • When using Power Points for lectures, read the headings out loud to indicate where in the presentation the class is.

Typical Accommodations for students with visual impairments

  • Alternative print formats
  • Preferential seating in the front of the room
  • Magnification devices
  • Adjustments in lighting, or additional lighting
  • Adaptive computer equipment
  • Text conversion
  • Recorded lectures
  • Lab or library assistants
  • Note-takers
  • Exam modifications:
    • Extended time
    • Reader
    • Scribe
    • Adaptive equipment including computer screen readers
    • Alternative formats, such as enlarged text/print (18 pt. or larger)
  • For courses that include field trips, feel free to consult with the student and with Access Services to discuss any needs. We can help you identify and coordinate accommodations.
Asperger's Syndrome

Asperger’s Syndrome is a developmental disability that is characterized by social interaction deficits, impaired communication skills, and unusual behaviors. It is sometimes referred to as “high functioning autism.” Tony Attwood, one of the foremost authorities in the field of Asperger’s Syndrome, describes it as: “A neurological disorder that affects one’s ability to understand and respond to other’s thoughts and feelings.”

The following characteristics may be present in an individual with Asperger’s Syndrome. Due to the diversity and complexity of this disability, some of the characteristics or problems discussed may not be evident in a particular individual. An understanding of these characteristics is important, because the behavior of these individuals is frequently misinterpreted. Many behaviors that seem odd or unusual are due to the disability and not the result of intentional rudeness.

General Characteristics
  • Frequent errors in the interpretation of body language, intentions or facial expressions of others
  • Difficulty understanding the motives and perceptions of others
  • Problems asking for help
  • May show motor clumsiness, unusual body movements and/or repetitive behavior
  • Often have difficulty with the big picture, perseverate on the details (can’t see the forest for the trees)
  • Difficulties with transitions and changes in schedule
  • Wants things “just so”
  • Problems with organization (including initiating, planning, carrying out and finishing tasks)
  • Deficits in abstract thinking (concrete, misses the “big picture”, focuses on irrelevant details, difficulty generalizing)
  • Unusual sensitivity to touch, sounds, and visual details, may experience sensory overload
Functional Impact Upon:

Communication and Social Skills

  • Difficulty in initiating and sustaining connected relationships with people
  • Poor quality eye contact
  • Problems understanding social rules (such as personal space)
  • Impairment of two-way interaction (May seem to talk “at you” rather than “with you”)
  • Conversation and questions may be tangential or repetitive
  • Restricted interests that may be unusual and sometime become a rigid topic for social conversation
  • Unusual speech intonation, volume rhythm and/or rate
  • Literal understanding of language (difficulty interpreting words with double meaning, confused by metaphors and sarcasm)
  • Don’t use absolute words such as always or never unless that is exactly what you mean
  • Clear directives should be used when:
  • a student invades your space or imposes on your time
  • giving assignments or specifying revisions to submitted work
  • the student’s classroom comments or conversational volume become inappropriate

Writing

  • Papers may be redundant, as they return to the same topic focus repeatedly
  • Able to state facts and details, but will be greatly challenged by papers requiring:
  • taking another’s point of view
  • synthesizing information to arrive at a larger concept
  • comparing and contrasting to arrive at the “big picture”
  • arriving at the “big picture”
  • the use of analogies, similes or metaphors
  • Clear, detailed directives should be used when referring to revisions that need to be made to a piece of writing.
  • Have the student make a “to do list” of what needs to be changed
  • Number the changes on their writing so they have an order to follow
  • If modeling writing rules, write them on a separate sheet for future reference
  • Keep directions simple and direct
  • Ask students to repeat directions in their own words to check comprehension

Example: (Student arrives at your office at 1:40). “We have only 20 minutes to work together. At 2:00, I’m going to ask you to take my suggestions home and start making changes to your paper. Come to my office tomorrow afternoon at 3:00 and show me what you’ve done.”

