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Intersection of Mental Health and Disability

Intersection of Mental Health and Disability

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Intersection of Mental Health and Disability

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  1. Intersection of Mental Health and Disability Lauren Rodriguez, Psy.D., Purchase College Jean Vizvary, MS, Ed., Suny New Paltz Don Pool, LMSW, Jamestown Community College

  2. Things that are not a disability Here are a few things you may have heard that are not disability related • I have “test anxiety” and need… • I need more time on my assignment because I couldn’t get it done; I was depressed • I need my emotional support hamster in class with me so I can get through the day • I have ADHD, so I can’t get to class on time • I know you said the assignment had to be typed and turned in through SafeAssign, but I am Bipolar, so I just hand wrote it

  3. Common Mental Health Functional Limitations • Difficulty with medication side effects: drowsiness, fatigue, dry mouth and thirst, blurred vision, hand tremors, slowed response time, and difficulty initiating interpersonal contact. • Sustaining concentration: restlessness, shortened attention span, distraction, and difficulty understanding or remembering verbal directions. • Screening out environmental stimuli: inability to block out sounds, sights, or odors that interfere with focusing on tasks. Limited ability to tolerate noise and crowds. • Maintaining stamina: difficulty sustaining enough energy to spend a whole day on campus attending classes; combating drowsiness due to medications. • Interacting with others: difficulty getting along, fitting in, contributing to group work, and reading social cues. • Increased stress during testing: emotionally and physically Souma, Rickerson, & Burgstahler (2012)

  4. The Interactive Process • Important in all cases, but especially with Mental Health Disabilities • Discussion is less about the diagnosis and more about the BARRIERS • Listen to the student’s story. Based on conversation, determine: • Why has the student contacted the office in the first place? • What barriers to access has the student described? • What is the student requesting? • Initial professional observations • Does a disability-related barrier exist? • Is there a clear connection between the barrier and the student’s condition? • Is anything not adding up? Recognize gaps in your understanding of the situation. Meyer, A. (2012)

  5. The Interactive Process 2 • Any known environmental barriers, considerations, or fundamental components in play? • What is the role of the environment in creating and/or maintaining the barrier? • Is it immediately obvious that accommodations could create access based on the information provided? • Is the requested accommodation clearly related to the student’s disability but possibly inappropriate in the context? • Consider what might warrant additional consultation with others on campus. • Any gaps between what the student requests, details in the environment, and what you believe would create access? • Put the story, initial observations, and environmental variables together. • Based on all the information gathered, determine where reasonable accommodations can clearly create access. • Does the student specifically seek something that does not make sense to you based on the information gathered? • Use documentation to fill in gaps in understanding. • Identify the appropriate path of action Meyer, A. (2012)

  6. Same Diagnosis, Different Barriers PTSD Example • Student #1 • Panic attacks during tests - needs quiet location • Needs to sit by the door in class (preferential seating) • Needs note taking assistance (recording) on stressful days because of dissociation • Needs attendance flexibility rarely when triggered • Student #2 • No additional stress during tests • Panic attacks when left alone with professors (needs someone familiar in the room when testing) • Keeps up with notes and classroom work • Needs to avoid certain clinical settings during field work

  7. Anxiety and Housing • Request for single rooms as an accommodation for equal access (room without a roommate) • Diagnosis of anxiety disorder is a diagnosis of an impairment • Impairment is a disability only if it substantially limits a major life activity • Documentation and student self-report should clarify the severity and duration of the anxiety impact • Engage in the interactive process • Why is a single room necessary for a student who will attend classes, and interact regularly with other students? • Has the student ever had a roommate before (home, summer camp, school)? • If never shared a room, why the certainty that living without one is necessary? • If living with someone before was difficult, what caused the difficulty? • Specific to the roommate, or something more than adjusting to difficult personalities? Masinter, M.R. (June 2019)

  8. Anxiety and Housing 2 • Interactive process allows to sift through accommodation requests and make informed professional judgements. • Anxiety is a universal emotion, and each student is different, therefore some requests may be denied, while others will be well-supported. • Recent OCR rulings did not produce any findings of wrongdoing by schools in denying single-room requests. • OCR will, however, cite schools for lack of any procedure to handle requests. • Create and follow a good process! Masinter, M.R. (June 2019)

  9. Questions? Trends on your Campus?

  10. References Masinter, M.R. (June 2019). Single-room housing accommodations in the age of anxiety. Disability Compliance for Higher Education, Volume 24 (Issue 11), 1-3. Meyer, A. (2012). Disability resource professional’s guide to exploring and determining access. Standing Committee on Professional Development, Association on Higher Education and Disability. Souma, A., Rickerson, N. & Burgstahler, S. (2012). Academic accommodations for students with psychiatric disabilities. Retrieved from