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ADA Accommodations


It is worth your time to take notice that the vast majority of these deficits are cognitive and emotional, not physical. According to the CDC, supra, most deficits are cognitive and emotional. In the education disabled student office in post-secondary and higher education, however, the ADA limits accommodations to primarily physical disabilities. The only one that supports a cognitive deficit is time to complete an assignment. A few disabled student offices are not cognizant of the accommodations required for intellectual disabilities under the ADA, which provide for

  • Providing someone to read or interpret materials, including intensive tutoring and assistance, support and assessment to enable success
  • Providing reliable note-takers and tutors
  • Instructional demonstration, rather than describing, requirements
  • Modifying tests, instructional materials, assignments, and readings
  • Replacing a written exam with an oral interview
  • Slowing the pace of instruction
  • Allow more breaks for the disabled student to rest
  • Using colored visual aids

The many cognitive and emotional deficits that a brain injured student possesses will virtually always qualify the student as an intellectually disabled person under the ADA. Based upon all the possible brain injury deficits, any number of the following accommodations may be necessary (list compiled from federal court decisions in favor of the disabled student):

  • Modified course content
  • Modified writing prompts
  • Modified assignment prompts
  • Reduced required reading level
  • Large text in printed materials
  • Additional time for completion of assignments and tests
  • Reduced or increased lighting
  • Reduced noise levels (student may need earplugs or noise reducers)
  • Special computer use and software
  • Reliable note taker
  • Recording of lecture or presentation
  • Tutors
  • Counseling
  • Written rather than oral instructions
  • Seating in most accommodating part of room
  • Seating and writing area allowing organization (chair and table instead of high school variety desk)
  • In addition to syllabus, a checklist of all materials and requirements to help student with organization
  • Double check with ABI student to ensure all instructions are understood
  • Provide examples of work expected
  • Help student create an organization system they can rely on and teacher can assist with
  • Recognition of flooding (mental exhaustion)
  • Recognition of emotional over-reaction with compassion and assistance versus punitive action
  • Recognize student may not be able to multi-task
  • Understand many ABI students need to talk to peers about brain injury and yet confidentiality must be kept whenever possible
  • See if one or more peers will volunteer to assist ABI student
  • Communicate often and clearly
  • Allow student to retake exam if comprehension of abbreviated material or information was a deficit related problem
  • Understand ABI student may make best effort and the effort may not equal that of non-ABI peers
  • Be aware of student fear, anxiety, or other emotional issues for which psychotherapy may be necessary (odd behaviors like standing to read or write)
  • Evaluate student’s ability to work independently
  • Help with compensatory strategies
  • Awareness that student insight may be impaired
  • Recognize ABI student may have physical deficits – balance, coordination, inadvertent over-reaction to touch
  • May need more frequent breaks from focused study or listening to lecture or, in science classes, lab work
  • May have difficulty with integrating multiple sources
  • May have task perseveration (repetition of failing attempt to problem solve – cannot recognize perseveration)
  • ABI student may have motivational deficits and require more support than peers
  • ABI students may resist unique or novel ideas (versus new learning)
  • Don’t pressure student to catch up with peers
  • Need for waiver of timed requirements
  • Provide student with copies of slide presentations, outlines of lectures with references
  • Avoid reacting to mild negative behaviors (irritability, short fuse) so long as it does not interfere with conducting class
  • Teach student how to highlight main points (how to detect main points)
  • Understand classroom participation may vary due to mental processing, flooding or exhaustion
  • Understand that ABI student may not be aware of a problem
  • Be willing to ask DSS office or accessible professional (school psychologist) for suggestions when teaching an ABI student
  • ABI student will do best in new learning in areas that are related to or teachable through over-learned skills
  • ABI student may have difficulty making in-class presentation to peers because of fear of shame or disclosure of deficits during presentation
  • ABI student may have problems with big picture or expected gestalt moments
  • ABI student may do well one day but not the next (brain injury causes these fluctuations)
  • Be aware student may have working and long term memory problems – use printed materials for ABI students
  • Encourage ABI student to rehearse presentation with peers
  • Encourage ABI student socialization to increase comfort with peers despite deficits
  • Recognize working memory relates to in-class instructions not in writing, comprehension of oral instructions, remembering homework assignments if not in writing, remembering to look at reminder notes, forgets names of classmates
  • When directly instructing ABI student, ask student to repeat back or paraphrase
  • Be aware ABI student may speak out of turn especially if student knows the comment will not be remembered if not spoken immediately
  • Emphasize learned skill or competence over quantity of work produced
  • Be aware ABI student may not ask for help when it is needed
  • Be aware ABI student may react negatively to sudden changes in materials or activities
  • Avoid puns, double meanings, sarcasm, clichés
  • Discuss and plan changes – providing written changes to ABI student
  • Teach ABI student how to and suggest the student revise an essay or work before turning it in
  • Be aware that is pressured and not given time to comprehend, student may become argumentative or unmotivated
  • Emotionally, ABI student may have odd expressions, rapid mood changes, impulsiveness, interrupt, attention seeking, talkativeness, says first thing that comes to mind, misunderstand social cues, blunted affect, appearance of depression or hyperactivity (anxiety), misinterpret others, discuss suicide (without suicidal ideation), daydream

The necessity is based largely upon the student’s neuropsychological report as it relates to education. A school does not have to provide every request for an accommodation. However, denial of a requested accommodation comes with risk. Does the school want the reputation of denying access to education for a brain injury disabled student? The decision to grant an accommodation may rest on whether the requested accommodation will cause an undue hardship upon the school. This does not mean that the accommodations may not be a hardship on the teacher because providing these accommodations are part of the teacher's job. Ultimately, a court may decide what is required of the school.

In these years of budget difficulties, an argument may be made against providing some requested accommodations but administrators may want to weigh the cost of some less consequential cost expenditures against denying an intellectually (brain injured) student requested accommoda-tions. So long as a chosen accommodation is shown to be effective, a school may choose between accommodations. However, the choice should be carefully premised upon the recommendations of a professional expert on the deficits of brain injury. The student’s neuropsychologist may well prepare a list of necessary accommodations for the brain injured student. In that event, denial may be problematic since the recommendation is part of a medical expert’s report and, if written effectively, the expert's recommendations for the student's success in education. Cooperation and negotiation between the school and the student will usually resolve difficulties.