Disability Services for Students

302 Memorial Union Univeristy of Rhode Island Kingston, RI 02881


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Psychiatric Disabilities

(Includes definition, how disability affects participation, and helpful strategies.)


“… each of the mental disorders is conceptualized as a clinically significant behavioral or psychological syndrome or pattern that occurs in an individual and that is associated with present distress (e.g., a painful symptom) or disability (i.e., impairment in one or more important areas of functioning) or with a significantly increased risk of suffering…pain, disability, or an important loss of freedom. In addition, this syndrome or pattern must not be merely an expectable and culturally sanctioned response to a particular event…” (DSM-IV, p. xxi).

“Mental disorders have also been defined by a variety of concepts (e.g., distress, dyscontrol, disadvantage, disability, inflexibility, irrationality, syndromal pattern …and statistical deviation” (DSM-IV, p. xxi).

How this may affect student participation:

Most students under appropriate treatment may exhibit no outward signs of disorder, and may be quite effective as students.

Some students may be taking medication that adversely affects concentration and performance.

In some cases, students may develop physical or behavioral symptoms as a result of prescribed medication.

Helpful strategies for instructing students:

Exercise patience and empathy.

Help students to follow lectures with three steps: >preview>lecture>review.

Provide lecture outlines and other handouts.

Use a multi-sensory approach when providing information to students. Increased learning can occur when material is presented simultaneously in a variety of ways, e.g. visual imagesĀ withauditory descriptions.

Gain students attention when highlighting significant points by using eye contact, voice inflection, and body gesturing.

Provide concrete examples and practical applications of material whenever possible.

Review important points several times during the lecture; give assignments both orally and in written format.

Identify, in private and with sensitivity, inappropriate behaviors, if necessary.

Develop a positive student-teacher relationship.

When making decisions about field placements it is important to ensure equal access for students with disabilities.

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