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Types of Disabilities

Types of Disabilities:
Merritt College Disability Definitions:

Title 5 of the California Code of Regulations defines the following disabilities for California Community Colleges.

1. Acquired Brain Impairment:
A verified deficit in brain functioning which results in a total or partial loss of cognitive, communicative, motor, psychosocial, and/or sensory perceptual abilities.

2. Communication Disability:
An impairment in the processes of speech, language, or hearing.

3. Developmentally Delayed Learner:
The developmentally delayed learner exhibits below average intellectual functioning and has potential for measurable achievement in instructional and employment settings.

4. Learning Disability:
A persistent condition of presumed neurological dysfunction which may exist with other disabling conditions and continues despite instruction in standard classroom situations. A student must exhibit:
• average to above average intellectual ability
• severe processing deficit(s)
• severe aptitude achievement discrepancy(cies)

5. Mobility Disability:
A visual impairment, mobility or orthopedic impairment, or other health impairment.

6. Psychological Disability (mental health):
A persistent, psychological or psychiatric disorder, or emotional or mental illness. The following are not included: sexual behavior disorders, compulsive behaviors, and psychoactive substance abuse.

7. Visual Disability:
A visual impairment.

8. Other Disabilities:
This category includes all students with disabilities who are not appropriate for any of the above categories and have a major life impairment and are in need of instruction and/or support, as verified by a Merritt College DSP Counselor.

More information on each disability: definition, characteristics, possible accommodations, links to forms:

1. Acquired Brain Impairment (ABI):

It is estimated that 50,000 people per year suffer a head injury severe enough to keep them from returning to their pre-injury level of functioning. College age students are in a high-risk age group for this type of injury; two-thirds of all head injury cases occur among persons aged 15-24. Some students with Acquired Brain Impairment (ABI) have mobility problems that will require accommodations. Many do not, so their disability may not be readily apparent and some may be reluctant to reveal it to you. Many of these individuals have been through extensive rehabilitation; they are proud of the progress they have made and want to be self-sufficient. At the same time, they often are painfully aware that they do not learn as easily as they did before their injury, and this can cause great frustration.
Among the cognitive deficits persons with head injuries may experience are difficulties with concentration, memory, problem solving, and abstract reasoning. In our experience at Merritt College, the problem students mention most is memory. You may find that such students do well on test items that require them to recognize answers (multiple choice, matching) but do poorly on items requiring total recall (fill in the blank, essay).

Acquired Brain Impairment (ABI) means a deficit in brain functioning which is non-degenerative and is medically verifiable, resulting in a total or partial loss of one or more of the following: cognitive, communication, motor, psycho-social and sensory perceptual abilities. (Administrative Code, Title 5)

Students with acquired brain injuries enroll in High-Tech Center courses to learn keyboarding and word. In some cases, testing accommodations such as extended time or use of a scribe are appropriate for students with acquired brain injuries.

Students with ABI may demonstrate one or more characteristics and the form may be mild, moderate, or severe:
• Difficulty organizing thoughts, cause-effect relationships, and problem solving
• Difficulty processing information and word retrieving
• Difficulty generalizing and integrating skills
• Difficulty interacting with others
• Compensating for memory loss
• Needing established routines with step-by-step directions
• Needing repetition or some type of reinforcement of information to be learned
• Demonstrating poor judgment and memory problems
• Exhibiting discrepancies in abilities such as reading comprehension at a much lower level than spelling ability
• Having difficulty with projection and clarity in voice

Possible Accommodations:
• Alternative testing (extended time, reader, scribe, distraction reduced setting, and/or computer)
• Note-taking assistance
• Academic support

To arrange for an appointment with a DSP Counselor:
• Download the Disability Verification Form.
Complete the form.
• Call 510-436-2429 or drop by R-109 to make an appointment.
• Bring completed form(s) and supporting disability documentation to your appointment.

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2. Communication Disability (CD):

More individuals in the United States have a hearing impairment than any other type of physical disability. A hearing impairment is any type of auditory impairment while deafness is an inability to use hearing as a means of communication. Hearing loss is measured in decibels and may be mild, moderate, or profound. A person who is born with a hearing loss may have language deficiencies and exhibit poor vocabulary and syntax. Title V lists Hearing Impairments under the heading Communication Disability.

