How can I help students who need accommodations but refuse to use them?
The answer to this question depends on the age, individual needs, and personality of the student. As always, instructors should talk with students about their accommodation needs and perhaps with support personnel. Facilitating accommodations is easier for teachers who develop a positive classroom climate where students feel comfortable asking for the help they need because of disabilities or simply struggle with particular concepts.
College and University Students
In college courses, one way to start a discussion about accommodations with a potential student is to put a notice in the syllabus for a course that lets students know that they should talk with the professor if they need accommodations. This statement will let students know that the professor is aware of accommodation issues and is willing to discuss accommodation options. College students are responsible for providing documentation and asking for accommodations, and it is generally not appropriate for the professor to suggest that the student needs disability accommodations if not requested. Usually, the student works with a disabled student services office on campus. The student is not required, however, to use the accommodations suggested. Once a conversation about accommodations is taking place, however, the instructor can encourage the student to use reasonable accommodations that have been determined for a class.
With precollege students, developing a positive classroom climate and learning community is a good way to encourage open dialogue with students with disabilities. Acknowledge early in the school year that everyone has strengths and challenges. A teacher needs to make sure that students who need accommodations know that he or she is open to working with them. Consider working with a resource teacher to assure that the student makes use of appropriate accommodations.
It is hoped that resource teachers at the school will teach students to advocate for themselves. Being a self-advocate means acknowledging disabilities and asking for the help that is necessary. Students should be encouraged to self-advocate, but in K-12 settings they most likely will need help in developing these skills.
If a student is not succeeding and he seems to have the ability to do so with appropriate accommodations, it is a good idea for the teacher to talk to the student, parents, and resource staff about the student's reasons for not using the accommodations that are available.
A teacher or other significant adult should help the student understand that he is capable of success, that others are supportive of his success, and that the student will be more likely to succeed if he uses the accommodation. This conversation may motivate the student to use what is available.