Some Considerations

These students may have impressive vocabularies and an excellent rote memory, but may have difficulty with high-level thinking and comprehension skills. They can give the false impression that they understand, when in reality they may be repeating what they have heard or read. Many individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome are visual learners. Techniques suggested for students with learning disabilities who are visual learners are often helpful.

Instructional Strategies
  • Clearly define course requirements, the dates of exams and when assignments are due. Provide advance notice of any changes.
  • Teach to generalize and to consolidate information.
  • Go for gist, meaning and patterns. Don’t get bogged down in details.
  • Use scripts and teach strategies selectively.
  • All expectations need to be direct and explicit. Don’t require these students to “read between the lines” to glean your intentions. Don’t expect the student to automatically generalize instructions. Provide direct feedback to the student when you observe areas of academic difficulty.
  • Encourage use of resources designed to help students with study skills, particularly organizational skills.
  • Avoid idioms, double meaning and sarcasm, unless you plan to explain your usage.
  • If the student has poor handwriting, use of a computer may be easier for them.
  • Use the preoccupying interest to help focus/motivate the student. Suggest ways to integrate this interest into the course, such as related paper topics.
  • The setting for tests should account for any sensitivity to sound, light, touch, etc.

Source: CLASS, Augsburg College

Videos on Asperger’s

In My Mind

Asperger’s Syndrome Documentary

Understanding Asperger’s Syndrome: A Professor’s Guide (Part 2)

Autism Spectrum Disorders

The term Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) refers to a group of neurodevelopmental disorders that affect development in areas of social interaction, communication, and behavior. As the word spectrum implies, ASD affects each individual differently and to varying degrees of severity. Students frequently have difficulties engaging in reciprocal social interactions and communication and often exhibit a pattern of restricted and repetitive behaviors, interests, and activities.

Common Challenges for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)

Learning Styles

Some will have a hard time discerning pertinent information in lectures. Handouts can help and notetaking is a common accommodation. Testing is also a common accommodation as the need for extra time and a distraction free environment is important to organize information, as ASD students have scattered abilities. They may need tutors in their more difficult subjects.

Social Challenges

Students with ASD should be encouraged to join clubs in their area of interest. They will most likely be most comfortable with a faculty member in their major or area of interest. Students may have difficulty making and keeping friends. They frequently have trouble understanding the feelings of others or taking others’ perspective. Non-verbal communication and subtle social cues are also missed many times. Language is often interpreted in an overly literal way with difficulty understanding idioms/figures of speech, humor, and sarcasm. Many students with ASD have trouble recognizing faces, even those of people they have met many times. Sometimes the problem is only contextual, but for some students it will be a constant challenge.

Need for Routine

You may notice students with ASD sitting in the same spot every day or carrying the same things around. This is a way to feel anchored and should not be discouraged. Change can be very difficult. Students may need help organizing daily activities and keeping assignments and class schedules straight as they develop routines. Students with ASD may become anxious with changes in an established routine. They may also have difficulty being flexible with respect to following rules or tolerating rule violations.

“Disruptive” Behavior

Rocking, coughing, and grimacing are examples of the many tic behaviors that students may have to calm themselves down. Some of these behaviors may be interpreted, as a student is not paying attention when quite the opposite is true.

Sensory Issues

Some students will be very sensitive to lights (especially fluorescent), background noise, or strong odors.

Advising

When advising students, realize that they may be reluctant to take classes outside of their area of interest and their schedule should match the students potential.

References:

Adreon, Diane & Durocher, Stella. (2007) Evaluating the College Transition Needs of Individuals With High-Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorders. Intervention in School and Clinic, 42(5), 271-279.

Prince-Hughes, Diane (2002). Aquamarine Blue 5: Personal Stories of College Students with Autism. Athens: Ohio University Press.

Learning Disabilities

Learning disabilities are neurological-based conditions that interfere with the acquisition, storage, organization, and use of skills and knowledge. They are identified by deficits in academic functioning and in processing memory, auditory, visual and linguistic information.