•Hearing Impairment:
A generic term used to describe all types of hearing defects, ranging from a minute loss to profound deafness.
•Hard of Hearing:
A specific condition in which hearing is defective to varying degrees; usually a hearing aid can enhance the understanding of speech.
•Deaf or Deafness:
An inability to use hearing as a means of communication; hearing aids can enhance awareness of vibrations such as horns or sirens, but not speech.


Lighting is very important when communicating with a deaf or hard of hearing person. Do not stand in front of a window or bright light when talking. Try to talk where there is adequate, well distributed light. Be sure to face them when talking. Speak slowly and do not over exaggerate your lip movements. Keep your hands away from your face. Facial activities such as cigarette smoking, vigorous gum chewing, or biting your lips prevent clear communication. Using facial expressions, gestures, and other “body language” is helpful in conveying your message. Be aware that individuals who can hear make the best lip readers, (also call “speech readers”). Of individuals who had extensive training in lip reading, hard-of-hearing students can understand up to 50 percent of speech, and deaf students can understand only up to 25 percent. It takes a great deal of concentration to lip read.

If you see a student with a hearing aid, this does not mean that the student can understand verbal language. The student may require an alternative form of communication, (i.e., an interpreter, note taker, or use of other hearing aid devices.) When using an interpreter to communicate with a student, address the student directly saying “How are you today?” Many students who are hard-of-hearing do not hear tone of voice, therefore, some expressions, such as sarcastic statements, might be misleading if taken literally. Try to avoid giving misleading information this way. Also, try to avoid using idioms or colloquial expressions.

A student who is deaf or hard-of-hearing depends on visual cues to supplement what he or she does not hear. Seating is an important consideration. The student will need to be near the front so that his or her view is not obstructed. If a student has a unilateral hearing loss, he or she should be seated so that maximum use of the good ear is permitted.

Because of a time lag between the spoken word and the interpretation, the student’s contribution to the lecture or discussion may be slightly delayed. Students may have some speech and/or language impairments. Although this does not affect a student’s ability to learn new information, some difficulty in the acquisition of new vocabulary may lead to reluctance to participate in class. Assumptions should not automatically be made about the student’s ability to participate in certain types of classes. For example, students may be able to learn a great deal about music styles, techniques, and rhythms by observing a visual display of the music on an oscilloscope or similar apparatus or by feeling the vibrations of music.

Most students will be able to take tests and evaluations in the same way as other students. Some may need additional time in order to gain a full understanding of the test questions. It has been found that if the test is written, some students do better if an interpreter reads and translates the questions to the student in sign language. However, many other students prefer to read tests themselves. If the method of evaluation is oral, the interpreter can serve as the reverse interpreter for the student. Avoid oral administrated exams requiring written answers.

The primary form of communication with the Deaf community is American Sign Language. (Sign language is NOT universal.) In view of this, many persons who are deaf or have profound hearing loss since birth or an early age have not mastered the grammatical subtleties of their “second language” English. This does not mean that instructors should overlook errors in written (or spoken) work. However, they should know that this difficulty with English is not related to intelligence but is similar to that experienced by students whose native language is other than English.

Sign Language Interpreters:
Some students will attend classes with a sign language interpreter or interpreting team. The interpreters will usually situate themselves in front of the class to interpret lectures and discussions. Interpretation will be easiest in lecture classes and more difficult in seminar or discussion classes. Because class formats are so varied, it is recommended that the professor, interpreter, and student arrange a conference early in the course to discuss any special arrangements that may be needed. Please be aware of the difficulties the student may have trying to watch a film and the interpreter at the same time. (All films must be captioned. See Alternate Media to request captioning.) An interpreter’s proficiency level decreases after 20 minutes. You can help make sure that the student is receiving clear and concise transmission by allowing breaks for any class over 50 minutes. If you need to communicate directly with the interpreter, he or she will interpret your conversation into sign language for the student. However, always speak directly to the student.

Because the student will need to watch the interpreter when you or anyone else is speaking, it will be necessary to select a note taker unless the student is using a real-time captioner. Your help in doing this will be very much appreciated. Please take a moment to review the Instructor Guidelines for Choosing a Note-taker.

Possible Accommodations:

Academic support
• Alternative testing (extended time, reader, scribe, distraction reduced setting, and/or computer)
• Interpreting or Real-Time Captioning Services
• Note-taking assistance


• Note-taker Request Form
• Interpreting Request Form
Captioning Request Form

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3. Developmentally Delayed Learner (DDL):

Developmentally delayed learners (DDL) represent a range of students who experience from mildly to severely delayed intellectual functioning. As a result, the student’s general ability must be verified, and the related educational limitations of the students’ disability must be identified. Once this information is gathered, a certificated DSP staff member will determine whether a student is qualified, as defined by the American Disabilities Act of 1990 to receive services from DSP. Once a determination is made, the certificated staff member may recommend services on or off campus, which have a reasonable chance of enhancing the students’ goal attainment.

