Support Services for Students with Disabilities

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

For Students

How would I benefit from working with the Academic Support Services?

There are several benefits to students who work closely with Academic Support Services. First, the director works to coordinate accommodations for students who have a documented disability on a course by course basis each semester in order to maximize students’ academic success. Second, we work with students to become increasingly aware of their strengths and weaknesses thereby helping them become independent managers of their academic careers. Third, we work with students to expand their repertoire of study skills and strategies as they take on increasingly challenging course work. Fourth, we provide academic “coaching,” which helps students stay paced with their work, allowing them to complete assignments in a timely manner. Fifth, we recommend other professionals and support services on campus when appropriate. Statistically, students who work in conjunction with Academic Support Services earn higher GPAs than those who do not.

If I received accommodations in high school, does that mean I will receive them in college?

Not necessarily. The diagnosis needs to meet the criteria of a “disabling condition” when compared to the average person in the general population. The test data needs to support evidence of a current, significant, and functional limitation that impacts learning. The evaluation must support a link between the disability and the requested accommodation.

I'm eligible for academic accommodations. now what happens?

Students who are eligible for accommodations must sign a Professor Notification and Accommodation Form at the beginning of each semester. The notification form must be completed each and every semester that you are requesting accommodations. This is a release form giving our office permission to notify your professors that you are eligible for academic accommodation. You will then receive letters outlining your accommodations. These letters must be hand delivered to your professors during their office hours.

Why might I want a mentor?

Mentors are upper class students with learning disabilities who have been very successful here at Lehigh and “know the ropes.” Moreover, mentors are usually matched with students who are in the same college and share similar interests. The mentors are available to provide guidance on academic and social issues. They have the insight that only other students can offer. Finally, the mentors organize a number of group events throughout the year that are not only informative, but relaxing and fun as well.

How often can I schedule appointments?

Typically, first year students are encouraged to meet with the Director of Academic Support Services once a week for thirty minutes during the fall semester. However, depending on the student’s needs and schedule, appointments can be scheduled less frequently either on a regular basis, or on an “as needed” basis. Please make appointments with the secretary either in person in UC 212 or by phone at 610-758-4152.

What do I need to know about working with the writing specialist?

The writing specialist will work with students on writing assignments of all sorts. Typically, students see the best results if they schedule appointments for brainstorming, drafting, and revision. Appointments are usually for 50 minutes, but can be scheduled for shorter time periods. Please make appointments with the secretary either in person in UC 212 or by phone at 610-758-4152.

We ask that students who will be unable to make their appointment to please cancel in advance so that the time slot can be made available to other students.

For Parents

What criteria are needed in order for my child to receive support services?

A current psycho-educational evaluation is required. Refer to Guidelines for Documentation.

My child received academic accommodations in high school, will they be eligible for the same accommodations at Lehigh University?

Not necessarily. The diagnosis needs to meet the criteria of a “disabling condition” when compared to the average person in the general population. The test data needs to support evidence of a current, significant, and functional limitation that impacts learning. The evaluation must support a link between the disability and the requested accommodation.

If my child does not meet the guidelines for accommodations, then what type of academic support will he receive?

Lehigh University offers academic support services to all students who requesting it. Students may receive support in the form of “coaching,” time management, organizational, and study skills. A writing specialist is available to work with students who need additional support with written language.

How will my child’s professors be notified of their need for accommodations?

Students who are eligible for academic accommodations must sign an authorized release form each and every semester that they are requesting accommodations. The Office of Academic Support Services will then send an email to the professor stating that the student is eligible for academic accommodations. The student must hand-deliver a letter of accommodations to each of his/her professors. The accommodation letters will outline the type of accommodations the student will receive in each course. Academic accommodations are determined on an individual basis, course by course. The university requires that students notify faculty at least seven days prior to the need for accommodations.

I want my child to receive accommodations but they refuse to ask for support services. Can I sign them up for accommodations?

