Types of Disabilities

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD)

Symptoms of distractibility, hyperactivity or impulsivity, low self-esteem and difficulty in social interactions are frequently seen in individuals with ADD/ADHD. In addition, reading, math, and writing skills may be affected. Often, an individual with this disorder may be prescribed medication to decrease distractability and other associated difficulties.

Reading: It may be difficult to remain focused for the amounts of time required for long reading assignments, making it difficult for the student to retain much information.

Writing: Writing may present difficulties when a student tries to focus in order to process information from thought onto paper or word processors.

Math: Math may be difficult when it becomes more complex in steps, resulting in simple mistakes within a problem.

Many individuals find morning classes more difficult due to sleeping problems caused by the disorder. Organization is a painstaking and laborious process for individuals with ADD/ADHD. Many individuals with this disorder describe having so many thoughts racing through their head at any one time that it seems impossible to find any one, clear thought.

Appropriate adjustments for students with ADD/ADHD may include:

  • quiet testing area in a separate location
  • extended test time
  • front row classroom seating
  • permission to tape record lectures

Head Injury

Students who have survived traumatic brain injury represent the fastest growing group with disabilities on campuses nationwide. This is due to several factors. Most persons in this category are between the ages of 15 and 28; present advances in medical techniques have increased survival rates; and most survivors require retraining or education to return to work. Traumatic brain injury results in loss or partial loss of cognitive skills, communication, psychosocial behavior, sensory impairments, and physical impairments.

Students in this category typically lose capacity for memory, speed of thinking, organizational skills, concentration, oral language skills, and spatial reasoning. Students must relearn these skills through undamaged parts of the brain. There is great variation in the possible effects experienced by an individual with a head injury, and most college students with this disability will exhibit some but not all of them.

Each student presents a challenge to instructors and disability services personnel because of dramatic differences and needs as an individual. However, with appropriate intervention and accommodations, successful completion of course work may be achieved.

Appropriate adjustments for a student with a head injury may include:

  • testing in quiet area
  • extended or unlimited test time
  • note takers
  • permission to tape record lectures
  • spell check or dictionary
  • four-function calculator
  • word processor for tests and assignments
  • daily organizational plan

Hearing Impairments

The term "hearing impaired" refers to anyone having some level of physical impairment that results in receiving less sound, ranging from very slight loss to profound deafness. Most deaf persons use one or more visual methods of communication including American Sign Language (ASL), signed Exact English (SEE), and/or lip-reading.

Some individuals have residual hearing loss and may benefit from some form of amplification along with the visual cues. Students with severe hearing impairments are likely to have language disabilities in vocabulary and sentence structure. Written projects as well as direct communication may reflect these limitations.

Appropriate adjustments for students with hearing impairment may include:

  • sign language interpreter
  • note taker
  • close captioning device for videos or television
  • assistive listening device
  • Telecommunication Device for the Deaf (TDD)
  • visual alarm systems in housing
  • front row classroom seating

Faculty should attempt to:

  • face the student when lecturing for lip-reading students
  • avoid "talking to the chalk board"
  • repeat comments of other persons in the classroom

Learning Disabilities

A learning disability (LD) is a permanent neurological disorder that affects the manner in which individuals with normal to above average intelligence receive, retain, and express information. Symptoms may manifest in one or more of the following areas: reading comprehension, spelling, written language, auditory processing, math computation, and problem-solving.

Students may also experience difficulty in organizational, time management and social skills. LD students may be slow readers and writers, have poor handwriting, have difficulty copying material, have frequent misspellings or grammar errors, and be unable to listen and take notes simultaneously. Many persons with a learning disability are easily distracted by sights and sounds and may have difficulty paying attention in class or focusing on testing material. Persons with a math disability may never master basic facts and continue to reverse numbers, confuse operational signs, and have difficulty recalling sequence of operations.

Difficulties from LD can cause problems in self-esteem, relationships with faculty and social interactions. Learning disabilities cannot be "cured." However, students may reach their fullest potential through appropriate instructional intervention and compensatory strategies. Most students with a learning disability who have successfully made their way to postsecondary education are highly intelligent with a marked discrepancy in achievement.

