Planning Ahead: A Case Study on Student Performance Standards and Accommodations for an Internship

Date Updated


My name is Michael and I am about to graduate with a social work degree. I have a spinal cord injury that has resulted in a mobility impairment and several health issues.

Access Issue

I recently failed my social work internship at the local rehabilitation hospital. The Social Work Department policy does not let students repeat a clinical experience if they have failed. I appealed my situation to the director of the Social Work Department because I did not receive negative feedback about my performance until my final review on the last day of the placement. I was surprised at this outcome because I always contacted my site supervisor to let her know of weather-related transportation delays or absences due to health issues. Then I was told that frequent late arrivals, missed days, and delays in turning in reports were the reasons I did not pass the internship.


The Social Work Department director contacted the fieldwork supervisor to discuss my performance. In this case the director confirmed the lack of adequate feedback, clear expectations, and supervision throughout my placement. I also worked with the campus disabled student services office to assess the accommodations I would need to be successful - an extended time period for my placement and a later daily arrival time.

Following my meeting with the disabled student services office counselor, the director granted me permission to repeat my internship under specific conditions. The supervisor agreed to meet with me weekly to discuss my performance. I started work one hour later, and my internship was extended for an additional week. If I had any additional absences, I would need to work with my supervisor to make up the time and the work.


This case study illustrates the following:

  1. Students who have disabilities should be held to the same performance standards as those for other students.
  2. Students with disabilities should work with campus disability services counselors, advisors, supervisors, and/or field placement coordinators to determine what accommodations, if any, are needed for a fieldwork placement.
  3. Flexibility that includes a part-time schedule, adjusted work hours, and/or extended time to complete the fieldwork or internships may be necessary for students who are prone to absences due to health or transportation issues.