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Contact Information
Student Accessibility Resources
Panama City Campus, McSpadden Student Union East
5230 West U.S. Highway 98
Panama City, FL 32401
Phone: 850.747.3243
Fax: 850.767.8034

Disability Information

The following list contains information on specific disabilities & how to accommodate students for an equal and inclusive learning environment.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, patients could be diagnosed with four separate disorders: autistic disorder, Aspergers disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder or the catch-all diagnosis of pervasive developmental dis­order not otherwise specified.” Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has a number of different characteristics that range from low-functioning to high-functioning. Students with ASD tend to have strong, narrow interests and above-average to superior intellect in specific subjects of interest. Due to a limited ability to perceive social subtexts and respond appropriately, they tend to have difficulty with social interactions which can be perceived as rude or abrasive. They have a narrow range of facial and vocal expressions and are most comfortable with predictable routine; subsequently they may be disturbed by changes in familiar and expected routines. Students with ASD may exhibit some of the following behaviors in general social interaction as well as in the classroom:

  • Poor eye contact
  • Inappropriate social interaction
  • Very literal and concrete thinking patterns
  • Limited voice intonation and/or volume
  • Impulsivity
  • Sensitivity to sensory stimuli (bright light, touch, sounds)
  •  Students may:
    • Attempt to monopolize conversation
    • Ask a multitude of questions that may not deal with the subject matter
    • Become tangential in answering questions
    • Exhibit distracting behavior in long classes
    • Engage in self-stimulating behavior (rocking, tapping, playing with “stress toys”)
    • Be argumentative 

Applying Universal Design Principles 

  • Provide a syllabus with clear explanations of course objectives and specific due dates for assignments.
  • Allow breaks during class, particularly for movement.
  • Redirect responses to bring student to point of answer.
  • Allow the student the same anonymity as other students (for example, avoid pointing out the student or the alternative arrangements to the rest of the class).
  • When in doubt about how to assist the student, ask him or her. 

Typical Accommodations 

  • Extended time for in-class assignments
  • Note takers if distraction is a problem for the student
  • One-on-one meetings with the student to clarify assignments
  • Written instructions
  • Computer use, especially word processing for writing
  • Accommodation for work/assignments dependent on groups (usually accommodated with an assignment for the individual student or assigning particular work to the student within the group)
  • Advanced notice and preparation when changes are anticipated
    • Exam modifications
    • Reduced distraction test environment
    • Use of a computer for essay exams
    • Extended time

Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is a chronic and impairing condition that is prevalent in 5% of adults. Some symptoms of ADHD include difficulty paying attention, procrastination, frequently losing or misplacing important items, restlessness and interrupting others when speaking. These symptoms are manifested in academic, employment and social situations. Not all students with ADHD exhibit the same symptoms, but in an academic setting ADHD is generally characterized by careless mistakes and disorganized work, difficulty concentrating on and completing tasks, forgetting the content of reading or conversations and being easily bored. In social situations, inattention may be apparent from frequent shifts in conversation, poor listening comprehension and not following the sequential details or rules of games and other activities. 

Applying Universal Design Principles 

  • Provide a syllabus with clear explanations of course objectives and specific due dates for assignments.
  • For large projects or long papers, break down the task into smaller parts.
  • Give verbal reminders in class of deadlines regarding homework assignments and upcoming exams.
  • Provide an outline of each lecture at the start of class.
  • When possible, start each lecture with a summary of material to be covered and conclude each lecture with a summary of major points addressed.
  • Students with ADHD may start to “drift” during class. A varied format may help to keep their attention.
  • Allow the student the same anonymity as other students (for example, avoid pointing out the student or the alternative arrangements to the rest of the class).
  • When in doubt about how to assist the student, ask him or her. 