Appropriate adjustments for a student with learning disabilities may include:

  • note takers
  • extended test time
  • quiet testing area
  • permission to tape record lectures
  • word processor for assignments and tests
  • spell check or dictionary for assignments and tests
  • four-function calculator for assignments and tests
  • provision of syllabus before the first day of class

Mobility Impairments

A wide range of conditions or impairments may limit mobility or physical capability for students including paralysis, loss of limb, arthritis, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, spina bifida, respiratory and cardiac disease, and other neurologic or musculoskeletal disorders. Any of these conditions may affect strength, speed, endurance, coordination, and dexterity. Students may have difficulty getting to and from classes, up stairs, through narrow spaces, and over curbs. This is especially true due to inclement weather and lack of nearby accessible parking.

Appropriate adjustments for students with mobility impairments may include:

  • relocation of classes
  • making desks or tables accessible
  • providing a barrier free classroom
  • notetaker
  • oral or taped tests
  • extended test time
  • permission to tape record lectures
  • laboratory assistance
  • excused tardiness

Psychiatric Disabilities

Mental illness is a widespread and debilitating illness that affects as many as 41 million people in the U.S. The onset is often between the ages 18-25, when young people are beginning the development of their adult lives and are typically interested in postsecondary education. In recent years, more students in this category are continuing their education and requesting accommodations and services.

Observable behaviors may include anxiety or chronic tension, depression, inability to interact in large groups, missing class, inability to focus, and medication reactions (drowsiness, slow reactions and hyperactive or disruptive behavior).

Appropriate adjustments for students with psychiatric disorders may include:

  • quiet testing area in a separate location
  • extended test time
  • front row classroom seating, seating near an exit, backrow seating
  • permission to tape record lectures

Seizure Disorder

Students who exhibit seizure disorder may have symptoms associated with epilepsy, traumatic brain injury and many other neurologic dysfunctions due to an imbalance in electrical activity of the brain. Students with seizure disorders are often under preventative medications that may result in drowsiness and short- term memory loss. This is especially a concern when medications are being changed by the physician. The student may exhibit a temporary setback and be less likely to be successful in the classroom during this short period.

Faculty should be aware of three types of seizures: petit mal, psychomotor and grand mal. A petit mal seizure may go unnoticed and is characterized by staring with sudden dimming of consciousness for a few seconds. This may occur frequently or occasionally in the span of an hour. Psychomotor seizures range from mild to severe and can include behavior outbursts, random bodily movement, mental confusion, or incoherent speech, and may last from several minutes to half an hour. Grand mal seizures may be moderate to severe and include unconsciousness and involuntary contractions of the muscles.

The procedure for assisting a person with a grand mal seizure is:

  • Call 911; this is a TTU policy.
  • Allow the person to lie down.
  • Remove any surrounding obstructions.
  • Place something soft under the head if possible.
  • Do not try to restrain the individual.
  • Call the Disability Services Office (6119) or Health Services (3320) for further information.

Seizures are often embarrassing to students. If you feel comfortable, discuss the situation with the class after the occurrence.

Appropriate adjustments for students with seizure disorder may include:

  • extended test time
  • excused absences or tardiness if a seizure has recently occurred
  • short extensions on test or assignment deadlines

Visual Impairments

Visual impairment varies greatly and may include both legally blind and totally blind individuals. Legally blind persons may have low acuity, tunnel vision, or peripheral vision. The functionally blind person may adapt at close range but have difficulty in reading for extended periods, focusing at a distance, taking notes, and reading standard size print or computer screens. Students with visual impairments should not be expected to master less content, but they must be provided the same information in a form that they can physically access.

Appropriate adjustments for students with visual impairments may include:

  • reading lists or texts provided in advance to allow taping or brailling of material
  • notetakers
  • readers and scribes
  • duplication of materials in large print
  • verbalization of blackboard material
  • front row classroom seating
  • alternate test format
  • excused tardiness
  • barrier-free classrooms
  • permission to record lectures
  • guide dog in classroom

Alternate test formats may include:

  • oral presentation and answers
  • test on tape
  • braille format or large print format
  • test on computer disk
  • extended test time
  • test on CCTV (Closed Circuit Television)
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