The diagnosis of a learning disability in an adult requires documentation of at least average intellectual functioning along with a deficit in one or more of the following areas:

  • Auditory processing
  • Visual processing
  • Information processing speed
  • Abstract and general reasoning
  • Memory (long-term, short-term, visual, auditory)
  • Spoken and written language skills
  • Reading, decoding and comprehension skills
  • Mathematical calculation skills and word problems
  • Visual spatial skills
  • Fine and gross motor skills
  • Executive functioning (planning and time management)
Some Considerations
  • A learning disability is not a disorder that a student outgrows. It is a permanent disorder affecting how students with normal or above-average intelligence process incoming information, outgoing information, and/or categorization of information in memory.
  • Learning disabilities are often inconsistently manifested in a limited number of specific academic areas, such as math or foreign languages. There may have been problems in grade school, none in high school and problems again in college.
  • Learning disabilities should not be equated with psychiatric or intellectual disabilities, although learning disabilities can coexist with other conditions such as ADHA or a psychiatric disability.
  • Common accommodations for students with learning disabilities include alternative print formats, taped lectures, peer note takers, extended time on exams and consultations regarding study skills and strategies.
Instructional Strategies
  • Include a disability access statement in the course syllabus such as: “To obtain disability related accommodations and/or auxiliary aids, students with disabilities must contact Access Services as soon as possible by calling (507) 457-1465.”
  • Keep instructions as brief and uncomplicated as possible. Repeat exactly without paraphrasing.
  • Assist the student in finding effective peer note takers from the class.
  • Allow the student to tape record lectures.
  • Clearly define course requirements, the dates of exams and when assignments are due. Provide advance notice of any changes.
  • Present lecture information in both an auditory and visual format (e.g. chalkboard, overheads, PowerPoint slides, handouts, etc.)
  • Use more than one way to demonstrate or explain information.
  • Have copies of the syllabus ready no less than six weeks prior to the beginning of the semester so textbooks can be converted to auditory format in a timely manner.
  • When teaching, state objectives, review previous lessons and summarize periodically.
  • Allow time for clarification of directions and essential information.
  • Provide study guides or review sheets for exams.
  • Provide alternative ways for the students to do tasks (e.g. substituting oral for written work).
  • Provide assistance with proofreading written work.
  • Stress organization and ideas rather than mechanics when grading in-class writing assignments.
  • Allow the use of spell-check and grammar assistive devices when appropriate to the course.
  • When in doubt about how to assist the student, ask him or her as privately as possible without drawing attention to the student or the disability.
Psychiatric Disabilities

Students with psychiatric disabilities experience significant emotional difficulty that may or may not have required treatment in a hospital. With appropriate treatment, often combining medications, psychotherapy and support, the majority of psychiatric disorders are cured or controlled.

The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that many people in the United States have some form of psychiatric disorder. However, only one in five persons with a diagnosable psychiatric disorder ever seeks treatment due to the strong stigmatization involved.

Some common psychiatric disabilities are depression, bipolar disorder (manic depression), anxiety disorders and schizophrenia.

Some Considerations

· Trauma is not the sole cause of psychiatric disabilities; genetics may play a role.
· Psychiatric disabilities affect people of any age, gender, income group and intellectual level.
· Most people with psychiatric disabilities do not exhibit disruptive behavior.
· Eighty to ninety percent of people with depression experience relief from symptoms through medication, therapy, or a combination of the two. Depression is a variable condition that may fluctuate during a person’s lifetime.
· Common accommodations for students with psychiatric disabilities are alternate methods to complete assignments, time extensions for exams, a low-distraction environment for taking exams, taped lectures, provision of advance copies of syllabi and consultations for study skills and strategies.

