Need your opinions on accommodations

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-07-2008
Need your opinions on accommodations
Tue, 03-23-2010 - 10:12am

This isn't about Euan, but about one of my students - but I would like your opinions as informed interested parties!

I have two disabled students in one of my postgraduate classes, a guy with Asperger's (who was only recently diagnosed) and a woman who is blind. It is an advanced class with 15 people, and one of the things they are graded on is 'participation and leading discussion'. Both of them struggle with this because they do not pick up on visual 'cues' (eg about when to engage in discussion, when it is their 'turn' to speak) and because they do not necessarily contribute the right things (eg they will not necessarily be able to follow which section of an article we are referring to, or even which article we are on because of organisational problems keeping up). To help them overcome this I make a point of specifically asking them to contribute at key points in the discussion - this sometimes works (in that it gives them a chance to say something intelligent and relevant) and sometimes doesn't (sometimes they don't have anything particularly relevant to say!). At this level we are not supposed to do this for other students: it's dog eat dog in PhD classes and we are not supposed to 'encourage' shy or reticent students.

The problem I have is that this is a core academic competency/skill that they need to have. When they complete their postgraduate training and PhDs, they then will have to engage in academic seminars, be prepared, participate in and lead discussion. I won't be there, and they won't get any accommodations in their jobs for this kind of thing, they'll be left to their own devices. It's even more dog-eat-dog once they finish their PhDs!

Obviously, to have made it this far in academia they are both incredibly gifted, intelligent and capable students. I do not really know what it is 'fair' to do: pull them up and give them poor grades for something they cannot help, or consider that I am making 'reasonable adjustments' to allow for the disability and give them reasonable grades, knowing that I am not realistically preparing them for the 'real' world of academia?

As parents of Aspies/ASD kids, what do you think? what would you do?

Kirsty, mum to Euan (11, Aspergers) Rohan (7, NT) and Maeve (4, NT)

"My definition of housework is to sweep the room with a glance"

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iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
Tue, 03-23-2010 - 1:35pm

Wow - that is an interesting dilemna! My DH is adult Aspie, and he has managed to learn the skills he needs to manage and present information to large groups of people, communicate in meetings, etc. Several relatives are on spectrum, and some have not just managed, but excelled in acedemia for advanced the point where I sometimes suspect that many of the acedemics doing the research and being successful are on some type of spectrum anyway.

I would think there have to be some

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-25-2005
Wed, 03-24-2010 - 9:40am

I've thought about this a bit, and I don't know that I have a good answer. My AS dh is probably able to engage in group presentations/discussions more than you describe your students as doing, but I also know that his ability to participate can be situational.

Dh used to be in sales (before we knew he had AS -- and it was obviously NOT a natural match for his skills/abilities). If he was allowed to just give his sales spiel, he did great. He could create and give presentations fine.

If the customers asked generic, basic questions, he was good at answering. However, if the customers spoke too fast or asked too many detailed questions that dh wasn't ready for, he'd get flustered and perform poorly. He'd come home telling me how "brutal" the customers had been to him.

Similarly, dh had some bosses he got along well with and others who were strong A-type personalities who always left dh freaked out and bumbling in their presence.

Although in real-world employment settings, AS individuals may not get accommodations, there ARE different bosses, different jobs, and different environments that can influence how the AS individual performs. Just because an AS person might not perform well in one setting doesn't mean there aren't other bosses or settings where they can perform phenomenally.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that if you thought there were SOME post-graduate settings where you can see your students performing well, I'd be more lenient on them than if there were NO settings where you can see them performing well. I don't think it's fair to insist that a student be able to perform famously under every possible difficult situation.

Do your students understand their obligation to participate? Would a gentle reminder help motivate them to try harder?

Good luck in figuring out the best answer.