Disability Services Faculty Guidelines
Students with known disabilities are encouraged to register with the Office of Disability Services (ODS) upon arrival at Westmont or at the time a disability is diagnosed. Students may register at any point during a semester. When registered, you will receive a signed ODS Letter of Accommodation (LOA) confirming the student’s association with our office. This letter is your indication that the accommodations are necessary, but does not include information regarding the student’s disability.
The student will determine when he/she will use accommodations. It is not uncommon for a student to use accommodations for some classes and not others, on some exams and not others.
- Engage with the student, determining how he/she best learns.
- Use multiple modalities to deliver content, knowing not everyone learns in the same way.
- Post notes and PowerPoints (PPTs) on Canvas to allow students to review material multiple times. Some students need to hear or read material more than once.
- Use high contrast on PPTs and post high enough on screen for all to view easily
- Use captioned videos, even YouTube clips.
- Employ universal design principles as you prepare your classes.
- When Students Do Not Disclose Possible Disabilities
- Do not grant requests for accommodations by students for whom you have not received the proper notification (LOA) from the Office of Disability Services.
- Do not directly ask a student if he or she has been diagnosed with a disability.
- Best Practices
- Engage the student in a private conversation if you suspect he/she has a learning disability or special need.
- Actively reflect on the students learning styles, strengths, and weaknesses in a manner such as the following:
- “It seems like ____ is challenging for you.”
- “Has ____ always been difficult for you?”
- “Do you know what helps you learn most efficiently?”
- “How can we work together to help you get the most out of my class?”
- Refer students to Westmont’s Office of Disability Services to begin a dialogue on learning needs and appropriate support.
- Continue to observe, monitor and engage students in conversations about their learning processes, strengths and weaknesses.
Partial List of Common Disabilities
Learning disabilities (LDs) are defined as neurological conditions that interfere with a person’s ability to store, process or produce information (Learning Disabilities Association of America, 2013). Learning disabilities can affect reading, writing, speaking, spelling, math computation, reasoning, attention, memory, coordination, social skills and emotional maturity. Learning disabilities frequently occur in individuals of average to superior intelligence. Learning disabilities are not a result of emotional disorders, cultural differences, or lack of educational opportunities.
Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) symptoms are characterized by “inattention and hyperactivity and impulsivity that include behaviors like failure to pay close attention to details, difficulty organizing tasks and activities, excessive talking, fidgeting, or an inability to remain seated in appropriate situations." (DSM-V, 2013) It can present with or without hyperactivity. In an academic setting, students with ADHD may experience difficulty:
- Comprehending/conceptualizing the main idea of a lecture or reading assignment.
- May be hampered and frustrated by their inability to screen out distractions while studying or taking exams, which may subsequently affect their reading rate and/or writing ability
- May experience side effects of prescribed medication(s). As with any other type of disability, there is a wide qualitative and quantitative range.
Mental Health Disabilities
Psychological disorders are patterns of psychological symptoms or behaviors that:
- Impact multiple life areas and/or create distress for the person experiencing symptoms.
- Frequently require medication, cognitive and/or therapeutic intervention.
- Fall into the group of invisible disabilities, which may or may not affect learning, and may often not be recognizable in the classroom.
- May include, but are not limited to depression, anxiety, OCD, Bipolar, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Phobias, Psychotic Disorders and Personality Disorders (DSM-V, 2013).
ASD, also known as Pervasive Development Disorders (PDDs), cause impairment in cognition, emotion, language and the ability to relate to others. These disorders are usually first diagnosed in early childhood. Students with ASD exhibit in one or more of the following:
- Impairment in social interaction/spontaneous sharing, including use of nonverbal behavior, lack of social/emotional reciprocity, failure to develop peer relationships, and/or inability to recognize personal/emotional boundaries, difficulty with class participation, group discussion/interaction.
- Impairment in communication, including delay in or lack of development of spoken languages, impairment in the ability to initiate or maintain conversation, repetitive and idiosyncratic use of language.
- Repetitive behaviors and fixated interests, preoccupation with restricted patterns of interest, inflexible adherence to routines.
Students may have medical conditions that are “invisible,” but cause serious problems in an academic setting. Students can be disabled by chronic illnesses such as asthma, allergies, arthritis, diabetes, colitis, Crohn’s disease, Lyme disease, migraines, cardiac conditions, cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, lupus, seizure disorders, among many others.
Symptoms of all these conditions can be unpredictable and fluctuate. Students with chronic illnesses or pain may have limited energy and difficulty walking, standing, or sitting for a long time. Some medical conditions may cause students to become light-headed and disoriented, or they may lack physical stamina.
In addition, students may miss class occasionally due to exacerbations, flare-ups, or treatment schedules. Medical conditions, including medication side effects can adversely affect attention and concentration. Possible absences or late arrival to class are due to the episodic nature of the condition, medical care, or transitions with medications. ODS will engage with professors often through the Medical Disability Related Absence Agreement (MDRAAA) to discuss how many absences are reasonable per class without altering the expected class outcomes.