Instructional Strategies

· Include a disability access statement in the course syllabus such as: “To obtain disability related accommodations and/or auxiliary aids, students with disabilities must contact Access Services as soon as possible by calling (507) 457-1465.”
· Spend extra time with the student, when necessary, and assist the student in planning assignment sub-phases and in time management by scheduling follow up at specified intervals.
· Be flexible with deadlines. A written agreement specifying the accommodative extension is helpful in most cases.
· Allow the student to record lectures.
· Assist the student in finding effective peer note takers from class.
· Clearly define course requirements, the dates of exams, and when assignments are due. Provide advance notice of changes.
· When in doubt about how to assist the student, ask him or her as privately as possible without drawing attention to the student or the disability.
These guidelines were adapted from guidelines used by the Division of Disability Resources & Educational Services at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Chronic Health Conditions

The Centers for Disease Control reports that 1 in 10 Americans face major limitations when it comes to day-to-day living, due to one or more chronic conditions.

Chronic health issues are ongoing medical conditions, but may also be cyclical in nature, and the various symptoms may fluctuate from day to day. Chronic health conditions include, but are not limited to: autoimmune disorders, blood disorders, diabetes, gastrointestinal disorders, muscular sclerosis, intractable pain, respiratory disorders, and seizure disorders. These conditions become a disability when they begin to disrupt or limit one or more major life activities.

Unless the impairment is neurological in nature, health impairments are not likely to directly affect learning. It is typically the secondary effects of the impairment (i.e. mobility impairments, sensory impairments and possible psychiatric impairments) can have a significant impact learning. Furthermore, the side effects of medication can have adverse effects on memory, attention, strength, endurance, and energy levels. A student’s physical ability will vary; therefore the need for accommodations, as well as the particular accommodations needed, will change.

Applying Universal Design principles

  • A syllabus with clear and well organized information regarding readings, test dates, assignment/project deadlines, etc. can help students plan organize and prioritize requirements.
  • Offer multiple ways of demonstrating knowledge, including take-home exams, group or individual presentations, or papers.

Common Accommodations provided in the classroom

  • Access to class notes (a note-taker may be utilized to compensate for missed classes)
  • Priority registration
  • Taped recordings of class lectures
  • Attendance flexibility
  • Additional time to complete assignments
  • Extended time for exams and quizzes
  • Availability of lecture notes, learning materials, practice tests, etc., in electronic format
  • Accessible parking
  • Frequent breaks for snacks, rest, or medication administration

Frequently Asked Questions

How are students at Saint Mary’s University determined to have a disability in need of accommodations?

Students are required to work with Access Services and follow the procedure for obtaining accommodations.

A student with a disability who requests academic assistance must provide professionally recognized documentation of the disability and the need for services requested.  Students are responsible for furnishing current documentation of their disability to the Access Services Director or Coordinator at the campus where they are enrolled.

Determination of eligibility for academic support services will be made by the Access Services, with input from any appropriate administrative and faculty members, taking into account the eligible student’s stated preferences. The services provided will be within the legal parameters of “reasonable accommodations”.

While requests to determine eligibility may occur at any time during the student’s career at the university, a request for specific services relating to a preexisting condition should be made as soon as possible in the semester. This time frame allows the university to secure the approved services.

Absolute confidentiality is important. Please do not make any reference to a student’s disability in class or in front of other students.  A student may opt to tell you about his or her disability, and you are free to ask for details about the ways in which the disability impacts his/her class performance and learning.

Is it really fair to the other students to grant one student an accommodation like extra time for an exam?

Accommodations for students with disabilities do not weaken the academic standards of your course.  An accommodation provides a student with an alternative or modified way of accomplishing the requirements of the course, by eliminating or reducing disability-related barriers.

What if the student asks for accommodations but I have not received an email letter of accommodation?

If a student identifies themselves as having a disability and requests accommodations, but you have never received an accommodation email, please refer the student to Access Services on their respective campus.

Are all students with disabilities registered with Access Services?

No. It is possible that a student with a disability has chosen not to submit documentation or register with Access Services. In either instance, faculty do not need to provide accommodations for those students.  If a student requests an accommodation and you have not received an official notification letter from Access Services, please refer the student to Access Services.

What are my responsibilities as a faculty member?

Students are encouraged, but not required, to discuss their disability with instructors.  As a faculty member, you are responsible to make necessary accommodations available to students with disabilities. However, you are encouraged to contact Access Services if any questions or concerns arise.

