It’s Back to School Time – Accommodating Educators with Disabilities

Posted by Kim Cordingly on August 23, 2013 under Accommodations, Employers | Comments are off for this article

By: Melanie Whetzel, M.A., Senior Consultant, Cognitive / Neurological Team

Unless you have been living with your head in the sand at your favorite beach, you know that the back-to-school season is upon us. If you have ventured into any retail store, the signs are hard to miss — paper, markers, pens, pencils, lunch boxes, and other back-to-school trappings are being marketed near the front of almost every retailer. Television commercials abound.  If you are one of those educators who cannot wait to get back into the classroom, you have no doubt seen the marketing blitz and have welcomed it. Starting a new school year can be very exciting!  But if you are an educator who is apprehensive because of difficulties in the classroom due to disabilities, you may not be quite as eager to get back into the daily grind. School supplies everywhere may cause a feeling of trepidation.

If accommodations are needed in the workplace because of a disability, the earlier you take care of requesting those accommodations, the better. Accommodations that are put into place before the school year actually begins will go a long way towards easing your mind and allowing you more confidence and success in the classroom.

Below are examples of actual accommodation situations and solutions fielded by JAN consultants that may lead to a more effective school year:

A preschool teacher with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) could not get to work early enough to take his turn in the early bus schedule, but had no problems staying after school for the late bus duty. He asked for the accommodation of exchanging his early duties with another teacher who just preferred not to do the after-school duty. The accommodation was approved allowing him to do two turns of the after-school duty in exchange for no early duty.

An elementary school principal was undergoing treatment for cancer that left him extremely fatigued. He asked for a rest period each day as an accommodation. The school district had no problem with the accommodation request, but they were uncomfortable with his idea of using a roll-away cot in his office. JAN suggested using a recliner in the corner of the office, so when not in use, it looked and functioned as an ordinary chair. This would provide the principal the ability to put his feet up and recline for rest. The district was very pleased with the recliner solution.

A secondary music teacher with major depression asked for the accommodation of moving his classroom to a quieter location. There was an empty classroom in the basement of the building where there would be no classes on either side. The accommodation was granted. A walkie talkie was provided so the teacher could call the office if he needed assistance because there were no call buttons in the basement.

An elementary teacher with bone cancer was accommodated with a designated parking space near the school entrance that was closest to her classroom. They also redistributed some of the duties to paraprofessionals in the building which allowed for assistance with escorting the children to the cafeteria, the art and music rooms, and the gymnasium.

A college professor who had incurred a traumatic brain injury (TBI) was accommodated by rescheduling departmental meetings and classes she taught to 11am  in the morning or later. She then used the uninterrupted morning hours to get her planning, reading, studying, and administrative duties done.

For more accommodation ideas, see Educators with Disabilities.

As you can see from the above examples, effective accommodations can be fairly simple, creative, and put smoothly into place. If you need accommodations to start out the new school year, consider contacting JAN. We can provide assistance with questions you may have concerning any step in the process.

Once you have the needed accommodations in place, you can relax and look forward with excitement to that first day of school, just like your students do!

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