According to the Title 5 regulations which govern the California Community Colleges, the definition is as follows:
The developmentally delayed learner is a student who exhibits the following:
a. Below average intellectual functioning
b. Potential for measurable achievement in educational and employment settings.

Students who have mild developmental delay may qualify for services comparable to services afforded to many students with learning disabilities. Individuals who experience moderate to severe developmental delay may be unable to satisfactorily complete the academic and vocational programs at Merritt College.

Possible Accommodations:
• Academic support
Alternative testing (extended time, reader, scribe, distraction reduced setting, and/or computer)
• DSP courses (Study Skills/Computer A
Note-taking assistance

To arrange for an appointment with a DSP Counselor:
• Download the Disability Verification Form.
• Fill it out.
• Call 510-436-2429 or drop by R-109 to make an appointment.
• Bring completed form(s) and supporting disabilities documentation to your appointment.


Disability Verification Form

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4. Learning Disability (LD):

Learning disabilities affect the manner in which individuals with average or above average intelligence receive, process, retain and/or express information. A learning disability is NOT to be confused with generalized low ability. Learning disabilities are invisible but may affect a student’s performance in reading, writing, spoken language, mathematics, orientation in space and time and/or organization. The areas of difficulty will vary from one student to another.

According to the Title 5 regulations which govern the California Community Colleges, the definition of a learning disability is as follows:

Learning disability in California Community College adults is a persistent condition of presumed neurological dysfunction which may also exist with other disabling conditions. This dysfunction continues despite instruction in standard classroom situations.
Learning disabled adults, a heterogeneous group, have these common attributes:

• average to above average intellectual ability;
• severe processing deficit(s)
• severe aptitude-achievement discrepancy(ies)

Students with learning disabilities might exhibit one or more of the following characteristics:

• Confusion of similar words, difficulty using phonics, problems reading multi-syllabic words
• Difficulty finding important points or main ideas
• Slow reading rate and/or difficulty adjusting speed to the nature of the reading task
• Difficulty with comprehension and retention of material that is read, but not with materials presented orally

• Difficulty with sentence structure, poor grammar, omitted words
• Frequent spelling errors, inconsistent spelling, letter reversals
• Difficulty copying from chalkboard
• Poorly formed handwriting —
prints instead of using script; writes with an inconsistent slant; has difficulty with certain letters; spaces words unevenly
• Compositions lacking organization and development of ideas

• Difficulty paying attention when spoken to
• Difficulty listening to a lecture and taking notes at the same time
• Easily distracted by background noise or visual stimulation
• Might appear to be hurried in one-to-one meetings
• Inconsistent concentration

Oral Language
• Difficulty expressing ideas orally which the student seems to understand
• Difficulty describing events or stories in proper sequence
• Difficulty with grammar
• Using a similar sounding word in place of the appropriate one

• Difficulty memorizing basic facts
• Confusion or reversal of numbers, number sequences or symbols
• Difficulty copying problems, aligning columns
• Difficulty reading or comprehending word problems

Study Skills
• Problems with reasoning and abstract concepts
• Exhibits an inability to stick to simple schedules
Repeatedly forgets things, loses or leaves possessions, and generally seems “personally disorganized”
• Difficulty following directions
• Poor organization and time management

Social Skills
• Difficulty “reading” facial expressions, body language
• Problems interpreting subtle messages, such as sarcasm or humor
• Seems disorganized in space —
confuses up and down, right and left; gets lost in a building, is disoriented when familiar environment is rearranged
• Seems disoriented in time–
is often late to class, unusually early for appointments or unable to finish assignments in the standard time period
• Displays excessive anxiety, anger, or depression because of the inability to cope with school or social situations


Detailed Syllabus:
provide a detailed syllabus that includes course objectives, weekly topics classroom activities, required reading and writing assignments, and dates of tests, quizzes, and vacations. Leave a blank space for notes after the outline for each week’s work.

Rules Clarification:
Clarify rules in advance, how students will be graded, whether makeup tests or rewrites of papers are allowed, what the conditions are for withdrawing from a course or getting an incomplete. Include in the syllabus.

