During the past few years, colleges and universities have experienced increased enrollments of students with disabilities. The College of Charleston is no exception. Faculty and staff are often placed in the position of providing accommodations to our students with disabilities. This handbook is designed to provide a resource for faculty teaching students with disabilities.
Understanding is the key to working with students with disabilities. The better we understand our students, the better we may be able to teach and educate these students. The main requirement for working with students with disabilities is not a degree in psychology or extensive years of experience, but rather a caring and sensitive attitude and a little flexibility. Even though many of us have limited knowledge of disabilities, working with students with disabilities can be especially rewarding.
All students at the College with disabilities have met the same admissions standards as other students. These students are bright and intelligent, but, in addition to handling the problems of traditional college students, they must also manage those associated with their disability. Because their disability is sometimes "hidden," students with disabilities must often cope not only with the limitations of their disability, but also the frustrations of having to "prove" that their disability does exist. Many students with disabilities choose not to disclose their disability for fear of negative stereotyping.
The college or university setting is often a most challenging one for students with learning disabilities. The cognitive skills required of college students to analyze, synthesize, draw conclusions, make inferences, and think logically are often the very areas where these students will have cognitive deficits. Despite these areas of weakness, students with learning disabilities can be very successful college students. We all have strengths and weaknesses in our learning styles. Some of the most brilliant thinkers of our time have had disabilities. According to Thomas West in his book The Mind's Eye, Albert Einstein appears to have had learning disabilities in math calculations and foreign languages. Like Einstein, students with learning disabilities simply need alternative ways of learning and alternative avenues for demonstrating that they have mastered course content.
Many instructors worry that they will be required to dilute the curriculum, lower standards, or reduce course requirements for student with disabilities. This is not the case! However, special accommodations may be necessary to allow students with a disability to demonstrate their knowledge of course material. Assignments may be modified and test administration procedures may be altered. Depending on the type of disability, instructors may need to work more closely with students outside of class to help the student compensate for the disability. The objective should always be to accommodate the student's learning differences, not to lower academic standards. The standards of the course should in no way be compromised. When assigning grades or evaluating course work, the same standards of evaluation should be used for students with disabilities as for those without disabilities.
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