Typical Accommodations

  • Extended time for in-class assignments
  • Use of speech-to-text software
  • Alternative print formats
  • Textbooks on tape
  • Tape recording lectures
  • Note-takers
  • Exam modifications
    • Extended time
    • Use of a computer for essay exams
    • Reduced-distraction test environment

Strategies for Student Success 

  • Use of a day planner
  • Writing down all assignments
  • Taking notes in class; rewriting notes after class
  • Breaking tasks down into manageable components
  • Setting reasonable goals and using a checklist to keep track of progress
  • Use of an audio recorder for lectures and studying
  • Working on projects with someone who has strong organizational skills
  • Getting feedback on social behavior from a trusted friend

The National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities defines a Specific Learning Disability as a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, which may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell or do mathematical calculations. The term includes such conditions as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia and developmental aphasia. The term does not include a learning problem that is primarily the result of visual, hearing or motor disabilities, intellectual disabilities, emotional disturbances or environmental, cultural or economic disadvantage. 

These disorders are intrinsic to individuals, presumed to be due to central nervous system dysfunction and may occur across the life span. Problems in self-regulatory behaviors, social perceptions and social integration may exist with learning disabilities but do not by themselves constitute a learning disability. Although learning disabilities may occur concomitantly with other disabilities, they are not the result of those conditions or influences. 

A learning disability is persistent and pervasive throughout an individuals life, although the manifestations of the condition may change. The condition has a significant effect on learning but is not an indicator of intelligence. LD can often cause inconsistent academic performance and may only require accommodation in specific classes or may alternatively have a global effect on academic functioning. 

A learning disability is unique to the individual and can be manifested in a variety of ways. Therefore, accommodations for a student with a specific learning disability must be tailored to the individual. Determining accommodations is not an exact process but is based on the functional limitations identified in the students psycho-educational evaluation. SAR staff may re-evaluate accommodations with the student and faculty as the semester progresses, as not all needs may be evident until the class gets underway. 

Applying Universal Design Principles 

Classroom Instruction

  • Provide information about textbooks and readings in advance so that students can start reading before the semester begins or have information converted to electronic text for use with screen-reading technology.
  • Provide an outline at the beginning of lecture and summarize key points at the end. Identify key terms during the lecture.
  • When talking, be mindful of speed and audibility.
  • Present instructions and assignments both orally and in written form.
  • When writing notes on the board, state them orally as well.
  • Provide handouts and use visual aids such as graphs and charts to accompany verbal explanation.
  • Explain your thought process in solving a problem and demonstrate how to check a problem for accuracy.
  • Allow the student to tape-record lectures.
  • Break information into small steps when teaching many new tasks in one lesson (state objectives, review previous lesson, summarize periodically). Connect new concepts to previously-learned material.
  • Allow time for clarification of directions and essential information.
  • Provide thought questions to guide students through dense reading.
  • Connect readings to lecture and course objectives.
  • Connect readings to students prior knowledge, real-life examples and stories.
  • Provide opportunities for class discussion of readings. Encourage students to summarize, make predictions and explore multiple interpretations of text. Allow time for clarification and questions about readings.
  • Allow the student the same anonymity as other students (for example, avoid pointing out the student or the alternative arrangements to the rest of the class).
  • When in doubt about how to assist the student, ask him or her. 

Assignments and Exams

  • Provide examples of well-written papers, cases and lab reports and explain why they are well written.
  • Provide opportunities for students to submit early drafts of papers or reports for feedback.
  • Provide feedback in writing so it can be saved by the student for incorporation into future assignments.
  • Provide deadlines for stages of the writing process to discourage last minute work and to encourage a well-constructed essay.
  • Encourage students to get started with the writing process by recording their thoughts into a tape recorder or making an outline or graphic organizer.
  • Post solutions to problems on Canvas.
  • Suggest effective study strategies for the discipline.
  • Provide study guides or review sheets for exams.
  • Relieve or modify the pressure of timed responses (both oral and written).
  • Avoid closely-worded multiple-choice exams, which often do not allow students to demonstrate course knowledge.
  • If applicable, allow students to have formula sheets during exams. 

