Strategies in working with students who have Psychological Disorders:
- Students who have emotional or significant psychological disorders must meet the same code of conduct as any other student. They cannot abuse the right of access to the classroom instruction nor can they intimidate or otherwise put others at risk including the faculty. It is likely that the student with the true psychological disability is quite well-behaved and reticent in class. As long as the student takes the medication as prescribed for the illness, meets with his counselor and/or psychiatrist on a regular basis, you may not be aware a student has an emotional disorder.
- Reduced course loads are a good solution for some students with psychological disorders. Being overwhelmed by deadlines, papers, commuting, social isolation – all can become more manageable for a student who has emotional needs if there is a reduced course load. Often funding can be an issue, but the college and SUNY have designed TAP and other aid with these eventualities. Going to classes year round also encourages the student by keeping an acceptable and consistent approach to daily living.
- Teamwork – support coordination – has proven very helpful for students with severe emotional needs. It prevents minor events from turning into calamities, controls time and mood issues, and establishes roles and acknowledges skills held by each of the student’s campus support system members. The group which meets every two weeks with the student could be: disability services staff, several faculty that teach the student that semester, academic advisor, RA or RD if necessary, tutors, and a member of the counseling center staff. Not all of the participants have to be present each meeting, a confidentiality agreement and the right to share ideas and work together have to meet with the approval of the student. Triage by the counseling center staff gives control to the meeting and leaves the professionals in charge. Often students with emotional needs are diffident, and the sheer act of telling one’s story or explanation to five different people at different times can set off waves of panic. Saying the same information just once, in a meeting, with some of the material presented by the counselor is a huge relief.
- Despite all of the best planning, sometimes a student needs to take a leave or go to the hospital for a brief stay. New medication may make a student groggy or unable to overcome some difficult side effects for awhile. Schedules may need to be adjusted. Despite pleas from the Disability Services staff and from the student, medication may need to be changed mid-semester as the new scrip may be medically necessary. An incomplete or an extension for a deadline might be needed.
- It is always a good idea to work with the Disability Services staff if there is a situation where a student’s behavior is questionable. The advice and intervention as well as appropriate referrals can be made by this staff, and faculty can do the work of teaching and working with the student on class work.
- Keep emails, notes, and other records from students if there is a pattern of behavior that may need to be reviewed. Keep records of phone calls and conversations, and discuss incidents with the department chair for further advice. If the faculty feel there is a sense of threatening behavior, ask to meet with the student with the chair or another faculty member present.