What Accommodations Work in School?

line rule

In this page, you can find types of classroom accommodations and case illustrations of situations in which students with psychiatric disabilities have used accommodations, including what was effective for them.


Types of potential academic accommodations

For college students with disabilities, academic accommodations may include adaptations in the way specific courses are conducted, the use of auxiliary equipment and support staff, and modifications in academic requirements. A college or university has both the diversity of resources and the flexibility to select the specific aids or services it provides, as long as they are effective. Such aids and services should be selected in consultation with student who will use them.


Classroom Accommodations

bulletPreferential seating
Seating in front, by door, helps reduce audio/visual distractions


Having someone (another student, or a counseling staff member) to go with a student to class and sometimes stay in class with the student.


bulletAssigned classmate as volunteer assistant
Similar to an accompanier, an assistant may help take notes or provide informal support.


bulletBeverages permitted in class
Helps alleviate dry mouth or tiredness caused by medications.


Lecture accommodations

bulletPre-arranged breaks
Helps student anticipate and manage anxiety, stress, or extreme restlessness caused by medication.


bulletTape Recorder
Alleviates pressure of notetaking, freeing student to attend and participate more fully in class.


Similar to above, having someone in class to take notes alleviates anxiety of having to capture all the information; sometimes the anxiety of attending class interferes with effective notetaking.


bulletPhotocopy of another’s notes
If notetakers are not available, then securing from another student helps free him or her to attend and participate more fully in class.


Examination accommodations

bulletChange in test format
Altering an exam from a multiple choice format to an essay format may help students demonstrate their knowledge more effectively and with much less interference from anxiety or a learning disability.


bulletPermit use of computer software programs or other technological assistance
Writing may be difficult due to medication side effects that create muscular or visual problems.


bulletExtended time
Allowing a specific extra amount of time, to be negotiated before the exam, allows the student to focus on the exam content instead of the clock, and lessens the chance that anxiety or other symptoms will interfere with his or her performance.


Dividing an exam up into parts and allowing student to take them in two or three sessions over 1-2 days helps reduce the effect of fatigue and focus on one section at a time.


bulletPermit exams to be individually proctored, including in hospital
A non-distracting, quiet setting helps reduce interference from anxiety or other symptoms or medication side effects.


bulletIncrease frequency of tests or examinations
Giving student more opportunities to demonstrate knowledge creates less pressure than having just a midterm or a final.


bulletPermit exams to be read orally, dictated, scribed or typed.
Anxiety, other symptoms, medication side effects, or a learning disability may interfere with mental focus, concentration, ability to retrieve information, and/or writing capacity during a typical paper-pencil test. Reducing the amount of external pressure and distractions gives the student an equal opportunity to demonstrate his or her expertise without the disability skewing the results.


Assignment accommodations

bulletSubstitute assignments
Written exercises or other out-out class exercise may be necessary for a student with a psychiatric disability to best demonstrate their grasp of the required knowledge.


bulletAdvance notice of assignments
Helps a student anticipate and plan time, energy, and workload, and arrange for any support or academic adjustments.


bulletDelay in assignment due dates
A student may need to go into the hospital for week for a medication check or a brief emergency; extra time on a due date might be all that is needed for a student to pass the course. The delay should be specified; i.e., a new due date should be negotiated and formalized, not be left open-ended.


bulletHandwritten rather than typed papers
Relieves an additional source of pressure if student does not yet have typing skills. The time tests and accuracy required in a typing course make them a very high stress experience for students who are just returning to school.


bulletAssignment assistance during hospitalization
Staying connected to a student during a course while he or she is in the hospital may mean the student can finish the course as planned, and not have to take an incomplete or withdrawal grade, lose their money, or repeat the course again. (The exacerbation of psychiatric symptoms does not necessarily preclude the student’s ability to complete schoolwork, and in some cases seems to help them leave the hospital sooner because they academic responsibilities to meet.)


bulletUse alternative forms for students to demonstrate course mastery
A student may be better able to demonstrate his or her knowledge in ways that don’t require lots of writing (e.g., a narrative tape instead of a written journal) or time pressure (an essay exam rather than only multiple choice, or an extra paper if the student has not performed well on the exam due to his or her disability).


bulletTextbooks on tape
May help a student whose vision or concentration interferes with their reading ability.