Reviews and Previews:
It is extremely helpful if the instructor briefly reviews the major points of the previous lecture or class and highlights main points to be covered that day. Try to present reviews and previews both visually and orally.

Study Aids:
Use study aids such as study questions for exams or pretests with immediate feedback before the final exam.

Multi-sensory Teaching:
Students with learning disabilities learn more readily if material is presented in as many modalities as possible (seeing, speaking, and doing.)

Help the student visualize the material: Visual aids can include films, computer graphics, and illustrations of written text.

Use color. For instance, in teaching respiration technology, everything related to the body’s respiratory system might be highlighted in green and the digestive system in orange. In complex mathematical sequences, use color to follow transformations and to highlight relationships.

Provide opportunities for touching and handling materials that relate to ideas. Cutting and pasting parts of compositions to achieve logical plotting of thoughts is one possibility.

Whenever possible, announcements should be in oral and written form. This is especially important for changes in assignments or exams.

Distinct Speech:
Speaking at an even speed, emphasizing important points with pauses, gestures, and other body language, helps students follow classroom presentations. Avoid lecturing while facing the chalkboard.

Eye Contact:
This is important in maintaining attention and encouraging participation.
Demonstration and Role Play: These activities can make ideas come alive and are particularly helpful to the student who has to move around in order to learn.

Learning Styles:
Administer a learning style inventory to the entire class.

Other Tips:
• Emphasize new or technical vocabulary.
• Allow time for students to work in small groups to practice, to solve problems, and to review work.
• Break down teaching into small units. Build up to longer units.
Short daily reading assignments will help the student with learning disabilities learn how to budget and organize study time.
• Teach students memory tricks and acronyms as study aids.
• Encourage students with learning disabilities to sit in front of the classroom.
• Give feedback. Errors need to be corrected as quickly as possible.
• Assist the student in teaming up with a classmate to obtain copies of notes.
• Read aloud material on the board or on transparencies.
• Remind students often of your availability during office hours for 1-1 clarification of lectures, readings, and assignments.
• Periodically offer tips and encourage class discussion of ways for improving studying–
such as organizational ideas, outlining techniques, summarizing strategies, etc.
• Permit use of a calculator when mathematical disability is severe.
• Permit the use of a dictionary or spellchecker for essay exams.
• In exam questions, avoid unnecessarily intricate sentence structure, double negative and questions embedded within questions.
• Give less weight to spelling when the disability is severe.
• Encourage students to use a word processor with a “spelling check” capability.
• Encourage students to dictate best ideas into a tape recorder before writing a report.
• Use yellow chalk (as opposed to white or other colored chalks) on chalkboards, to help students who have visual impairments.

Possible Accommodations:
• Academic support
Alternative testing (extended time, reader, scribe, distraction reduced setting, and/or computer)
• DSP courses (Study Skills; Computer Access Lab)
Note-taking assistance
• Textbooks in audio format

To arrange for an appointment with a DSP Counselor:

Download the Disability Verification Form and the Learning Disabilities Referral Form

• Fill them out.
• Call 510-436-2429 or drop by R-109 to make an appointment.
• Bring completed forms to your appointment.
• Bring supporting documentation on learning disabilities to your appointment.


Disability Verification Form
Learning Disabilities Referral Form

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5. Mobility Disability (??)

A variety of orthopedic/mobility related disabilities result from congenital conditions, accidents, or progressive neuro-muscular diseases. These disabilities include conditions such as spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy, amputation, muscular dystrophy, cardiac conditions, cystic fibrosis, paralysis, polio/post-polio and stroke. Functional limitations and abilities vary widely even within one group of disabilities. Mobility impairments include students using wheelchairs, crutches, braces, walkers, or canes; however, not all students with mobility impairments require mobility aids.

• Physical Disability – Visual, mobility, orthopedic or other health impairment
• Mobility and Orthopedic – A serious limitation in locomotion or motion functions which indicate a need for services
• Other Health Impairment – A serious dysfunction of a body part or system which necessitates the use of one or more services

If it seems that a student may have to miss a special meeting, conference with you, or other such event because of an inaccessible location, please move your conference or meeting to an accessible location, if possible.