Typical Accommodations 

  • Alternative print formats
  • Written materials provided in electronic-text format
  • Tape recording of classroom lectures
  • Note takers
  • Exam modifications
    • Extended time
    • Use of a computer for essay exams
    • Scribe
    • Alternative to Scantron forms
  • Reduced-distraction test environment

Students with blindness have several options for accessing written text. These include the following:

  • Recorded material
  • A reader
  • A computer screen reader that reads text out loud
  • Braille documents and books
  • Raised line color graphics 

To perceive non-textual material, students with blindness might use raised line drawings of diagrams, charts, illustrations, relief maps and/or three-dimensional models of physical organs, shapes and microscopic organisms. 

When printed text documents are scanned into a readable electronic format, they can be read by a synthesized voice output device or converted, as needed, into Braille, tactile color graphics, or large print. Students are responsible for requesting conversion of their academic materials each semester. 

Converting course materials into alternate media is a labor-intensive and highly detailed process for courses that have a high degree of graphics or mathematical equations. The SAR Accessible Technology Specialist will often have to request course materials well in advance of a lecture to have them prepared on time for a student with low vision. Providing course materials with as much advance notice as possible will ensure equitable access for the student. 

Applying Universal Design Principles 

  • Have copies of the syllabus and reading assignments ready four weeks prior to the beginning of classes to assist SAR with converting materials into alternate formats.
  • If you know that you will be distributing handouts in class, try to provide them to the student with blindness or low vision ahead of time. This allows the individual to have access to the content by the time class is held.
  • Be flexible with deadlines if assignments are held up by the document-conversion process.
  • Keep a front row seat open for a student with blindness or low vision. A corner seat is especially convenient for a student with a service dog.
  • Pace the presentation of material so that when referring to a textbook or handout, students have time to find the information.
  • Repeat aloud what is written on the board or presented on overheads and in handouts.
  • When using PowerPoint, read the headings out loud to indicate where the class is in the presentation.
  • When referring to an object on a slide, describe its location on the slide.
  • When working with a smartboard, diagrams, PowerPoint, an overhead projector or other visual materials, realize that precision in language is essential for the student with low vision. If you point to the board and say, for example, “The heart is here,” or “there,” the student will not know where you are indicating. However, if you say, “The heart is in the upper middle of the chest to the left side,” it is more accessible. “The sum of 4 and 7 is 11,” is more accessible than saying, “The sum of this and that is 11.”
  • Like all students, students with blindness or low vision are responsible for the material covered in class. There are several different methods that can be used to take notes:
    • Recording the lecture
    • Getting copies of the professors notes, if appropriate
    • Using a Braille device or laptop computer
    • Allow the student the same anonymity as other students (for example, avoid pointing out the student or the alternative arrangements to the rest of the class).
    • When in doubt about how to assist the student, ask him or her. 
    • Having a note taker in the course

Typical Accommodations 

  • Alternative print formats
  • Magnification devices
  • Adjustments in lighting
  • Raised lettering
  • Tactile cues
  • Adaptive computer equipment
  • Text conversion
  • Recorded lectures
  • Lab or library assistants
  • Note takers
  • Readers
  • Library retrieval
  • Exam modifications
    • Extended time
    • Scribes
    • Adaptive equipment including computer screen readers
    • Alternative formats such as Braille or enlarged print 
      • Readers

The causes and degrees of hearing loss vary across the deaf and hard of hearing community, as do methods of communication. Technology that has been developed to assist hard of hearing individuals by amplifying sounds includes hearing aids, FM systems and cochlear implants. In the classroom, primary accommodations include the use of Assistive Listening Devices (ALD), sign language interpreting and real-time captioning. Please refer to the Information about Assistive Communication section for further description of these accommodations. Not all students who are deaf are fluent users of all communication modes used across the deaf community, just as users of spoken language are not fluent in all oral languages. The primary possibilities for communication include sign language, speech, lip reading and writing. 

