Advising Students with Disabilities

Advising Students with Disabilities

Faculty or staff members advising students with disabilities should follow the same general guidelines they would use when advising any student. It is especially important for advisors to keep in mind that each individual is unique and that the disability or condition is only one aspect of the person's total situation. It is also important for advisors to understand that, although a person may have a disability in a given area, this does not mean that the person cannot perform adequately in that area. It simply alerts the advisor to the fact that this student will require more time and different strategies to complete the task. This is why good advisement is essential to the success of students with disabilities.

During your meetings with your advisees, you may wish to keep the following guidelines in mind:

Students with disabilities who choose to attend college must meet the same admission requirements as students without disabilities. These students may be particularly challenged by the expectation that all college students practice more independent behaviors. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) mandates that students with learning disabilities in kindergarten through twelfth grade (K-12) have access to a host of accommodations and services such as special classes, individual instruction, and alternative testing. These services are not required by law in the college environment and usually are not available. When students transition to college, they are protected by Section 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These laws assure that students with disabilities receive reasonable accommodations, but do not include the types and levels of services required by the IDEA.

Once enrolled UNH, students must request accommodations and provide documentation prepared by a qualified professional. This step is essential if students are to receive accommodations in classes. Because of a desire to assert independence or because of negative experiences in high school, some students refuse to request accommodations. Advisors who become aware of such a situation should encourage scheduling a ‘Prospective Student’ appointment with a DSS staff member via .

Certain types of disabilities may make it difficult for students to concentrate, attend and focus for an extended period of time. In these cases, fifty minute classes are advisable.

Provide repetition of relevant information and provide it in a number of formats (e.g., verbally, in writing, follow-up emails, etc.).

Make sure information and relevant brochures are available in an accessible format.

Allowing the student to communicate in their primary language (e.g., with a sign language interpreter present for a student who uses ASL).

Consultation with the DSS staff whenever necessary.

 Students who anticipate absenteeism due to medical concerns should be encouraged to discuss their situation with instructors before registering for classes. Students should make arrangements with instructors at the beginning of the semester to insure that class requirements are met despite absenteeism due to a chronic and episodic condition. Refer students to speak to a DSS staff member if they are missing a significant number of classes.

If a student is unclear about his/her career goals, suggest that he/she seek the assistance of University Advising & Career Center. Be careful not to jump to conclusions about a person's vocational capabilities based on your perception of the limitations imposed by that person's disability. Career resources for students with disabilities may be helpful.

Students who have disabilities and particularly those who have indicated that they may need accommodations should be encouraged to make contact with DSS as early as possible in the semester.

If a student is eligible to extended time for tests, be sure she/he does not schedule classes back/back.

While a balanced schedule is important for all students, it is essential for many students with disabilities. For example, a student with a language based learning disability should avoid taking four courses that require intensive reading and writing when possible. Similarly, a student who has difficulty with certain test formats should select teachers that use a variety of evaluation techniques.

If the student is taking medication, are there certain times of the day when the student is less alert? This could have important implications when developing a class schedule; students experiencing clinical depression often have more difficulty in the morning.

Depending upon the amount of time allowed to pass from one class to another, any student with a mobility disability might have difficulty with classes scheduled back to back in different buildings.

Educational barriers are less visible but no less demanding for students with disabilities. Students with learning disabilities often have difficulty with structure and organization. Instructors who break material down into small sequences and then present it in a logical step-by-step fashion serve them well. Attempt to learn something about the teaching style of various instructors.

Advisors can reinforce using accommodations

Students with disabilities report viewing advisors & faculty as one of the variables in their academic success.

Increasing numbers of high school graduates with learning disabilities are enrolling in colleges and universities each year. A learning disability may be manifested by deficits in the student’s reading ability (dyslexia), speech ability (dyspraxia), writing ability (dysgraphia) or math ability (dyscalculia).

Advising FAQs

Q. Do you provide assistance for students with temporary injuries?

 A. DSS does provide some services. See Temporary Medical Conditions.


Q. How do I refer a student I think may have a disability to DSS?

 A. This can be a sensitive topic and it is important to be attuned to the student's needs. For students who continue to struggle despite what appears to be their best effort, you may simply want to recommend that they contact DSS as a means of finding out if there are resources that are available to help them. During an initial interview, DSS staff can then determine whether an additional referral for an assessment is recommended. It is typically NOT advisable to say such things as "I think you have a learning (or other) disability." Typically, the best approach is to be supportive, discreet, and non-directive, such as informing the student of the existence of DSS.


Q. How do students with disabilities register with DSS?

 A. See How to Request Accommodations


 Q. Does DSS only work with students with visible or learning disabilities?

 A. No, DSS works with students with a variety of disabilities, including, but not limited to, students with learning disabilities, attentional disorders, psychological disabilities, chronic medical conditions, traumatic brain injuries, blindness/low vision and those who are Deaf or hard-of-hearing. Students are approved for accommodations on a case-by-case basis based on appropriate documentation. Students with invisible disabilities (e.g., learning and attentional disorders, psychological disabilities, medical conditions) make up the largest percentage of the students registered with DSS.