What if I have concerns about how an accommodation will affect my course?

Accommodations should not alter or compromise the basic nature of your course.  Accommodations and other learning aids are provided to “level the playing field” for students with disabilities.  If you are concerned that an accommodation will fundamentally alter the nature of your course, please contact Access Services to discuss your concerns.

How does Access Services assist faculty?

Access Services advises faculty members throughout the accommodation process and also makes recommendations for the ways in which needs of students can best be met. Access Services can also provide additional information on various disabilities and the accompanying barriers to learning.

I have a student who is having difficulty in my class. I think this student may have a disability. What should I do to help the student?

You may talk privately with the student to discuss your observations. Do not openly suggest that a student may have a disability.  Do not assume that the student’s difficulties are a result of a disability, but if, through discussion with the student, it appears appropriate, refer the student to Access Services.  If the student discloses that he or she does have a disability, suggest that the student contact Access Services to explore options for accommodations.


Universal Design for Learning Information for Faculty

Creating Accessible & Inclusive Meetings or Events

What is Universal Design for Learning?

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is the concept that products and environments should be designed to be usable by all people, without the need for adaptations, modifications, or alterations.

UDL assumes that any difference and variation in human characteristics is ordinary.  Accessibility and flexibility should be integrated into design.

In the university setting, UDL principles provide a basic framework that encourages faculty members to actively utilize inclusive instructional practices into their courses. These inclusive teaching methods reach a broader range of learners than many traditional classroom approaches.  By creating inclusive instructional practices, the need for modifications and accommodations is greatly reduced.

Students are incredibly diverse in their learning needs, preparation, and approaches. UDL offers a practical instructional method to anticipate this learner variability and provide every student with equal opportunities to learn.  

The Principles of Universal Design for Instruction

  1. Equitable Use:  Instruction is designed to be useful and accessible by students with diverse abilities.
  2. Flexibility in Use:  Instruction is designed to accommodate a wide range of individual abilities and learning preferences.  
  3. Simple and Intuitive:  Instruction is designed in a predictable manner, regardless of the student’s background knowledge, prior experience, or language skills.  Eliminate any unnecessary complexities.
  4. Perceptible Information:  Instruction is designed so that required knowledge is communicated effectively, regardless of environmental conditions or the student’s sensory learning differences.
  5. Tolerance for Error:  Instruction is designed to anticipate variation in individual learning paces and prerequisite skills.
  6. Low Physical Effort:  Instruction is designed to minimize nonessential physical effort, to maximize attention to learning.  (This does not apply when physical effort and tasks are integral to the requirements of the course.)
  7. Size and Space for Approach:  Instruction is designed with consideration for variations in student’s mobility, body size, posture, and communication needs.
  8. A Community of Learners:  Instruction is designed to promote interaction among students, and between students and faculty.  
  9. Instructional Climate:  Instruction is designed to be welcoming and inclusive.

Examples of Universal Design in College Classrooms:

  • Multiple instructional delivery methods that motivate and engage all learners.
  • Examples that appeal to students with respect to race, ethnicity, gender, age, and ability
  • Assessing student learning using multiple methods.
  • Allowing students to use a word processor for writing and editing papers or essay exams
  • Flexible learning environments and work spaces.
  • Printed publications, exams, and handouts that are available in alternate formats (e.g., electronic or large print).
  • Captioned videos.
  • Alternative text for graphic images on web pages so that individuals who are visually impaired are able to access the content.
  • Software that is compatible with assistive technology.
  • Textbooks and other reading materials that are available in digital format enables  students with diverse needs to access materials through print or by using technological supports.
  • Using a circular seating arrangement in small class settings to allow students to see and face speakers during discussion-important for students with attention problems.
  • Fostering communication among students in and out of class by structuring study and discussion groups, email lists, or chat rooms.

For more information, visit the National Center on Universal Design for Learning.

Or CAST, the Center for Applied Special Technology.