Applying Universal Design Principles 

  • All video content must be captioned.
  • Circular seating arrangements offer deaf/HH students the benefit of seeing all class participants. When desks are arranged in rows, keep front seats open for students who are deaf or hard of hearing and their interpreters.
  • If you are in a classroom that provides a microphone for the professor, please use it.
  • Try not to speak with your back turned to the class. Be especially mindful of this when writing notes on the board. The deaf student is probably lip reading at least some of what you are saying.
  • If an interpreter is present, make sure the student can see both you and the interpreter.
  • Speak loudly, clearly and at a moderate pace. Try not to go too quickly.
  • Replace such terms as “here” and “there” with more specific terms such as “on the second line,” “in the left corner,” and “on page __.”
  • When mentioning a book, always refer to the page number being discussed and indicate where on the page a reference can be found. Leave time for the student who is deaf/HH to find the place because she or he cannot simultaneously flip to find a page and continue to be aware of what is said.
  • If asking a question, give the deaf student a moment to catch up and read the question before answering.
  • In discussions, encourage students to raise hands and take turns. This makes it much easier for the interpreter and student to identify the speaker.
  • Repeat the comments and questions of other students and acknowledge who has made the comment so the deaf/HH student can focus on the speaker and/or know who has spoken.
  • Pause at logical moments in the class to give the student time to catch up. Remember, the student receiving interpreter services is watching the interpreter for part of, or the entire lecture rather than listening to it and may be a few sentences behind.
  • If requested by SAR, assist the student with finding an effective note taker from the class and/or provide the student with copies of your own notes.
  • If there is a break in the class, get the deaf/HH students attention before resuming class.
  • Because visual cues are a deaf students primary means of receiving information, visual aids such as captioned films, overheads and diagrams are useful instructional tools.
  • Write new terminology on the board or present it in a handout. This is helpful both for the deaf/HH student and for the sign language interpreter.
  • Allow the student the same anonymity as other students (for example, avoid pointing out the student or the alternative arrangements to the rest of the class).
  • When in doubt about how to assist the student, ask him or her. 

Typical Accommodations

  •  Sign language or oral interpreters
  • Note takers
  • Captions for films and videos
  • Assistive Listening Devices
  • Exam modifications
    • Extended time
    • An interpreter may be needed to interpret test instructions or to interpret the students questions during an exam.
    • Since English may be a second language for an American Sign Language (ASL) user, an interpreter may be needed for translation. 
  • The use of a computer for essay exams

Health-related disabilities are conditions affecting one or more of the body's systems. These include the respiratory, immunological, neurological and circulatory systems. Students affected by health-related disabilities differ from those with other disabilities because their conditions are not static. As the condition changes, so too may the need for accommodations. There are many kinds of health-related disabilities, which vary significantly in their effects and symptoms.

Below is a non-exhaustive list and brief descriptions of some of the more common medical conditions experienced by students at GCSC.

Arthritis is inflammation of the body's joints, which causes pain, swelling and difficulty in body movement. Students with arthritis may have difficulty taking notes, walking to class or writing exams for long periods of time. 

Cardiovascular conditions can cause fatigue, sleeplessness, dizziness and shortness of breath. Students with cardiovascular conditions may require assistance to class in order to reduce the symptoms of fatigue. 

Cerebral Palsy is the result of damage to the brain prior to or shortly after birth. It can prevent or inhibit walking and cause a lack of muscle coordination, spasms and speech difficulty. Students with cerebral palsy may need to use computers or adaptive equipment for writing and may have difficulty with mobility. 

Chemical Dependency is considered a disabling condition when it is documented that a person has received treatment for a drug or alcohol addiction and is not currently abusing. Chemical dependency can cause permanent cognitive impairments. 

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is an autoimmune disorder that causes extreme fatigue, loss of appetite and depression. Physical or emotional stress may adversely affect a person with this condition. Students may miss class more frequently because of illness. In class, students may need seats with cushions and/or testing accommodations because frequent breaks are needed to help manage fatigue. 

Diabetes Mellitus causes a person to lose the ability to regulate blood sugar. People with diabetes often need to follow a strict diet and may require insulin injections. During a diabetic reaction, a person may experience confusion, sudden personality changes or loss of consciousness. In extreme cases, diabetes can also cause vision loss, cardiovascular disease, kidney failure, stroke or necessitate the amputation of limbs. Students may need to have food and drink in class and/or leave class to take blood sugar measurements. 