Lateness and Absences:
Students with mobility impairments may also require more time to get to and from classes because the accessible travel routes are sometimes round about; they are dependent on the elevators being in operating order, and they have more difficulty making up for time lost when an earlier class is held overtime. Other reasons for these students occasionally being late are waiting for assistance in opening doors, and maneuvering along crowded paths and corridors. If a student who uses a wheelchair or has another mobility related disability is frequently late, it is, of course, appropriate to discuss the situation with him/her and seek solutions. Most students will schedule their classes with ample time between them; however this is not always possible. Students who rely on attendant care or mobility assistance may sometimes experience disruption in their schedules that are beyond their control.

Some students are susceptible to physical problems which can require them to be absent during a prolonged course of medical treatment. If this occurs, understanding is appreciated. The student is responsible for notifying his or her instructor of the situation. Some individuals with mobility impairments have disabilities that involve unavoidable personal hygiene problems that may cause them to be absent from class without advance notice. Such problems occur infrequently, but should be given due consideration by faculty members.

Field Trips:
If a class involves field work or field trips, ask the student to participate in the selection of sites and modes of transportation. Students are not “confined” to wheelchairs. They often transfer to automobiles and to furniture. Some who use wheelchairs can walk with the aid of canes, braces, crutches, or walkers. Special arrangements will have to be made for field trips when students have difficulty transferring from wheelchair to other vehicles.

Classroom Considerations:
Classes taught in laboratory settings will usually require some modification of the work station. Considerations include under counter knee clearance, working counter top height, horizontal working reach, and aisle widths. Working directly with the student may be the best way to provide modifications to the work station. Those students, who may not be able to participate in a laboratory class without the assistance of an aide, should be allowed to benefit from the actual lab work to the fullest extent. The student can give all instructions to an aide from what chemical to add to what type of test tube to use to where to dispose of used chemicals. The student will learn everything except the physical manipulation of the chemicals.

Classes in physical education and recreation can almost always be modified so that the student in a wheelchair can participate. Classmates are usually more than willing to assist, if necessary. Most students who use wheelchairs do not get enough physical exercise in daily activity, so it is particularly important that they be encouraged, as well as provided with the opportunity, to participate.

Other Tips:
• Most students who use wheelchairs will ask for assistance if they need it. Do not assume automatically that assistance is required. Offer assistance if you wish, but do not insist, and be willing to accept a “No, thank you.” graciously.
• A wheelchair is part of the person’s body space. Do not automatically lean on the chair; it is similar to hanging or leaning on the person.
• When talking to a student in a wheelchair for more than a few minutes, sit down if possible.
• Because a student sitting in a wheelchair is about as tall as most children, and because a pat on the head is often used to express affection toward children, many people are inclined to reach out and pat the person in a wheelchair on the head. These students usually find this to be demeaning.

Possible Accommodations:
Academic support
Adaptive equipment
• Alternative testing (extended time, reader, scribe, distraction reduced setting, and/or computer)
• Note-taking assistance

To arrange for an appointment with a DSP Counselor:

Download the Disability Verification Form.

• Fill it out.
• Call 510-436-2429 or drop by R-109 to make an appointment.
• Bring completed form to your appointment.
• Bring supporting documentation on disabilities to your appointment.


Disability Verification Form

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6. Psychological Disabilites/Mental Health (Psy. D.):

The Disability Services Program at Merritt College has noticed a marked increase of students accessing services that have diagnosed mental health disabilities. Many other students that come to our office may not yet have a documented mental health diagnosis, but they are evidencing symptoms. These disabilities and/or symptoms have a definite impact on academic performance and interaction with others.

The following information is meant to increase your understanding of these students and the educational implications of their disabilities/symptoms.

• Symptoms
• Types of Mental Health Disabilities and Educational Implications
• Adjustment Disorders
• Anxiety Disorders
• Mood Disorders
• Personality Disorders
• Eating Disorders
• Instructional Strategies

While a single symptom or isolated event is rarely a sign of mental illness, a symptom that occurs frequently, lasts for several weeks, or becomes a general pattern of an individual’s behavior, may indicate the onset of a more serious mental health problem that requires treatment. Some of the more significant indicators of a possible mental illness include:

• Marked personality change over time
• Confused thinking, grandiose ideas
• Prolonged feelings of depression or apathy
• Feelings of extreme highs or lows
• Heightened anxieties, fears of anger or suspicion, blaming others
• Social withdrawal, increased self-centeredness
• Denial of obvious problems and strong resistance to offers of help
• Substance abuse
• Thinking or talking about suicide

Students who access Health Center Services and receive services and accommodations through the Disability Services Program and receive accommodations because of a mental health disability would have current documentation by a certified health professional verifying their disability. They would also be participating in some form of treatment intervention, either medication therapy or psychotherapy or a combination. With the student’s informed consent the Disability Services Program endeavors to work in collaboration with mental health professionals in hospitals and community agencies to ensure that students with mental health disabilities are capable of sustaining normal academic stress.

