Jan and Large Lectures: A Case Study on Accommodations for Psychiatric Disorders
My name is Jan and I am a sophomore working on a biology degree. I have Tourette's syndrome and a psychiatric disability. I am currently taking a biochemistry course that is a requirement for my major and meets in a large lecture hall.
I am easily affected by stress. I have "outbursts" more often when taking an exam, when course material is more challenging, and during other stressful situations. My outbursts are impulsive. When upset, I have pounded the desk and called the professor names. I also ask a lot of questions and get angry when the professor does not call on me for responses. I knew my biochemistry class was going to be a difficult course for me, but I had to take it as it was required for my major. I needed to find a way to attend the lecture and cope with my disability, since I knew my outbursts disturbed the instructor and the other students.
I had a meeting with my professor and the disabled student services counselor. I described my disability and learning needs to the instructor. The instructor told me which behaviors impacted the lecture and disturbed other students. The disabled student services counselor reminded me of my responsibility to follow the university's student code of conduct even though I have a disability.
Everyone agreed that tests were a major stressor for me. It was decided that I would take my tests in the disabled student services office with a test proctor. The professor also agreed to meet with me before class to give me any test results. In addition, I was given permission to leave class to "let off steam" if I started to feel like I was losing control, and then return when calm. Copies of the class notes were made available to me so I wouldn't miss content if I needed to leave the class.
In a separate meeting, the disabled student services counselor referred me to the counseling center to help me learn stress management techniques as well as examine the appropriateness of my intended major. We also developed a behavioral contract to help me deal with my more "difficult" behaviors.
This case study illustrates:
- The importance of collaborative efforts by the student, instructor, and disabled student services staff when developing reasonable course accommodations.
- That students with disabilities are accountable for their own behavior, and, specifically, have a responsibility to follow the student code of conduct.
- The importance of instructor flexibility when working with a student with a disability and balancing the rights of other students in a large lecture class.