HIV/AIDS: HIV is the human immunodeficiency virus. It is the virus that can lead to acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or AIDS. HIV damages a persons body by destroying specific blood cells, called CD4+ T cells, which are crucial in helping the body fight diseases. 

Lyme Disease is a condition that can cause paralysis, fatigue, fever, dermatitis, sleeping problems, memory dysfunction, cognitive difficulties and depression. 

Lupus Erythematosus can cause inflammatory lesions, neurological problems, extreme fatigue, persistent flu-like symptoms, impaired cognitive ability, connective tissue dysfunction and mobility impairments. Lupus most often affects young women. 

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a progressive neurological condition with a variety of symptoms, such as loss of strength, numbness, vision impairments, tremors and depression. The intensity of MS symptoms can vary. A person can be extremely fatigued one day and very strong the next day. Extreme temperatures can adversely affect a person with MS. Students may miss class more frequently, need enlarged print handouts, and require additional time to complete assignments. 

Neuromuscular disorders include a variety of diseases, such as muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis and ataxia that result in degeneration and atrophy of muscle or nerve tissues. 

Seizure disorders cause a person to experience a loss of consciousness. Episodes, or seizures, vary from petit mal, or short absence, seizures to the less common grand mal seizures. Seizures are frequently controlled by medications and are most often not emergency situations. Students with seizure conditions may miss class the day after a seizure. They also may need testing accommodations because medications affect cognitive processing and seizures affect memory. 

Sickle Cell Anemia is caused by an abnormal type of hemoglobin. Symptoms include breathlessness, abdominal pain, fatigue and low vision. Students with Sickle Cell Anemia will frequently miss class for home or hospital treatment of the symptoms. 

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) occurs when a sudden trauma causes damage to the brain. Symptoms of a TBI can be mild, moderate or severe depending on the extent of the damage to the brain. The range of symptoms include headache, confusion, lightheadedness, dizziness, blurred vision or tired eyes, ringing in the ears, bad taste in the mouth, fatigue or lethargy, a change in sleep patterns, behavioral or mood changes and trouble with memory, concentration, attention or thinking. Resting the brain is essential to recovering from a TBI. 

Applying Universal Design Principles 

  • Design course websites that include a complete syllabus (posted during the registration period), daily class notes and streaming video of lectures.
  • Provide multiple ways of demonstrating learning: take home exams, papers, group work, presentations, etc.
  • Allow breaks during class, particularly for movement.
  • Keep a front row or aisle seat open for the student.
  • Present instructions in both written and oral formats.
  • Allow the student to tape-record lectures.
  • Provide study sheets or review guides for exams.
  • Be flexible with deadlines, class attendance and make-up exams.
  • Spend extra time with the student, when necessary, and assist the student with planning and time management.
  • Allow the student the same anonymity as other students (for example, avoid pointing out the student or the alternative arrangements to the rest of the class).
  • When in doubt about how to assist the student, ask him or her. 
  • Typical Accommodations 
  • Priority scheduling to work around treatment regimens, personal care needs, medication schedules and variations in energy level and pain
  • Ability to take a lighter than average course load without losing the benefits of being a full-time student
  • Flexibility in scheduling classes and exams
  • Flexibility with absence policy
  • Exam modifications
    • Breaks
    • Reduced-distraction test environment
    • Use of a computer
  • Conveniently located parking or transportation assistance
  • Note takers
  • Extended time to complete a task
  • Instructor assistance outside of the classroom
  • Snacks and/or access to a refrigerator
  • Ability to take frequent breaks
  • Appropriate seating arrangements
  • Assistive technology that decreases the impact of the disability

Mobility disabilities range in severity from limitations on stamina to paralysis. Some mobility disabilities are caused by conditions present at birth while others are the result of illness or physical injury. Injuries cause different types of mobility disabilities, depending on what area of the body is affected. 

