5 things to know when getting accommodations in school
When I look back on my years at school, I’m mostly just amazed that I survived waking up at 5 am every day and was a functional human being by 7. I have no idea how I managed that, and I do not envy kids going back to school. Those years really sealed the deal on me never being a morning person.
In high school and college, mostly 9th and 10th grade, I really struggled to get the accommodations I needed in class. Unfortunately, that’s not uncommon for disabled students either. I’ve gotten comfortable with fighting for what I need, but for those who maybe aren’t so used to that experience, here are a few things to know when you’re trying to get accommodations in school.
You don’t need to figure everything out on your own
If you’re in high school, you might need to meet with your counselor to discuss what you’ll need in the classroom and also offer suggestions for you. You might need to have an IEP meeting with your parents to essentially make a plan for what the school needs to provide for you to be successful. If you’re in college, check and see if your campus has a disability office. Mine offered things like extended time on tests and note taking services from classmates, which can make a big difference. Not everyone will be helpful or have your best interest in mind, but you’ll find your people.
You can start a conversation about accessibility with your teachers
While there is a lot of ableism in the educational system, there are also a lot of teachers willing to learn and help in any way they can. Sometimes all you need is one good teacher to have your back in order to get the accommodations you need. They can help you in their class, but also come with you to meetings and advocate for you when necessary.
If there are any teachers reading this, try to make your classroom as accessible as possible even if none of your students bring a disability to your attention. There are so many simple and easy things you can do that could benefit many of the kids in your class.
- Keep the layout of your room arranged to give anyone with a mobility aid or difficulties walking plenty of space
- Keep copies of heavy textbooks available in the room for students who might have a hard time carrying them around
- Make copies of notes available
- Ensure all audio/video played for the class has subtitles or transcriptions
- Let the class know that they can come to you privately if they need any accommodations that aren’t currently available
Writing out a letter explaining your situation can make meetings much easier
Meeting with teachers or administration at school can be stressful enough as it is, but when you’re trying to advocate for yourself it’s an added layer nerves. Before your meeting, you can write out a letter explaining your disability, all of the accommodations you’ll need, and why. This way, you’ve got a guide to follow to make sure you don’t forget any important points. Sometimes it’s hard to explain what you mean right on the spot. Having it all figured out ahead of time can make the process go a little smoother.
If you’re uncomfortable talking to your teachers face to face about it, you can also send it to them in an email. I’ve had a lot of teachers, especially in college, who were totally happy to coordinate everything via email and understand why some people prefer it.
Don’t fall into the trap of getting guilted out of accommodations
Hopefully you’ll get what you need without too much trouble, but the bummer is that you might meet a lot of resistance. Being disabled means learning to advocate for yourself. You deserve to have access to whatever you need to have an equal opportunity to excel in school. Accommodations aren’t perks or some kind of unfair advantage. It’s leveling out the playing field.
Trust yourself to make decisions about your needs
Remember that you know what you need better than anyone else does. So don’t let anyone bully you into a situation that makes you uncomfortable. This can go both ways, too. I had to argue against accommodations often that I felt were excessive and awkward. The ones I actually did need were usually criticized and argued against. Trust yourself and don’t be afraid to say no or fight for what you need.
I hope you have a great start to the school year! I know school isn’t the most fun for a lot of us. But soon enough you’ll be out in the real world. Make some good memories and never be ashamed to advocate for yourself.