Understanding Students with Disabilities

As faculty and staff, you should always treat students as individuals and it’s beneficial to get to know them individually. To create a better understanding of different forms of disabilities, the information below can assist you.

Learning Disabilities and ADHD

Learning Disabilities and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are often called invisible disabilities as one cannot generally identify it just by looking at a student or talking with a student. But students with ADHD or learning disabilities make up the majority of students on our campus registered either with Services for Students with Disabilities or Project Success. Examples of learning disabilities might include dyslexia, math disorders, or disorders that impair or affect processing and comprehending new information.

 

Examples of difficulties faced by individuals with learning disabilities or ADHD might include:

  • inability to efficiently multitask
  • difficulty managing time or priorities
  • difficulty following verbal instructions
  • grammatical errors in written work
  • slow reading/comprehension rates
  • difficulty with critical reasoning skills

 

When preparing lectures and presenting materials, consider the following:

  • at the beginning of class, offer a 2-minute summary of the previous day’s lecture and ask if there are any questions
  • link previous lectures to the current lecture
  • outline main points and key terms on the board or with a PowerPoint presentation
  • state clear class objectives
  • make lecture notes/outlines available via D2L
  • maintain student attention by varying delivery approach, moving around the room, and promoting class discussion
  • at the end of class, offer a 2-minute summary

 

Commonly used accommodations:

  • do not take points off of written work in class (in class journals, exams) for spelling errors
  • use of a laptop for exams or note taking
  • circling responses directly on an exam rather than using scantron sheets
  • copies of PowerPoint handouts, lecture notes
  • reduced distraction environments and extended time for exams
  • preferential seating at the front of the classroom

 

Online Resources

Visual Impairments

The two main types of visual impairments include blindness and low vision. The difference between the two is that individuals with low vision can usually see to some degree while blind individuals are typically not able to see anything.

 

Examples of difficulties faced by students with low vision or blindness:

  • mobility around campus, the Oshkosh community, and inside classroom buildings including classrooms
  • accessibility of taking notes in class
  • ability to see visual aids, the chalk board or white board, PowerPoint presentations, etc.
  • reading
  • locating large-print textbooks or materials
  • transportation for class activities off-campus
  • obtaining textbooks or course materials (E-Reserves, D2L materials) in an accessible format

 

When preparing lectures and presenting materials, consider the following:

  • select course materials early to assure that proper electronic conversions (audio format, Braille, etc) can be obtained for the first day of class
  • ensure that articles used in class and handouts can be easily converted to electronic format or Braille
  • include audio descriptors of visual aids or films/videos used in class

 

Commonly used accommodations:

  • proctors and scribes to read/record answers to exams (sometimes including extended time and alternate locations)
  • adaptive software to promote computer access with voice commands including voice output/screen readers
  • raised line drawings or tactile modifications for graphs and images
  • note taking assistance sometimes including new Apps for the Ipad or similar electronic devices

 

Online Resources

Hearing Impairments

Some students have health impairments that may affect daily functioning including class participation, travel, and attendance. Bodily functions affected by health impairments could include respiratory, immunological, neurological, and circulatory systems. Health conditions can vary in severity from individual to individual with flare-ups (periods of increased severity of symptoms) occurring unexpectedly. Examples of chronic health impairments can include cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes, epilepsy and other seizure disorders, chemical sensitivities, multiple sclerosis, atypical migraines, and Crohn’s disease.

 

Examples of difficulties faced by students with health impairments:

  • mobility around campus
  • mobility to be able to get to campus
  • note taking
  • time management
  • anxiety related to unknowns or not knowing when a flare-up could occur

 

When preparing lectures and presenting materials, consider the following:

  • intention of class policies on attendance
  • preparation of multiple exam forms in the event a student misses an exam due to a flare-up of symptoms

 

Commonly used accommodations:

  • note taking assistance or recording lectures
  • flexibility in attendance requirements
  • alternative testing arrangements
  • increased communication via email or telephone
  • absences due to symptoms, doctors appointments, scheduled treatment regimens
Mental Health Impairments

Psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and sleep disorders may not be readily apparent or obvious, but can have a significant impact on a student’s academic performance. These, and similar conditions, cover a broad range of impairments that could be short-lived or long-term. Appropriate treatment including counseling and medication can sometimes stop acute symptoms, but side effects of some medications may also affect academic performance.

 

Examples of difficulties faced by students with mental health issues:

  • loss of concentration
  • cognitive impairments including short-term memory loss
  • time management and priority management
  • feelings of fear and anxiety about class participation or exams
  • fluctuating stamina affecting class attendance
  • impulsivity
  • irritability

 

Commonly used accommodations:

  • preferential seating near door or back of room
  • pre-arranged breaks during long class periods
  • note taking assistance
  • early availability of syllabus or class materials
  • personal and private feedback
  • extended time for exams
Physical Disabilities

There are a broad range of disabilities that can affect an individual physically. Most common physical impairments include wheelchair users and those who use other assistive devices such as crutches or walkers. Certain neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis and muscular dystrophy may also cause mobility difficulties.

