Imagine the following situation. It’s the first of the semester. The campus is bustling with activity. Your classroom is chaos because there are half a dozen students who are trying to get your attention for one reason or another.
You are surrounded by people. Behind them, there is a person who needs to see you, but there is a wall people that separates them from you. This person has a disability. It might not be visible. It might be the sort of thing they don’t like to talk about in public. It might be something that hits them in the face every day of their life and they are just tired of dealing with it.
They look at you; they look at the wall of people; they decide to put the conversation off for another day when there aren’t so many people.
But there never is such a day.
Accommodations are awkward. We spend a lot of time organizing how we teach. We create systems. We optimize those systems. We get the system running smoothly, and we don’t always act in the most positive way when we are asked to make exceptions.
Students sense this and they don’t like being the exception. It is just a fact of their existence. It is very easy for them to walk away.
We all have our teaching philosophies and our classroom strategies. Many of you have created mechanisms for this particular situation already, and if you have, you are welcome to share them in the comments below. But one thing you can do is simple. On the first day of class, after you are satisfied most of the students have arrived, call the names of the students in your class about whom you have accommodation letters and ask them to come talk to you after class.
You don’t have to say why; they will know. It’s not a difficult thing to do, but you have helped them over the wall. Once you speak with them, then you can work out what will work best with them. Find out what they need, and tell them what you need. Create a relationship with them. Doing this as a part of your regular routine, puts you in the driver’s seat…and helps the student meet his educational needs.