Students who evidence symptoms such as those described above, but have never been diagnosed, may be referred to a community agency, medical doctor or psychiatrist for assessment.

As faculty, providing a supportive learning environment and working closely with Health Center personnel and the Disability Services Program will be key factors to the success of students with mental health disabilities.

Types of Mental Health Disabilities and Educational Implications:
1. Adjustment Disorders:
• This disorder develops in response to particular stressor
• If treated, complete recovery is anticipated to occur within a 6 month period.

Educational implications could include:
• Loss of initiative to attend class or complete homework assignments
• When accompanied with depression or anxiety learning may be temporarily impacted in ways similar to anxiety and depressive disorders (see below)
• Inappropriate interactions with others (i.e. may be belligerent)

2. Anxiety Disorders:
• This would include disorders in which the major feature is anxiety
• Types include: panic disorders, agoraphobia, specific phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder

Educational implications could include:
• Student may be afraid/anxious of school activities such that he/she fails to attend class, or keep scheduled appointments
• High anxiety can paralyze the ability to think and act
• Student may respond physically such as becoming ill or highly agitated
• High anxiety can cause physical responses that inhibit learning (the material is not absorbed and/or recalled)
• When anxiety is high, the student is more likely to respond with anger and aggressiveness or to withdraw
• The student with high anxiety is more susceptible to the consequences of fatigue than the average student

3. Mood Disorders:
• These disorders can be acute, severe, and of relatively short duration, or they can be chronic conditions
• The types include major depressive disorder, dysthymic disorder, bipolar disorder, cyclothymic disorder and substance induced mood disorder

Educational implications could include:
• Lack of energy or desire to perform
• Not able to think or act quickly
• Sadness or mania makes others uncomfortable
• Many symptoms cause physical discomfort (such as lack of appetite leading to poor eating/self care)
• Lowered self esteem, resulting in negativism
• Difficulty concentration
• Poor motivation
• Side effects of medication can include blurred vision, drowsiness and restlessness

4. Personality Disorders:
• These disorders are characterized by a pattern of inner experience and behavior that deviates markedly from the expectations of the individual’s culture
• They are pervasive and inflexible
• Leads to distress or impairment
• Typically start in adolescence or early childhood
• Can become stable over time
• Types include paranoid, schizoid, schizotypal, antisocial, borderline, narcissistic, avoidant, dependent and obsessive-compulsive personality disorders

Educational implications could include:
• Difficulties with relationships
• Others become easily frustrated with them
• Often feel “punished” without knowing why
• Difficulty trusting people
• May be manipulative and blame others
• Crisis is often occurring

5. Eating Disorders:
• These disorders are characterized by anxieties about weight gain
• There can be long term, irreversible consequences which can affect one’s physical and emotional health
• Types include anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa

Educational implications could include:
• Absences from school for treatment of health problems because of eating habits
• Side effects of malnutrition such as lethargy, forgetfulness, poor judgment, and poor concentration

Instructional Strategies:

As members of the Merritt College community, you have ongoing and direct contact with students. This places you in a position to potentially identify students who are struggling with personal or academic issues. As faculty, you may notice significant changes in a student’s work habits, behaviors, performance and attendance such as: frequent absences; low morale; disorganization in completing school work; lack of cooperation or a general inability to communicate with others; frequent complaints or evidence of fatigue; problems concentrating, or making decisions, or remembering things; missed deadlines, poor exam grades; decreased interest or involvement in class topics or academics in general. People who experience problems such as those mentioned above may simply be having a bad day or week, or may be working through a difficult time in their lives.

A pattern that continues for a long period may, however, indicate an underlying mental health problem. These students should be referred to the Health Center and the Disability Services Program. Your willingness to respond to these students will, of course, be influenced by your own personal style and your own philosophy about the limits of responsibility in assisting students. As well, a student’s openness to assistance, and such factors as class size, length and depth of your relationship, and the location of the contact, all have an impact on the type of interaction you can have with a student.