Types of Mobility Disabilities 

Amputation is the removal of one or more limbs, and is sometimes caused by trauma or another condition. 

Paraplegia is paralysis of the lower extremities and lower trunk caused by an injury to the mid-back. Students often use a manual wheelchair and have full movement of arms and hands. 

Quadriplegia is paralysis of the upper and lower extremities and trunk caused by a neck injury. Students with quadriplegia have limited or no use of their arms and hands and often use electric wheelchairs. 

Additional Information 

Wheelchairs:  A person who uses a wheelchair is not “confined” to it, but rather uses it to get around, much as many of us walk. Wheelchairs come in a variety of sizes and styles and with various optional attachments. They can be manual or motorized. If students are unable to propel themselves a significant distance manually, they will use an electric wheelchair or scooter. 

Personal Space:  Individuals wheelchairs and other mobility devices are essentially extensions of their bodies. Unless you are a close friend of the individual, it is not appropriate to lean or hang on the chair. Never move someones wheelchair without asking their permission. 

Relative Height:  When speaking with a person in a wheelchair or with short stature, consider kneeling or squatting so that you are at the persons eye level. This eliminates the need for the person in the wheelchair to tilt their heads back awkwardly for extended periods of time. 

Applying Universal Design Principles 

  • If necessary, arrange for a room change before the term begins.
  • If possible, try not to seat wheelchair users in the back row. Move a desk or rearrange seating at a table so the student is part of regular classroom seating.
  • Make sure accommodations are in place for in-class written work (e.g., allowing the student to use a scribe, to use assistive computer technology or to complete the assignment outside of class).
  • Be flexible with deadlines. Assignments that require library work or access to sites off campus will consume more time for a student with a mobility disability.
  • Make arrangements early for field trips and ensure that accommodations will be in place on the given day (e.g., transportation, site accessibility).
  • Allow the student the same anonymity as other students (for example, avoid pointing out the student or the alternative arrangements to the rest of the class).
  • When in doubt about how to assist the student, ask him/her.

Typical Accommodations

  • Note takers
  • Accessible classroom/location/furniture
  • Alternative ways of completing assignments
  • Lab or library assistants
  • Assistive computer technology Screen-reading software
  • Voice-activated software
  • Conveniently located parking
  • Exam modifications
    • Extended time
    • A scribe
    • Use of assistive technology 

Students with psychological disabilities experience chronic symptoms and have been treated professionally. Trauma is not the sole cause of psychological disabilities. Rather, genetics may play a role. With appropriate treatment, which often combines medications, psychotherapy and support, the majority of psychological disabilities can be controlled. Disruptive behavior is not an attribute of most people with psychological disabilities. 

Psychological disabilities can affect people of any age, gender, income group and intellectual level. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that one in five people in the United States has some form of psychological disability, but only one in five persons with a diagnosable disorder ever seeks treatment due to the strong stigmatization involved. 

Common Psychological Disabilities 

Below is a non-exhaustive list and brief descriptions of some of the more common psychological disabilities experienced by students at GCSC. 

Anxiety Disorders can disrupt a persons ability to concentrate and cause hyperventilation, a racing heart, chest pains, dizziness, panic and extreme fear. 

Bipolar Disorder (Manic Depressive Disorder) causes a person to experience intense emotional states that occur in distinct mood episodes. In the manic phase, a person might experience an overexcited state. The depressed phase is marked by extreme sadness and hopelessness. 

Depression is a major disorder that can begin at any age. Chronic depression may be characterized by a depressed mood for much of each day, a lack of pleasure in most activities, thoughts of suicide, sleep problems and feelings of worthlessness or guilt. Depression is a variable condition that may fluctuate during a persons lifetime. Eighty to ninety percent of people with depression experience relief from symptoms through medication, psychotherapy or a combination of the two. 

Eating Disorders are illnesses that cause serious disturbances to ones everyday diet, such as eating extremely small amounts of food or severely overeating. Common eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder. Eating disorders affect both men and women. An eating disorder can be treated with adequate nutrition, reducing excessive exercise and psychotherapy. 