 

Examples of difficulties faced by students with physical disabilities:

  • building access (accessible entrances may be at extreme end of a building away from the classroom)
  • mobility on campus, especially during inclement weather
  • utilization of desks or laboratory facilities
  • space concerns in faculty offices or classrooms
  • sitting in a standard desk
  • access to large lecture halls (pit classes)
  • difficulty taking notes

 

When preparing lectures or designing a course, consider the following:

  • accommodations or alterations in laboratory courses
  • field experience and field trips associated with some classes
  • using outdoor spaces on nice fall or springtime days

 

Commonly used accommodations:

  • modified seating or tables are sometimes moved into classrooms
  • scribe or proctors for some exams with additional time
  • assistive technology such as speech to text software to complete exams (i.e. Dragon Naturally Speaking)
  • note taking assistance
  • relocating class to accessible rooms
Autism Spectrum Disorders or Asperger’s Syndrome

UW Oshkosh is experiencing an increase in the number of high-functioning students with autism or Asperger’s enrolling in college. Students with high functioning Asperger’s tend to possess higher cognitive abilities than other students, but struggle in expressing themselves both in writing and conversation. Students with Asperger’s may struggle in building relationships, expressing their ideas in class discussion, focusing on course content, and interpreting social cues. They may also not understand how to react to stressful situations or how to respond to others’ emotions. No two individuals with Asperger’s are alike in terms of how they are affected or how they will interact with you and other students in the classroom.

 

Examples of what you may observe from a student with Asperger’s:

  • naïve or peculiar social interactions and behavior
  • expect everyone to be genuinely good and are surprised if someone tries to exploit them
  • may not understand jokes, irony, or metaphors
  • take conversations very literal and may react accordingly
  • may talk ‘at’ an individual rather than ‘with’ an individual with little regard for listener’s interest and may not be able to pick up on the social cues of disinterest
  • may talk too loud, stand too close, and maintain unusual eye contact
  • may struggle with conveying frustration or anger and ‘explode’ when frustration builds
  • may crave social interactions, but personality quirks may rebuff others leaving the student feeling alone or isolated
  • social immaturity

 

Examples of difficulties faced by students with autism or Asperger’s:

  • lack of structure and clear instructions and timelines
  • difficulty dealing with ambiguity in assignment of projects
  • frustration with working with peers on group projects
  • difficulty with classes that are not in their core interest or major, may not understand value of general education curriculum
  • easily distracted or confused during lectures, especially if lecture information doesn’t match what is in the book

 

Commonly used accommodations:

  • note taking assistance
  • testing accommodations including test modifications for essay rather than multiple choice

 

Tips when interacting with a student with Asperger’s

  • use clear, specific language avoiding slang or regional vernacular
  • provide specific written instructions
  • find out the student’s limitations and strengths and advise accordingly
  • get to know the student personally so he/she will feel comfortable talking with you about problems
  • help connect students with Academic Advising or the Dean of Students office
  • don’t be surprised if parents are involved
  • consult with the Dean of Students office if you have concerns about behavior
Concussions or Traumatic Brain Injuries

Concussions or traumatic brain injuries (TBI) can occur in several ways. Concussions can occur from sports injuries, auto accidents, or normal daily mishaps such as a fall. Traumatic brain injuries are generally associated with military combat, but can arise from multiple concussions or serious auto accidents as well. While concussions usually result in short-term impairment, TBI can result in life-time impairment. Proper treatment and lifestyle modifications following a concussion can usually result in a return to normal in as little as a few days or a couple of months. For an individual with a concussion, the most important treatment is sleep and avoiding the type of cognitive work associated with postsecondary education such as studying, reading, writing, and researching.

 

Examples of difficulties faced by students with concussions or TBI:

  • poor concentration
  • extreme fatigue and need to sleep
  • irritability
  • sense of loss or isolation from post-injury lifestyle changes
  • severe headaches or migraines
  • depression and/or anxiety

 

When preparing lectures and presenting materials, consider the following:

  • at the beginning of class, offer a 2-minute summary of the previous day’s lecture and ask if there are any questions
  • link previous lectures to the current lecture
  • outline main points and key terms on the board or with a PowerPoint presentation
  • state clear class objectives
  • make lecture notes/outlines available via D2L
  • maintain student attention by varying delivery approach, moving around the room, and promoting class discussion
  • at the end of class, offer a 2-minute summary

 

Commonly used accommodations:

  • Test modifications including alternate format or take-home formats (for those with significant memory impairment)
  • Note taking assistance
  • Occasional extensions for some projects/papers (especially immediately post-injury)
  • Occasional extension to complete course requirements (especially immediately post-injury)
Office Hours

Dempsey Hall 125
Monday-Friday
7:45 a.m.- 4:30 p.m.

 

University Police

Emergency: (920) 424-1212
Non-Emergency: (920) 424-1216