No. Students must request academic accommodations and other support services. This can be very frustrating for parents who have always taken an active role in their child’s educational needs. Students may want to “try it on their own” before requesting support services. Encourage your child to meet with the Assistant Dean of Academic Support Services to determine whether or not they should request support services. Our staff is available to help students make informed decisions.

For Faculty

What does the office of Academic Support Services for Students with Disabilities do?

What exactly is a learning disability?

A learning disability is a documented neurological disorder that affects the ability to process information in individuals of average or above average intelligence. It is a permanent disorder that may affect the manner in which an individual takes in, processes, retains and/or expresses information. Individuals with learning disabilities may exhibit significant weaknesses in reading, decoding, comprehension, spelling, written expression, math computation, and/or problem solving. The discrepancy between ability and achievement cannot be primarily the result of a visual or hearing impairment; emotional disturbance; or educational, cultural, or economic disadvantage.

Do students with learning disabilities get special consideration during the application process?

No. Students with learning disabilities or any other disabilities have the same rigorous standards of admission that our Lehigh University students are subjected to, and they are expected to meet the same standards of performance as all students.

If a student has a physical or sensory disability (visual or hearing impairment), are they also considered learning disabled?

No. However, many disabilities present a challenge to learning in the traditional education environment in similar ways and require similar accommodations. These separate and distinct disabilities may appear alone or in various combinations with one another.

What are some typical accommodations for students with disabilities?

The accommodations depend on the nature of the disability. Based on the specific diagnosis and the student’s strengths and weaknesses, an individualized educational plan is developed, outlining the most appropriate accommodations. Although extended time on tests is the most common accommodation due to difficulty processing information, it is not the only option. Other accommodations may include: textbooks on tape, readers, note-takers, tape recording lectures, use of laptop computers, use of word processors or spell-checker, or sign language interpreters. Test modifications may include: extended time, alternate test format, or oral exams. Faculty consultation is an essential part of this process. Creative and cooperative efforts are required to provide students with an equitable education while maintaining academic integrity.

Does giving extended time on exams give the student with a disability an unfair advantage over other students?

No. The purpose of extended time testing is to minimize the impact of the disability on the student’s performance. Extended time on tests assures equal opportunity to show content mastery by providing time that is necessary to compensate for the disability. Several studies have been conducted to determine the effects of extended time testing for student with disabilities as compared to non-disabled students. The University of California conducted a study that indicated that extended time makes a significant difference in the performance of disabled students, while only slightly improving the performance of non-disabled students.

Why am I notified about some students at the beginning of the semester, and others at the middle or end of the semester? Wouldn't’t it be better if I knew what their needs were before they started having problems?

Due to the confidential nature of disability issues, students must sign an authorized release form each semester in order to provide faculty with notification of their disability. Students who have disclosed their disability are encouraged to notify their professors during the first week of classes. Some students may want to begin their education at Lehigh without the stigma or label of having a disability; therefore they may try to forego requesting accommodations until the last possible moment. Some students who are newly diagnosed may present their documentation to us during the semester. We will notify you of a student’s disability and the appropriate accommodations as soon as the student has signed the release forms granting us permission to do so. We strongly recommend that faculty members include a statement in their syllabus requiring students to give seven (7) days notification for any accommodation.

Once I am notified of a student’s disability, with whom can I share this information?

The confidential nature of disability-related information has been an over-arching principle of nondiscrimination since the establishment of Section 503 and 504. Disability-related information is considered to be medical information and to be treated in the same confidential manner, with the same need-to-know restrictions.

What should I do if I suspect a student has a disability but I have not been notified?

If you suspect that a student has a disability, talk with the student about your observations. Since this is an extremely sensitive topic to some students, it is best to speak to the student in a private setting. Focus on the student’s performance and why you are concerned. Ask the student if she has ever received support services in high school and then recommend that she meet with the Director of Academic Support Services to help her identify the problem areas and recommend strategies for success.