Advising Students With Disabilities

 

Students with documented disabilities are accommodated at Grinnell College. Not only is this required by law, but it is fair practice for students who need it. All students seeking academic accommodations for a disability must contact Joyce Stern, Dean for Student Student Success and Academic Advising, so that she may meet with them, review their documentation, and make decisions about appropriate accommodations. This is the procedure the College has adopted to allow for consistent practice and thorough review of each student's request. Grinnell students with disabilites have a wide range of limitations that need accommodation in order to allow equal access to their education. Since every disability is unique to each person, accommodations are always individually-tailored to the student. Some typical kinds of accommodations include books/texts in an alternate format, note takers, recorded classes, and extra time on exams.

As the student's adviser, you also have an important role to play in supporting a advisee with a disability. With the student's permission, the student's adviser is invited to a meeting with the student and with Joyce that has a four-fold agenda:

  1. The meeting serves as the final step in the procedures for determining appropriate accommodations at Grinnell.  At this meeting the three of them will discuss the student's disability and how it affects the student, the student's past history of accommodations, and necessary accommodations for their time at Grinnell.
  2. At this meeting advisers can clarify what role they feel comfortable playing in terms of advocacy for that student. For example, occasionally it may be opportune for you to help the student navigate a difficulty in one of their other courses with receiving a required accommodation. By talking with the instructor of that course - with the student's permission - sometimes a difficulty can be easily resolved. Joyce plays this role also, but students often like to have faculty talking with faculty.
  3. The adviser, in partnership with Joyce, can explain the variety of resources on campus that may serve to function as a sort of accommodation. Examples of this include writing coaching at the Writing Lab, or subject-specific tutoring at the Math Lab, Science Learning Center or through Academic Advising, visits to an instructor's office hours, or use of helpful technologies. Because these resources are open to all students, students with disabilites don't have to be stigmatized when asking for assistance. Although use of these resources will not be listed on the official Academic Accommodations Form, students should be encouraged to utilize these resources when appropriate to their disability or learning challenges.
  4. The student and adviser should discuss how the disability might impact the "big picture" of a student's time at Grinnell. For example, some students need to take an average of 12-13 credits each semester due to a disability and will need to use summers to transfer in credit to reach 124 credits by graduation. Other students need to select courses carefully based on the student's strengths and weaknessed to strike a good balance. This is a conversation that will last over time and exceeds the boundaries of this one meeting.

Advisers are brought into a very small circle of people who are aware of the student's disability and are expected to maintain the student's confidentiality, making every effort not to disclose this information to other students or faculty except with the student's express permission.