Other than referring students to the Health Center and the Disability Services Program, consider the following as possible strategies for supporting students with mental health diagnoses and/or symptoms:

• Provide explicit guidelines for assignments
• Minimize distractions in the learning environment
• Deal immediately with any negative behavior by peers towards the student
• Permit students to leave the classroom if anxiety becomes unmanageable
• Provide copies of your notes to cover emergency absences

Faculty should also feel free to call the Health Center and the Disability Services Program should they wish to consult about a situation. Specific student information, however, cannot be discussed without the student’s informed consent.

Academic Accommodations:

Students with disabilities are expected to meet the entrance requirements of their program and accomplish the core competencies to be successful in their programs. To achieve this, accommodations are provided, under Human Rights legislation, to minimize or eliminate any disadvantage their disability presents. Accommodations are unique to each individual.

The Disability Services Program makes recommendations for accommodations based on confidential documentation that the student provides. Some of the most commonly provided academic accommodations for students with mental health disabilities are:
• Private space when writing exams
• Additional time to write exams as determined by DSP
• Alternative evaluation procedures (e.g. oral exams)
• Regular tutorial services
• Provision of a note taker for lectures
• Reduced course load

Also, as is available to all Merritt College students, on-going counseling services and a variety of workshops are provided. Please refer to our current workshop schedule.

Additionally, in the past few years the community colleges have been seeing more students who have a history of a psychological disability. While the vast majority of these students are stable and show no symptoms, others may have fluctuations in behavior and performance. Some may experience medication side effects or develop problems at college because they have ceased taking their medication or take their medications inconsistently. Other students may be experiencing emotional difficulties for the first time. It is important to remember that these students have as little control over their disabilities as do students with physical disabilities.

As is the case of students with other invisible disabilities, students with psychological disabilities are often hesitant to disclose their disability. They may go to great lengths to hide their difficulty due to fear of the stigma that often comes with disclosure. It has been the experience of the DSP staff that most students with psychological disabilities are not disruptive. Usually students with this type of disability who self-identify with DSP have been in therapy or are under medical treatment.

According to Title 5, psychological disability means a persistent psychological or psychiatric disorder, or emotional or mental illness.
A psychological disability must be verified by an appropriately licensed or certified professional (licensed psychologist or psychiatrist), and the accommodations for the students with psychological disabilities must adhere to disability-related support services defined in Title 5 regulations and may not include psychotherapy.

Characteristics might include:
• Poor concentration
• Difficulty tolerating stress
• Episodes of lower level academic performance

Possible Accommodations:
• Academic support
Alternative testing (extended time, reader, scribe, distraction reduced setting, and/or computer)
• Note-taking assistance
• Textbooks in audio format

To arrange for an appointment with a DSP Counselor:

Download the Disability Verification Form.

• Fill it out.
• Call 510-436-2429 or drop by R-109 to make an appointment.
• Bring completed form(s) to your appointment.
• Bring supporting documentation on disabilities to your appointment.


Disability Verification Form

Disability Chart with Appropriate Verification

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7. Visual Disability (V):

Only a small minority of people is actually totally blind; most are considered “legally blind”. Even with correction, a legally blind person’s best eye sees less at 20 feet than a normal eye sees at 200 feet. Difficulties experienced by many individuals with visual impairments may include: recurring eye strain while reading, inability to read standardized print, inability to read poor quality print or certain colors of print, and sensitivity to bright light.

Students who have been blind since birth, or shortly after, have no visual memories. Their concept of objects, space, and distance may be different from those who became blind later in life. Mobility skills of individuals may vary also, depending on the age of onset of blindness and the quality and extent of mobility training and mobility talent. Some students who are blind will use Braille with competence, but many do not use it.

Most students with visual impairments can acquire information through listening. Some students who are blind are competent typists, but their written communication and spelling skills sometimes reflect their natural dependency on audio transmission of information.

According to Title 5 regulations, visual impairment means total or partial loss of sight.

