Lesson 09: Psychiatric Disabilities
Lesson 08 | Lesson 09 | Lesson 10
Academic Accommodations for Students with Disabilities
Distance Learning Course
SUBJECT: Accommodations 9: PSYCHIATRIC DISABILITIES
The purpose of this lesson is to increase your awareness of the issues
and strategies related specifically to ACCOMMODATING students with
PSYCHIATRIC DISABILITIES/MENTAL HEALTH IMPAIRMENTS.
By reflecting on YOUR own course while reading the CONTENT, you will
be guided to consider possible modifications to your course
SPECIFICALLY related to PSYCHIATRIC DISABILITIES. By considering and
discussing the ACCESS ISSUES in a case study reading, you will develop
an awareness of additional strategies and accommodations.
Questions to REFLECT on while reading the CONTENT
What challenges might students with PSYCHIATRIC/MENTAL HEALTH
impairments face in your selected course? What accommodations might
We are now concentrating on accommodations for students with specific
disabilities or impairments. This lesson presents issues and
suggestions for accommodating students with PSYCHIATRIC/MENTAL HEALTH
PSYCHIATRIC or MENTAL HEALTH impairments vary widely; they range from
mild depression to chronic disorders such as schizophrenia or bipolar
disorder. Negative stereotypes and the fact that these disabilities
are typically "invisible" further complicate the provision of
appropriate accommodations for students with these disorders.
Students with mental health or psychiatric impairments can be affected
in several ways. They may be more SUSCEPTIBLE to the common STRESSORS
of college life involving academic demands as well as interpersonal
relationships and living alone or away from home for the first
time. Students may have particular problems RECEIVING, PROCESSING, and
RECALLING information during times of stress.
Side effects from MEDICATION may also impact ATTENTION, MEMORY,
ALERTNESS, and ACTIVITY LEVEL. The episodic and unpredictable onset
and recurrence of illness can also interrupt the educational process.
Individuals with psychiatric impairments may be treated with a
COMBINATION of MEDICATION, COUNSELING, and BEHAVIORAL THERAPY. Often,
there are a variety of MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT SERVICES available on
campus. A student with a psychiatric impairment may need to build time
into his schedule for therapy and/or supportive services.
TYPICAL ACCOMMODATIONS for students who have mental health impairments
* Note takers, use of computer for note taking
* Audiotaped class sessions
* Early notification of projects, exams, and assignments to reduce stress
* Flexible attendance requirements
* Use of electronic discussions
* An encouraging, validating, academic environment
* Alternative testing arrangements in a quiet room or via the Web
* Extended test-taking time
* Assignments available in electronic format
* Web page or electronic mail distribution of course materials and
Additional SPECIFIC ACCOMMODATIONS in SCIENCE LABS include:
* Allow for extended set-up, process, and practice time
* Use a combination of written, oral, and pictorial instructions
* Demonstrate and role model procedures
* Allow for frequent short breaks
* Provide preferential seating - particularly near the door
* Decrease extraneous distracting stimuli in the classroom and lab
* Allow student to bring a water bottle to lab.
The broad range of PSYCHIATRIC or MENTAL HEALTH impairments and the
"invisible" nature of the disabilities complicate making
accommodations for students with the various psychiatric or mental
health conditions. They may have difficulty attending class regularly;
they may FATIGUE easily or have difficulty taking notes. MEDICATION
side effects may impact endurance, memory, and attention. Students may
have particular problems receiving, processing, and recalling
information during times of STRESS.
Always remember that disability-related information is
confidential. The STUDENT is your best resource for determining what
accommodations are appropriate. Flexibility and effective
communication between YOU, the STUDENT, and the DISABLED STUDENT
SERVICES OFFICE are key in approaching accommodations.
SUGGESTION FOR DISCUSSION
While reading the CONTENT, you considered ways in which YOUR SELECTED
COURSE might accommodate a student with PSYCHIATRIC DISABILITIES.
Send an email message to the group, suggesting accommodation
strategies you might use in relation to the student described in the
Your email SUBJECT line should read: Accommodations 9: PSYCHIATRIC DISABILITIES.
"I don't know if one of my student has a mental illness, but he
exhibits extreme anxiety and may "freeze up" during tests, cry or
faint while giving presentations, and occasionally react to a
situation with an angry outburst. How can I be most supportive
without lowering academic expectations?"
You can read answers to frequently asked questions, explore case
studies, or access additional resources at:
(c) 2001 DO-IT. Permission is granted to copy material in this email
for educational, non-commercial purposes provided the source is
acknowledged. Contact DO-IT at: 1-206-685-3648, or