Students who have a mental health condition may need additional support to help them do the best they can in school and work. The “Americans with Disabilities Act” (ADA) entitles students with disabilities, like mental health conditions, to get academic help with academic accommodations and other legal rights. Most schools are used to providing typical accommodations such as: note taker, extra time for assignments, and assistive technology for students of many different disabilities. Yet, the challenges of having a mental health condition are unique. These tips will help you to think “outside-the-box” to get the educational accommodations that help you with your unique struggles.

Here are some examples of educational accommodations that may be helpful to the unique challenges of having a mental health condition:

Advance Warning or “Pre-Processing”

If classes make you nervous, it may help if the professor lays out what is going to happen at the start of class. This allows for “pre-processing” so that you can prepare mentally for what’s to come, easing any anxiety about not being prepared for class.

Broken Time

If you struggle with having to focus for a long period of time, a “broken time” accommodation may help. “Broken time” is different from “extended time.” Having “extended time” involves having 150% of the time originally given to take an exam, or some call it, “time and a half.” In “broken time,” you work for a period of time on classwork, an in-class essay or exam, during which you are allowed to take short breaks. You spend the same amount of time on the activity as everyone else, but the time is just broken up. Taking a break can refresh and reorient your mind, allowing you to better focus on the activity. This
way whatever time you spend feeling anxious or distracted will not count towards your total time given. Professors Limiting or

Changing the Way Demand Responses are Requested

Being called upon in class or “demand responses”, can cause a lot of anxiety. Limiting being called upon in class unless your hand is raised can be requested as an accommodation. If the professor has established a need for in-class participation that counts towards your grade, the accommodation can be that the professor prepares the student before calling on them in class so that the student has time to ready themselves.

Reframing Participation Questions or In-Class Feedback

Professors can “reframe” questions in order to help you give a clearer, more correct, or specific answer while participating in class. If a discussion in class needs to be cut short because of time, but you still need further explanation, you can request that the professor meet with you after class. Reducing Distraction – Finding classes with a small number of students can help if you struggle with concentration. If the school can’t provide a smaller class, you may be accommodated by having a reserved seat at the very front of the class.

More information available at:

Source: DiGalbo, L., Logan, D., Duperoy, T. & Smith, T. (2017). Outside-The-Box Accommodations: Real Support for Real Students, Tools for School II. Worcester, MA: University of Massachusetts Medical School, Department of Psychiatry, Systems and Psychosocial Advances Research Center (SPARC), Transitions Research and Training Center.

From Family Matters, IL PTI, Spring, 2018 Newsletter,