• Treat the students with visual impairments very much like you would any other student. Use words like “see” without being self-conscious.
• If you are in a room alone with a blind person, explain what you are doing, such as shuffling papers. Tell him/her when someone comes in the room or when you leave the room.
• It is never impolite to ask if a student with a visual impairment needs or would like assistance.
• When using visual aids in the class, be as descriptive as possible. Words like “this” or “that” can be confusing.
• Make copies of overhead materials or diagrams so that the student can later ask an assistant to describe the information in detail to understand the material better.
• A student may use a Guide Dog. These dogs have been trained to guide people who are blind, to keep out of the way, and to be quiet. These working dogs should not be treated as pets and should not be petted while working.
• When relocation of a class is necessary, a note on the chalk or door is not adequate. It would be helpful to have a sighted student wait for the visually impaired student to arrive.
• “Talents” are often merely the development of latent mental resources or the result of great persistence. It can be frustrating after such hard work for others to refer to their sensory abilities as a “sixth sense” as it does not acknowledge the tremendous efforts expended.
Possible Accommodations
• Alternative testing (extended time, reader, scribe, distraction reduced setting, and/or computer)
• Note-taking assistance
• Textbooks on tape
• Academic support
• Reader services
• Enlarged or Braille printed materials

To arrange for an appointment with a DSP Counselor:

Download the Disability Verification Form.
• Fill it out.
• Call 510-436-2429 or drop by R-109 to make an appointment.
• Bring completed form(s) to your appointment.
• Bring supporting documentation on disabilities to your appointment.


Disability Verification Form

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8. Other Disability (??):

This category includes all other verifiable disabilities and health related limitations that adversely affect educational performance. Some other disabilities are: Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD)


Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD) is a chronic neurological condition characterized by problems with attention, focusing and persistence and often, but not always, hyperactivity. ADD/ADHD must be diagnosed by a medical doctor, psychiatrist or licensed psychologist and sometimes medication is prescribed.


Students with ADD/ADHD may exhibit one or more of the following characteristics:

Classroom Skills:
• Difficulty paying attention when spoken to; inconsistent concentration.
• Difficulty listening to a lecture and taking notes at the same time.
• Easily distracted by background noise or visual stimulation, may appear to be hurried in one-to-one meetings.
• Difficulty memorizing basic facts.

Study Skills:
• Difficulty reading or comprehending word problems.
• Compositions lack organization and development of ideas.
• Trouble sustaining attention. Restless, fidgety. Lacks attention to details.
• Forgets things, loses or leaves positions. Difficulty following instructions.
• Impatient and easily frustrated. For many students the harder they try the worse their symptoms become.

Social Skills:
• Easily overwhelmed by tasks of daily living. Poor organization and time management.
• Difficulty completing projects. Inconsistent work performance.
• Trouble maintaining an organized work area.
• Makes decisions impulsively. Difficulty delaying gratification, stimulation seeking.
• Makes comments without considering their impact.

Many of the suggestions for students with Learning Disabilities are applicable to students with ADD/ADHD.

Possible Accommodations:
• Academic support
Alternative testing (extended time, reader, scribe, distraction reduced setting, and/or computer)
• DSP courses (Study Skills/Computer Access Lab)
Note-taking assistance
• Textbooks on tape

Cardiac Disorders:

Additional considerations are generally not needed for students with cardiac disorders except when the course requirements involve an unusual amount of physical activity or if medical complications arise that cause them to miss class.

Chemical Dependency:

These are students who are in recovery and have been verified as having a chemical dependency on drugs or alcohol.


Students with diabetes generally require no classroom accommodations. Occasionally they may need to snack during class. Students generally schedule time to eat before strenuous physical activity. Problems such as diabetic coma and insulin shock may occur when there is an imbalance of insulin, food, and energy expenditure. If these problems arise, please call 911.

If a student seems dazed, confused, or is unresponsive, please call the Campus Police emergency number, (510) 466-7236 or 911 to assist the student. These may be a sign of diabetic shock.

Multiple Sclerosis and Muscular Dystrophy:

Although these symptoms are sometimes invisible they may affect the student in a multitude of ways. The symptoms have a tendency to come and go, but they continue to progress. Understanding the fluctuations that may occur in the student’s behavior makes it easier to understand variations in classroom performance.

Short of Stature:

Students of short stature will have in-classroom access problems similar to those of a student in a wheelchair.

Speech Impairments:

Impairments range from problems with articulation or voice strength to being totally non-vocal. They include stuttering (repetition, blocks, and/or prolongations occasionally accompanied by distorted movements and facial expressions) chronic hoarseness (dysphonia), difficulty in evoking an appropriate word or term (nominal aphasia), and esophageal speech (resulting from a laryngectomy). Many students with speech impairments will be hesitant about participating in activities that require speaking.

To arrange for an appointment with a DSP Counselor:

Download the Disability Verification Form.
• Fill it out.
• Call 510-436-2429 or drop by R-109 to make an appointment.
• Bring completed form(s) to your appointment.
• Bring supporting documentation on disabilities to your appointment.


Disability Verification Form

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