Administrative accommodations

bulletProviding modifications, substitutions, or waivers of courses, major fields of study, or degree requirements on a case-by-case basis.
These adjustments should be considered on an individual basis, and only if the changes requested would not substantially alter essential elements of the course or program, or if courses are required for licensure)


bulletProvide orientation to campus and administrative procedures.
Increasing a student’s familiarity with an environment and the system help him or her to feel more confident and confident, and allow the student to plan, strategize, anticipate trouble spots, and know where to go for assistance.


bulletProvide assistance with registration/financial aid.
Helping a student cut through red tape and coaching them thorough the intricate but critical process of financial aid eliminates a potentially debilitating amount of stress and hassle.


bulletFlexibility in determining "Full Time" status (for purposes of financial aid and health insurance).
A school often has the power to declare a student “-time” even if s/he is part-time. If the disability is such that a part-time load is equal in burden to a full time load for a student without disability, such a case can be made. (This adjustment does not entitle a student to full time financial aid).


bulletAssistance with selecting classes and courseload.
Early morning classes or high stress classes such as keyboarding could set a student up failure.


bulletParking passes, elevator key, access to lounge
Anxiety and other psychiatric symptoms can physically and emotionally prevent a student from crossing the campus or climbing several sets of stairs or sustaining energy for a day of classes, when they would otherwise be capable of attending class. These supports make the environment more accessible and “-friendly,” and are usually cheap and easy to obtain.


bulletIncompletes rather than failures or withdrawals if relapse occurs.
If a student has finished most of the coursework but is unable to complete the remainder before the semester’s end, negotiating an incomplete usually means that a student will not have to repay or retake the entire course in order to finish it.


bulletIdentified place to meet on campus that feels “” before or after class.
Having a place that is safe may help a student attend class more regularly and help lessen the effects of anxiety and “ in the bud” stresses that can exacerbate other psychiatric symptoms.


Case Illustrations of Classroom Accommodations

bulletJennifer was enrolled in a beginning computer class. Due to her schizophrenia she had difficulty focusing in class. Her thoughts would wander from the teacher and suddenly she would feel lost in class. Because of this she would continually interrupt the class to ask the teacher questions. She was beginning to feel as if her teacher and classmates were angry at her for the disruption.

Jennifer’s teacher allowed her to bring in a tape recorder to tape the class lectures. She was also assigned a “ buddy”, a classmate who would sit next to her during class to point out what they were focusing on if Jennifer became lost. The teacher also made herself available to Jennifer each week at a certain time for questions. Jennifer also increased her time in the computer lab at the school.


bulletLisa was in her second semester at a community college. She had been taking 3 classes and was near completion of the semester when her Multiple Personality Disorder began to affect her school work. Until this point Lisa had been an exemplary student, a teacher’s favorite with a grade point average of 4.0. It became impossible for Lisa to go to her classes. Lisa did not want to jeopardize her grade point average, nor did she have the money to pay to take the classes over.

Because of her exemplary record Lisa’s teachers all agreed to give her an incomplete rather than having her withdraw or failing her. This enabled Lisa to complete the course work over the next semester. It would not affect her grade point average and she would not have to pay for the classes again.


bulletJoe was attending a major metropolitan university. The parking lot for the university was quite a distance from the building were his classes took place. Because of an anxiety disorder Joe would find himself experiencing panic attacks walking from his car to the classroom building. Once he arrived in the building it would take him several minutes to calm himself and he was generally very flustered during his class. Joe was contemplating quitting school.

Joe approached the Students with Disabilities Office and was able to get a parking pass which allowed him to park closer to the building where his classes were held. Because of this he felt safer in the environment and no longer experienced the panic attacks on his way to class.

The following semester Joe had classes on the first floor and the third floor of the building. In between classes, the hallway and staircase were extremely crowded. Joe found himself experiencing panic attacks on his way up the stair case, wanting to run out of the building.

Joe approached the Student’s with Disabilities Office again. Since Joe’s class was located near an elevator they were able to give him a key to the elevator. He would take the elevator to the third floor allowing him to avoid the crowded staircase and diminishing his anxiety.


Reasonable Accommodations Site
Introduction | Mental Illness Definition | Laws Overview
Employer Info | More Educator Info | Home Page

line rule

© 1997, Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation, Boston University

Bipolar World   © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014
Owners:  Allie Bloom, David Schafer, M.Ed. (Blackdog)

Partners:  John Haeckel, Judith (Duff)
Founder:  Colleen Sullivan
Email Us at Bipolar World

About Us  Add a Link  Advance Directives  Alternative Treatments  Ask the Doctor   Ask Dr. Plyler about Bipolar Disorder   Ask The Doctor/Topic Archives  Awards  Benny the Bipolar Puppy  Bipolar Chat  Bipolar Children  Bipolar Disorder News  Bipolar Help Contract  Bipolar World Forums  Book Reviews  Bookstore  BP & Other mental Illness   Clinical Research Trials & FDA Drug Approval   Community Support   Contact Us  The Continuum of Mania and Depression   Coping   Criteria    Criteria and Diagnosis  Criteria-World Health Disabilities,  DSMV-IV   Dual Diagnosis  eGroups  Expressions (Poetry, Inspiration, Humor, Art Gallery, Memorials  Family Members   Getting Help for a Loved One who Refuses Treatment  Greeting Cards  History of Mental Illness  Indigo  Job and School  Links    Medications   Medication and Weight Gain    News of the Day  Parent Chat  Pay for Meds  Personal Stories  Self Help  Self Injury  Significant Others  Stigma and Mental Health Law  Storm's Column  Suicide!!!  The Suicide Wall  Table of Contents  Treatments  Treatment Compliance  US Disability  Veteran's Chat  What's New?