Making Academic Accommodation Arrangements
As established by the Vice President of Academic Affairs Office, the only way a student is to be approved for accommodations within the classroom is by first speaking with Disability Services. Students should not receive accommodations in the classroom without prior approval by the centralized Disability Services office that oversees the accommodations process. While the School of Medicine and the School of Law have respective disability accommodation processes, all other schools and colleges work with the Disability Services office located within the Student Success Center (BSC 331).
As adult learners, students do not have to self-disclose to SLU that they have a disability. It is their choice to speak or not to speak with Disability Services staff.
For those who do choose to speak with us, students will be asked to submit documentation that verifies the presence of a disability. Documentation standards and requirements vary based on the disability and can be found within this web site.
Disability Services staff and the student will then discuss accommodations and will reach an agreement on the accommodations that will be included in letters to be sent to faculty. Once the accommodations are approved, email notification letters are sent by Disability Services to the professors for the student's courses. These email notifications serve as official verification of accommodation eligibility.
Upon receipt of the accommodation notification email, it is important to note that students are required to speak with course instructors should the student want to use previously approved accommodations for the course in question. Course instructors are not responsible for arranging accommodations on behalf of the student without the student first personally requesting arrangement of the accommodations with the course instructor. Should a student not contact the instructor despite receipt of the notification letter, instructors should assume the student will not use accommodations for the test in question.
The best thing that you can do is place information on the syllabus about the need for students to speak with you should they seek accommodations for a class. For example:
In recognition that people learn in a variety of ways and that learning is influenced by multiple factors (e.g., prior experience, study skills, learning disability), resources to support student success are available on campus. Students who think they might benefit from these resources can find out more about:
• Course-level support (e.g., faculty member, departmental resources, etc.) by asking your course instructor.
• University-level support (e.g., tutoring/writing services, Disability Services) by visiting the Student Success Center (BSC 331) or by going to www.slu.edu/success.
Students who believe that, due to a disability, they could benefit from academic accommodations are encouraged to contact Disability Services at 314-977-3484 or to visit the Student Success Center. Confidentiality will be observed in all inquiries. Course instructors support student accommodation requests when an approved letter from Disability Services has been received and when students discuss these accommodations with the instructor after receipt of the approved letter.
Please let the student know that you would be willing to work with him or her once you receive the official letter from Disability Services. Explain to the student that you do not make any accommodation decisions without the letter from Disability Services. Encourage the student to speak with Disability Services and to show the documentation our staff. This response will keep you from being placed into a difficult situation.
A student may be struggling in a particular course for any number of reasons. The issue may be one of time management, difficulty transitioning to college, lack of good study skills, inappropriate course schedule given the student's situation, etc. A particular disability may or may not be the primary reason behind the academic struggles.
You may want to consider talking to the student and asking how your class is going for the student in conjunction with other classes and activities. If you sense the student may be struggling, you might want to mention resources on campus (tutoring or writing services, counselors at Student Health and Counseling, Disability Services, campus ministry, etc.) so as to provide a broad resource perspective and to not run the risk of making the student feel as though he or she is being labeled into one distinct category. See how the student responds and go from there.
Counselors at Student Health and Counseling will refer students to Disability Services if they see a need for academic accommodations. The Counselors there can help decode the situation from the list of previously mentioned possibilities among others. Students sometimes accept a referral to Disability Services more easily from a Counselor at Student Health and Counseling. If you are absolutely unsure on where is the best place to refer a student, consider making a referral to Student Health and Counseling first. This referral is often the least intrusive for the student and prevents incorrectly labeling the student with a disability should none be found to exist. Inform students that the Counselors at Student Health and Counseling work with students on all types of concerns and issues.
If a student shares information that leads you to believe the student may be experiencing depression or a mental illness, Student Health and Counseling is where the student should be first referred. The student will be given information on Disability Services from the counselors there if that is what the student needs in addition to counseling services.
It is appropriate to comment to the student on how you feel the student's class participation does not reflect current grade, or you can ask if the student is having particular trouble with one aspect of the course. If it is absolutely clear to you that the student's struggles are directly related to specific academic difficulties (and not a death in the family, a failed dating relationship, mental illness, depression, etc.) based on comments from the student (always have trouble writing papers, never finish tests on time, always take longer to read textbooks, can never listen to lectures for long periods and/or copy notes at the same time, etc.), then the student may be more open to receiving a referral to Disability Services.
Let the student know that other students receive academic accommodations to help with the learning process. Let the student know that testing is available to help determine the cause of academic struggles and may be appropriate in the student's case. Refer the student to Disability Services for more information, and do so in a way that presents Disability Services as an option for the student. Avoid presenting it in a way that suggests to the student that you have personally come to the conclusion that a disability exists. Let the student know that the Disability Services staff can ask questions to try to get to the source of the difficulties and can make suggestions, such as time management guidance, study skills information, and, in some situations, provide information on evaluation testing. Some short-term accommodations in some situations are possible.
Ultimately, there is nothing wrong with referring a student to Disability Services if you are comfortable with making that recommendation, if you have consulted with the student and learned more about the situation at hand, and if you truly have the student's best interest at heart. Such referrals are only problematic if the tone of the referral suggests that the basis of the referral is because of a discriminatory attitude.
Under no circumstances should accommodations be provided to the student without a letter from Disability Services. Providing accommodations without prior authorization can create a variety of difficulties.