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder in which people have unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, ideas or sensations (obsessions) that make them feel driven to do something (compulsions). This condition can significantly interfere with everyday living. OCD can be treated with medication and therapy. 

Schizophrenia can cause a person to experience, at some point in the illness, delusions and hallucinations. 

Tourettes Syndrome (TS) is a neurological disorder characterized by repetitive involuntary movements and vocalizations called tics. 

Applying Universal Design Principles 

  • Spend extra time with the student, when necessary, and assist the student with planning and time management.
  • Clearly define course requirements, the dates of exams, and when assignments are due; provide advance notice of any changes.
  • Allow the student to tape-record lectures.
  • Allow the student the same anonymity as other students (for example, avoid pointing out the student or the alternative arrangements to the rest of the class).
  • When in doubt about how to assist the student, ask him/her.

Typical Accommodations 

  • Taped lectures
  • Exam modifications
    • Extended time
    • Reduced-distraction test environment

The term “Speech and Language Impairment” refers to difficulties in communication and related areas such as oral motor function. These delays and disorders range from simple sound substitutions to the inability to understand or use language or use the oral-motor mechanism for functional speech. Speech and language disorders have many causes including hearing loss, cerebral palsy, learning disabilities and traumatic brain injuries. 

Speech impairments refer to difficulties producing speech sounds or problems with voice quality. They might be characterized by an interruption in the flow or rhythm of speech, such as stuttering. Speech disorders may be difficulties with the way sounds are formed, called articulation or phonological disorders, or they may be difficulties with the pitch, volume or quality of the voice. There may be a combination of several problems. A student may say “see” when they mean “ski” or they may have trouble using other sounds like “l” or “r.” 

Language impairments are impairments in the ability to understand and/or use words in context, both verbally and nonverbally. Some characteristics of language disorders include improper use of words and their meanings, inability to express ideas, inappropriate grammatical patterns, reduced vocabulary and inability to follow directions. One or a combination of these characteristics may occur in students who are affected by language learning disabilities or developmental language delay. 

Although you may be uncomfortable listening to someone with a speech and language disorder, remember that “your discomfort is not their discomfort.” Make sure you let individuals with speech disorders speak for themselves. Do not finish sentences for them or assume you know what they are going to say. 

At the same time, understand that a student with a communication disorder may be self-conscious and hesitant to participate in class. Try to pace discussion so that there is ample time and opportunity to participate. 

Applying Universal Design Principles 

  • Let the student speak for him or herself, allowing for the time needed to do so.
  • When speaking with a student whose speech is difficult to understand, don’t hesitate to ask for clarification, using writing when necessary.
  • Allow the student the same anonymity as other students (for example, avoid pointing out the student or the alternative arrangements to the rest of the class).
  • When in doubt about how to assist the student, ask him/her.

Typical Accommodations 

Oral presentations may be a concern for students with speech impairments and their instructors. It is recommended that instructors openly discuss these concerns with the student and come up with adjustments to oral assignments, if needed. Listed below are several possibilities for alterations.

  • Modifications of oral assignments including the use of a computer with a voice synthesizer or permitting the student to present directly to the faculty member in his or her office.
  • Allowing substitutions for oral class reports when the oral report is not fundamental to the class.
  • Assigning group projects that allow the student to participate in a reduced capacity in the oral presentation.

Content for this list is from Cornell University and UC Irvine

Gulf Coast State College does not discriminate against any person in its programs, activities, policies or procedures on the basis of race, ethnicity, color, national origin, marital status, religion, age, gender, sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information, disability, or veteran status. All questions or inquiries regarding compliance with laws relating to non-discrimination and all complaints regarding sexual misconduct or discrimination, may be directed to Lee Wood, Executive Director, Human Resources/Title II/504/Title IX Coordinator and Employment Equity Officer, Gulf Coast State College, 5230 W. US Highway 98, Panama City, FL 32401.