John and College Studies: A Case Study in Accommodating Learning Disabilities

Background

John has a learning disability which affects auditory processing. Like many students with invisible disabilities, such as learning and psychological impairments, he is sensitive to the attitudes and perceptions of fellow classmates and instructors regarding his need for a notetaker in class. He is reluctant to announce this need among his classmates, fearing perceptions of preferential treatment, invalid reasons, and negative stereotyping (e.g., that he is lazy or stupid).

Access Issue

John needed to obtain lecture notes as an accommodation. He was too embarrassed to make such a request of his classmates. Although the student disability resource center had provided paperwork and approval for monetary compensation for a notetaker, nearly two weeks had passed and still no classroom volunteers were identified.

Solution

Intervention from the student disability resources office included contact with the instructor who then made a general announcement in class about the need for a notetaker, noting that monetary compensation would be provided; if there were no volunteers, the disability resources office staff would recruit on campus for a paid notetaker enrolled in the class. It was also recommended that the instructor provide lecture outlines and the option for the student to tape record the lectures. Additional support was provided to the student through disability management counseling, which reinforced self-advocacy and learning skills.

Conclusion

This case shows how:

  1. The three-way coordination of the student, faculty, and office of disability services can effectively support the student who has concerns about what others might think and help him attain needed academic accommodations.
  2. The disability resources office may help a student develop self-advocacy and learning skills.