- Often what it comes down to is communication- a miscommunication or a lack of communication between students, faculty, and ODS. When a student knows their rights they are better able to speak up and advocate in a way that allows them to get their needs met.
Scenario 1: REGISTER FOR ODS:
- I’ve often encountered students who were used to flexibility on the part of their professors- due dates pushed back a week, some extra time on an exam, allowing for a missed class here and there. The problem with flexibility is that is does not offer any protection or guarantee. Just because a professor has allowed a student to submit 2 assignments late does not mean that he will let you turn that final project worth 50% of your grade in late even if you tell him it’s because of a disability. If you do not register and document your disability according to your school’s policy you will not be protected.
Scenario 2: THERE IS A PROCESS/GO THROUGH THE PROPER CHANNELS:
- It’s important to note that the policies that govern ODS and the process of registering will vary from one school to another. And it is the student’s responsibility to make sure they go through the proper channels. One student I encountered was a Physical Therapy student in his final semester clinical rotation. He was in the process of appealing an academic decision to dismiss him from the program. He explained to me that while he had been diagnosed with seasonal affective DO several years before, he had never needed accommodations because he developed a number of effective skills to manage his symptoms. These were things like spending time outdoors during lunch, biking to work, use of a light lamp, packing nutritious snacks to keep his energy up. Throughout his time in the PT program, his grades had been high and he had been successful in his other rotations. For his final one, he chose a more rigorous placement at a large and busy hospital. His shifts often started before the sun came up, he worked through lunch, and by the time he was heading home it was dark again. Within a few weeks he was struggling to keep his symptoms in check. He noticed he was becoming forgetful, sluggish, and having a hard time recalling information including pertinent safety information. His clinical supervisor noticed too and documented unsatisfactory progress. During a meeting with his clinical supervisor he disclosed his diagnosis and asked for accommodations- a proper lunch hour where he could spend time outside. The student reported she said that she would “see what she could do” but that in a hospital setting there were no guarantees. The clinical supervisor documented the meeting in her weekly note to the faculty supervisor. After 2 more weeks of unsatisfactory progress the student was told by the clinical supervisor it was no longer safe to have him practicing with patients and he was suspended. So yes, the student disclosed, but he did not do so to the right person nor did he follow his school’s policy.
Scenario 3: SPEAK UP WHEN SOMETHING SEEMS OFF.
- Additionally, students run into issues when the accommodation isn’t working as intended or when there is a miscommunication between the intended accommodation and the faculty’s interpretation of the accommodation.
- Another student I encountered was registered with ODS and was supposed to receive time and a half on timed exams. She was still having difficulty even with the accommodation but did not go back to ODS for guidance until she received a failing grade on her final exam which also meant she would be failing the course. In her program, exams were timed- 1 minute per questions. In speaking with her and the professor it turned out that what was happening was that rather than providing extended time (90 seconds per slide) the student was provided with repeated exposure. The professor would run through each questions with the class then was going back to ones that student’s needed another look at. The professor thought this qualified as “extended time” and thought they were being reasonable and fair but failed to realize that this approach was still not giving the student the time she needed for processing and recall. And the student falsely assumed the professor knew how to make the needed accommodations.
Scenario 4: ESSENTIAL FUNCTIONS AND TECHNICAL STANDARDS/ACCESS/UNDUE BURDEN:
- A nursing student with a latex allergy may be able to complete the technical standards and requirements in a classroom setting but may not be able to do so in a clinical environment. A University has no legal ability to require a clinical agency to take reasonable steps to accommodate a latex allergic/sensitive student.
Scenario 5: COMMUNICATING EFFECTIVELY WITH FACULTY
- One student was having some trouble with her insurance company which led to a week’s lapse in her medication for bipolar d/o. She was already registered with ODS and was starting to have some symptoms but wanted to try to push through. Her class was going to be doing a clinical demonstration and they would be split into 2 groups: one going that week and one the week after. The class was given their dates via email and hers was the next day. Upon arriving at the lab she was selected to go first and told her professor she did not feel prepared. The professor told her that was unacceptable and made her go. She said she was visibly shaking, had trouble recalling, and was sweating excessively- ultimately she failed the skill. She later said she didn’t tell her professor how she was feeling when she got to lab bc she didn’t want to “out” herself to her class. We spent time talking about ways in which she could’ve handled the situation differently. Advice for how to utilize accommodations without bringing stigma upon themselves
Essential functions/standards- modify the how not the what.
- If you are a recent college grad or faculty member that’s in recovery for mental health issues, I’d love to interview you about your goal achievement quest, the struggles/adversity you faced, as well the wellness strategies you used! I’m particularly interested in interviewing student entrepreneurs and those involved in mental health advocacy. There are a variety of ways to reach out.
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