Oftentimes as instructors increase their disability awareness, they begin to recognize some of the more common characteristics of a disability in their students. They may feel a student in one of their classes could stand to benefit from the services that DSPS provides. And yet, they are hesitant to approach the student about this.
One cause of this discomfort is due to the stigma brought on by a lack of knowledge about disabilities. Many students do not have a clear understanding of what a learning disability is. They may equate it with being stupid, or unable to learn. No one wants to be viewed as different, much less disabled. Acceptance of disabilities is also influenced by culture.
Another factor that makes it somewhat tricky approaching a student about services is the reluctance to breech a student’s right to privacy and confidentiality. The instructor can’t just come out and ask a student if he has ever had Special Education services.
The key lies in your understanding of, and acceptance of disabilities. Your attitude as the instructor is contagious and will infect your students. When you accept students with disabilities as just one subset on the continuum of learners, your students are likely to follow suit. The more comfortable you are, the more comfortable they will be.
When speaking privately with an individual student whom you suspect of having a learning disability, try the following:
- Give specific examples of the reason for your concerns.
- Ask the student to describe his educational history. Listen to determine if the difficulties are long-standing or situational.
- Ask what she is doing, or would be willing to do, to improve her academic performance.
- Inform the student that there are services available that address learning difficulties, helping students to be more successful (specialized tutoring, learning strategies and techniques, extended time to take tests, etc.)
- Share the document Invitation to Explore a Learning Assessment with the student.
- Offer to help the student get an appointment with a DSPS counselor.
Thank you for your commitment to the academic success of all your students.