1. Does knowing that Lois's disability label or diagnostic category tell you what accommodations will be needed and effective?

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Imagine that the semester has just started and a student, who is enrolled in your general education statistics course, comes to you during your first office hour. She introduces herself as Lois and then says that she is a TBI survivor and explains that she will need accommodations like extra time on all of her tests.

You ask her what TBI is and she explains that it stands for Traumatic Brain Injury. You ask the student if she can explain how the injury affects her so you can better understand her needs. She says "It slows me down" and offers no further explanation.
1. Does knowing that Lois's disability label or diagnostic category tell you what accommodations will be needed and effective?

You then ask if she has any documentation that would explain needs. Lois says "Oh yeah my doctor gave me this." and reaches into her book bag and hands you a one inch thick file with "Pre and Post Morbid Neurological Evaluations by Dr. Who" neatly hand written on the outside. You quickly skim through the file and see that it is full of technical jargon. You then explain to the student that not being a neurologist and you are not sure what this means, can she explain it to you? She says no, but that her high school counselor told her to bring it to college to show people.

2. What do you do at this point?
Lois comes back to you the next day with an accommodation letter from the Disability Services. The letter explains that there is a documented disability. That the current impact of the disability includes impaired motor control that reduces her writing speed, increased distractibility, and increased tendency towards impulsive responses. Possible accommodations include: extended time for tests (75% to 100% depending on format); responding to multiple choice tests on the question page (not separate answer sheets); An individual and non-distractive testing room; use of a word processor for essays, the use of note taker or shared notes, use of a tape recorder during lecture, priority registration, and assignment of lab assistants.
3. What do you and the student need to do next?
As you review the course requirements with the student you and she realize that simply writing out the assigned homework problems are going to take her longer than most students. Typically you assign 20 problems due the next class meeting when you review the problems in class (class meets on a MWF schedule). They are graded on a three-point scale. Zero for not turning them in, one for attempting them, and two for getting at least half of them correct. Over the semester this equals a test grade with a maximum of 80 possible points (there are 40 assignments). You have her copy over a solved problem from an example in the book. This takes her about twice as long as you think it would take most people. Your experience tells you that students rarely take more than three hours to complete the 20 problems. You estimate that it might take four to six hours for this student.

4. How might the homework assignments be modified to accommodate Lois' disability?
5. You can always choose to provide an accommodation, but would Lois' difficulty with homework require accommodation?
Continuing to review your course requirements, you turn to your in class tests. These all require that students work from at least one set of raw data (with no more than ten data points), select and calculate the appropriate statistics and interpret the results. The tests also have several shorter calculation problems and one short essay (you expect about a half page response). You design your test so that it can be completed in half an hour; at least by students who know the material. Almost all of your students finish the test in the forty-five minutes.
6. Does Lois' disability warrant extended time for the tests?

You and Lois have reviewed all of the course requirements and the accommodation letter. You feel that she should receive extended test time, take her tests in an individually in a quiet non-distractive environment, and be allowed to share notes with another student. You are not sure how to arrange sharing notes and the scheduling of tests (your tiny office is anything but non-distractive environment.)

7. Who do you call for help in arranging the logistics?
At Early Grade Estimate time all seems to be going well. Lois has been attending class regularly (she has missed once) but she has not been to see you since all the arrangements for accommodations were made. She earned a C on her first test, which she took with accommodations. In reviewing her work you see that she earned the maximum points on the four homework assignments, only one point on the next six and she did not turn in the last two. On the homework, she has earned only 14 of a possible 24 point so you decide that her work merits a D on her Grade Estimate. The next week Lois comes to your office and says that she needs extended time for the homework as an accommodation.
You explain that the amount of actual writing has not increased (in fact it has gone down) since the first ten assignments and ask "has anything changed that affects your writing ability in the past two weeks?" Lois says "no, the work has gotten harder and I need more time." After about fifteen minutes it is clear that you and Lois are not going to agree.
8. Who do you call to facilitate a resolution?

After a review of your syllabus, the course description, the particular homework assignments and Lois's documentation the Coordinator meets with you and Lois. He agrees that the assignments have gotten conceptually harder but actually require less physical writing. He suggests that Lois sign up for a tutor for the course and attend a time management workshop at the Learning Center. Lois insists that she needs more time for homework and the Coordinator will not approve it.

9. Lois decides to appeal this decision, where does she send her appeal?
Lois' appeal is denied. You are satisfied that your standards and judgment have been validated, particularly since Lois is again turning in her homework on time and generally earning the full two points. You know that she has requested a tutor and are glad things have worked out.
On the next test Lois earns a low C. She comes into your office after the test and asks for a further time extension. She says that on the last test she barely had time to finish and did not have a chance to check her work. You feel that two hours to complete a test that you designed to take thirty minutes is more than enough. You say no. The two of you cannot agree so once again you call the Coordinator. He asks to review the two tests with Lois' responses. After the review he meets with you and Lois. He points out that the second test does require more lengthy responses and a number of Lois's errors are based on calculation errors not the concepts. The Coordinator goes on to say that he believes that the accommodations should be extended to 150%.
10. On what basis could you refuse to increase the time extension?
You consider the possibility of refusing. You explain to the Coordinator that while you are not specifically measuring speed at some point additional time would be ridiculous, there has to be some limit. The Coordinator asks you "in doing your own research what kinds of time limits exist?" You realize that the answer is probably in weeks possibly in days for a rush project.
You realize that in the context of your own work, the additional half hour is reasonable but you are still concerned and ask "What if Lois is majoring in a field where speed is more critical than in the type of research I conduct?" The Coordinator responds by pointing out that those majors will have courses where fluency is central to the course if it is a critical skill for the field. In those courses extended time would not be an appropriate accommodation.
You can see the distinction between the goal of your course and a course required in a specific field. You also realize that extra time to stare at the test does not help the student who does not know the material. If Lois does not know the material more time is not going to make the answers appear in her head.

Prepared by L. Scott Lissner, 04/92; Updated on 06/99

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