Accommodations letter for an autistic student
This was my accommodations letter when I was in graduate school.
Some of the things in it may be useful in developing accommodations for other autistic people. However, it is important to remember that each autistic person is unique, and what works for me might not be helpful for someone else.
May 17 1995 through May 17, 1999
To: Whom it may concern
From: Counselor, Student Services
Re: Jim Sinclair
At the request of the above-named student, we are confirming that he has a disability which may require special accommodations in compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
Jim Sinclair has multiple neurological disabilities the most apparent of which is autism. Autism is a pervasive condition that can affect the development of any or all functions including sensation, perception, movement, organization and integration of skills, and especially social comprehension and interaction.
Jim often has difficulty identifying or interpreting the intended meanings of words or phrases, particularly when the same term is used differently in various contexts. He has difficulty generalizing across contexts. He has difficulty processing input that appears to be contradictory or inconsistent with previous experience or with other contexts. It is often necessary for him to request additional clarification, precision, and specificity. He may also need to explore the parameters and implications of context for one particular interpretation of a term that has multiple possible interpretations. These requests for clarification are not meant to be challenging, they stem from the communication modes which are inherently different for autistic individuals.
Communication, motor and visual barriers combine in complex settings such as group activities. This leads to behaviors that may appear different and be misunderstood, such as participating from a distance away from the group. For Jim to function at his best in a learning environment he will need assignment to groups rather than picking group members on his own. This is due to perceptual difficulties in recognizing people or telling them apart in a group.
Clarity may need to be accommodated in understanding classroom lecture material, reading material, test items, and required assignments. Jim and his instructor may decide to allow for these types of clarification to occur by electronic mail, or scheduled appointments within office hours.
I suggest the professors consider assigning Jim into a group. An alternative may be to have the class count off by numbers to form groups. Other alternatives may include giving Jim an opportunity to demonstrate mastery of topics in another mode. Advance discussion between Jim and his professors regarding this matter is necessary because every course may not lend itself to the same solutions. These types of accommodations will allow Jim the opportunity to gain the most from his academic experience.
Chemical sensitivity and autism related sensory sensitivities cause a discomfort with close proximity to people, particularly with people who smoke or are wearing scented cosmetics or personal care products.
Jim will typically choose to sit in a part of the classroom at some distance from others. At times he may have to move around the class to avoid contact with chemicals in the air. He makes every attempt to do this before class begins and immediately after any breaks that occur. It is helpful for the professor and class to understand these actions.
Small group interactions requiring closer proximity may be accomplished if other group members are selected for being nonsmokers who are not wearing scented products. Prolonged periods of close proximity should still be avoided. Anyone interacting in close proximity with Jim should be aware that he would like them to avoid casually or accidentally touching him, as unexpected touch causes distress.
Visual comprehension is an area of particular difficulty. Jim may not see objects as others would: although he can see adequately, he often has limited comprehension of what is seen when he is focused on a different type of task. For example, Jim is usually able to recognize locations of objects in space adequately to avoid bumping into them, but often may not recognize the identity of the objects unless verbal cues are provided. Jim may walk past persons without greeting or otherwise acknowledging them because they are processed visually as objects in space but are not recognized as persons by him at that moment. He may be startled by unexpected movements of objects which have not been recognized as persons. He may not use objects or furniture for their usual purposes, or he may use objects for atypical purpose because he may not recognize the object or furniture in the same manner as you or I. He would most likely not be prone to take action to move barriers out of the way, or to rearrange or otherwise operate on objects, or to change an existing environmental configuration. This is because his spatial processing is occurring in a much different fashion then what is considered typical. In general, Jim expects that he can remain oriented within an environment when he is aware or made aware of the placement of objects. This is similar to the need of a visually impaired student to be informed about the placement or movement of objects.
Jim will benefit from verbal cues or prompts to interact effectively with unidentified objects or within an unfamiliar environment. At times Jim may also require physical assistance in carrying out a motor task to operate on objects in the environment due to motor coordination and visual integration problems.
Seating and positioning behavior may also appear unusual at times because of intermittent difficulties with muscle tone and monitoring his own body movements. He sometimes has trouble holding his head or body upright. These difficulties include a great deal of fluctuation in motor planning and coordination as well as in visual integration, and at times when visual integration is particularly impaired, motor integration is also likely to be compromised to a greater degree than usual.
Jim may exhibit unusual motor behaviors that are characteristic of autistic persons, such as rocking and stereotyped finger or hand movements. These do not reflect inattentiveness. It can be that this behavior reflects that Jim is focused on understanding and processing information. While doing this he may expend less energy on monitoring physical concerns such as body movements, eye contact, and facial expressions, and thus, he may appear to be "tuned out". This may be precisely when he is paying closest attention to what is occurring around him.
Class notes are to be taken using a notebook computer. Atypical body language, facial and vocal expression are not reliable indicators of attention, mental or emotional state. The best indicator is to ask Jim for verbal feedback.
This outline provides background information and recommended accommodations for anyone interacting with Jim in the academic setting. I acknowledge that this foundation will not cover all the issues or events or all the possible solutions and outcomes. I suggest that faculty offer Jim the chance in class to outline these perceptual and other barriers to social participation to the class at the beginning of the semester as well as an opportunity to meet with you in your office. The intention of accommodation is to lay a foundation of understanding in which academic ahievement may occur.
Jim may also be observed to engage in typical autistic behavior not mentioned here in casual or informal situations outside the academic setting. I have outlined that Jim's interactions will be different from typical social dynamics and that by the nature of autism he can not function in what some may call the typical social paradigm. Jim is a high functioning autistic adult and can contribute substantially to the class room and campus environment.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns. Below is a list of further accommodations that may be appropriate.
+ Use of adaptive equipment in the Library for students with special needs.
+ Copies of overheads and clear copies of handouts in class.
+Text books on disk or tape.
+ Use of computer to take notes and complete written assignments.
+ Extra clarification and specificity on assignments as needed.
+ Extra time on coursework and assignments may be needed due to text or research materials being put on tape or disk. It may also be needed due to the barriers I have described within this memo.
+ Exam accommodations which may include doing written sections on a computer and extra time on exams.
+ When assignments in class need to be written and handed in during that same class Jim will need to complete his on his computer. Arrangements should be made in advance regarding whether Jim will bring a printer to class that day to print the assignment, or bring an extra disk to use to hand in the assignment.
+ Non fluorescent lighting in the classroom is recommended.
It is my responsiblity to stay updated as to the outcome of these accommodations and make changes if necessary. Please contact me if I can be of further assistance or you would like to discuss these accommodations with me. Thank you.
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