Other Disabilities

There are many other medical conditions that may interfere with students’ academic functioning. Some of their symptoms, like limited mobility or vision, and the types of intervention required may resemble those covered elsewhere in this guide. The general principles set forth in the Overview apply, particularly the need to identify the disability and to discuss with the student both its manifestations and the required considerations. Below are brief descriptions of some of the more common conditions, along with recommended accommodations. The Student Accessibility Services Office will provide a list of authorized accommodations that the student will be eligible to receive according to their medical condition.

Multiple Sclerosis
Muscular Dystrophy
Seizure Disorders
Sickle Cell Anemia
Substance Abuse Recovery

Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) Return to Top of Page
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is caused by a virus that destroys the body’s immune system. This condition leaves the person vulnerable to infections and cancers that can be avoided when the immune system is working normally. The virus is transmitted primarily through sexual contact or needle sharing with intravenous drug users. It is not transmitted through casual contact. Manifestations of AIDS are varied, depending on the particular infections or diseases the individual develops. Extreme fatigue is a common symptom. Classroom adaptations will likewise vary. Students with AIDS may be afraid to reveal their condition because of the social stigma, fear, and/or misunderstanding surrounding this illness. It is therefore exceptionally important that the strictest confidentiality be observed. For general classroom considerations, please refer to the Overview section.

Cancer Return to Top of Page
Because cancer can occur in almost any organ system of the body, the symptoms and particular disabling effects will vary greatly from one person to another. Some people experience visual problems, lack of balance and coordination, joint pains, backaches, headaches, abdominal pains, drowsiness, lethargy, difficulty in breathing and swallowing, weakness, bleeding or anemia. The primary treatments for cancer are radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and surgery, which may engender additional effects. Treatment can cause violent nausea, drowsiness and/or fatigue, affecting academic functioning. For general instructional accommodations, please refer to the Overview.

Multiple Sclerosis Return to Top of Page
Multiple sclerosis is a progressive disease of the central nervous system, characterized by a decline of muscle control. Symptoms may be mild to severe in degree: blurred vision, legal blindness, tremors, weakness or numbness in limbs, unsteady gait, paralysis, slurred speech, and difficulty with concentration. Because the onset of the disease usually occurs between the ages of 20 and 40, students are likely to be having difficulty adjusting to their condition. The course of multiple sclerosis is highly unpredictable. Periodic remissions are common and may last from a few days to several months, as the disease continues to progress. It is not unusual to have striking inconsistencies in performance. For appropriate classroom accommodations, refer to section(s) on speech, visual and/or mobility, disabilities, and hand-function disabilities.

Muscular Dystrophy Return to Top of Page
Muscular Dystrophy refers to a group of hereditary, progressive disorders that most often strike the young, producing degeneration of voluntary muscles of the trunk and lower extremities. The atrophy of the muscles results in chronic weakness and fatigue and may cause respiratory or cardiac problems. Walking, if possible, is slow and appears uncoordinated. Manipulation of materials in class may be difficult. For appropriate accommodations, refer to the overview and the section on mobility disabilities and hand-function disabilities. COPD/Asthma Many students suffer from chronic breathing problems, the most common of which is bronchial asthma. Asthma is characterized by attacks of shortness of breath and difficulty in breathing, sometimes triggered by stress, either physical or mental. Fatigue and difficulty climbing stairs may also be major problems, depending on the severity of the attacks. Frequent absence from class may occur and hospitalization may be required when prescribed medications fail to relieve the symptoms. For appropriate classroom accommodations, refer to section on mobility impairments and Overview.

Seizure Disorders Return to Top of Page
(Note: Most students who have seizures will provide you with a checklist of what to do for them in the event they have a seizure. If they do not, ask them to do this for you.)

Seizures have different causes and vary considerably in appearance. Students with epilepsy or other seizure disorders should talk to you at the beginning of the semester to let you know what symptoms they have and what you should do. The degree of severity ranges from a brief staring episode to a grand mal seizure. The latter is the more frightening to observe. Being aware of the following will be of great assistance to you if this occurs in your class.

  • Call 911 immediately-Be prepared to give the following information to the dispatcher and wait for instructions:
    • who is calling;
    • exact location of the emergency;
    • what has happened and what is being done.
    • Station someone outside the building to direct emergency personnel to the scene.
  • Don’t panic. Seizures are usually short and not life threatening.
  • Protect the person from injury by removing sharp or solid objects, chairs or desks, not letting a crowd form, and placing a towel or coat under the person’s head if needed for protection.
  • Keep the person’s airway open. If necessary, grip the person’s jaw gently and tilt his or her head back.
  • Do not try to force anything into the mouth, not even medicine or liquid. These can cause choking or damage to the person’s jaw, tongue or teeth. Contrary to widespread belief, people cannot swallow their tongues during a seizure.
  • If a person seems to be having trouble breathing, loosen any tight clothing around the neck, turn the person on his or her side; or from behind, push the lower jaw up and out; or tilt the head back to open the airway.
  • Following a seizure, the person may be sleepy or confused.
  • Stay with the person until a trained professional arrives.
  • Notify the Student Accessibility Services Office at (575) 646-6840.

Sickle Cell Anemia Return to Top of Page
Sickle Cell Anemia is a hereditary disease primarily affecting blacks. It reduces the blood supply to vital organs and the oxygen supply to the blood cells, making adequate classroom ventilation an important concern. Because many vital organs are affected, the student may also suffer from eye disease, heart condition, lung problems and acute abdominal pain. At times limbs or joints may be affected. The disease is characterized by severe crisis periods, with extreme pain, which may necessitate hospitalization and/or absence from class. Completing academic assignments during these periods may not be possible. For appropriate classroom accommodations, refer to section(s) on visual and hand-function impairments, as well as the Overview.

Substance Abuse Recovery Return to Top of Page
Substance abuse is a condition of physiological and/or psychological dependence on any of a variety of chemicals, such as illegal drugs, some prescription drugs and alcohol. Individuals who are recovering from drug or alcohol abuse or who are in treatment programs to assist their recovery are covered by federal antidiscrimination legislation and are eligible for college services for students with disabilities. These students may experience such psychological problems as depression, anxiety or very low self esteem. They may exhibit poor behavioral control and, if they are using medication as part of their treatment, may experience undesirable side effects. The needs of students with substance abuse issues varies. Refer students showing symptoms of abuse to the appropriate college facility: Counseling Center, Student Health Center or Student Accessibiilty Services. In cases of inappropriate classroom behavior, discuss it with the student in a private setting. Use appropriate campus disciplinary channels when necessary. Refer to the Overview and the section on psychological impairments for additional classroom considerations.