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Psychiatric Disorders

Students with psychiatric disabilities have extreme emotional difficulty that requires medical treatment. With a combination of treatment therapies such as counseling, medication, and support, psychiatric disabilities can be controlled. Students who experience situational specific difficulties are not typically considered legally eligible for accommodations. Conditions such as "Adjustment Disorder" and "Test Anxiety" would not typically qualify a student for services. A student must be experiencing symptoms for an extended period of time and those symptoms must be inhibiting them from functioning normally in one or more major life areas. Listed below are six major examples of psychiatric disabilities.

  • Anxiety Disorders: Individuals have extreme feelings of apprehension and fear over specific social or circumstantial situations. Anxiety disorders are characterized as having an abnormal, overwhelming sense of apprehension that is often accompanied with physiological signs or symptoms.
  • Bipolar disorder: Individuals with this diagnosis display moods of both mania and depression. During feelings of mania, a person might experience heightened sense of self-esteem, speak excessively, and a decreased need for sleep.
  • Depression: Depression ranges from having a lack of interest in most activities, to thoughts of suicide, and feelings of hopelessness and guilt. Onset can begin at any age.
  • Schizophrenia: A chronic mental disability that displays psychotic and delusional symptoms that interfere with thinking, feelings, and behavior. Schizophrenia is not due to affective disorders, organic mental disorder, or mental retardation.
  • Autism: A lifelong developmental disability which typically appears in early childhood. It is educationally defined as including disturbances with varying degrees of severity. The following areas significantly interfere with the learning process: 1) developmental rates and sequences; 2) cognition; 3) communication; 4) sensory processing; 5) social participation; and 6) the repertoire of activities, interests, and imaginative development.
  • Asperger's Syndrome (AS): A Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) characterized by severe and sustained impairment in social interaction, development of restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, and activities. These characteristics result in clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. Persons with Asperger's Syndrome (AS) share some of the characteristics exhibited those with Autism. In contrast to Autism, there are no clinically significant delays in language or cognition or self help skills or in adaptive behavior, other than social interaction.
  • It is your legal responsibility to provide the student anonymity from the other students (e.g., avoid pointing out the student or explicitly mentioning their accommodation need to the class).
  • It is perceived that there are more people with psychiatric disabilities, when actually this is due to an increase in more people seeking treatment.
  • Genetics can also play a role in psychiatric disabilities as does trauma.
  • With a combination of medication and therapy, many people with a psychiatric disability can receive relief from their symptoms.
  • Most individuals with psychiatric disabilities do not display disruptive behavior.
  • Instructional Strategies-Psychiatric Disabilities
  • Include a statement in your course syllabus regarding accommodation issues for students with disabilities. See the Suggested Disability Statement for course syllabi.
  • Clearly define your course requirements and specifically state the dates of exams and when assignments are due.
  • Provide the option for the student to tape record lectures.

Common Accommodations
The following list includes examples of accommodations that are commonly used by students with a psychiatric disability. Not all students with a psychiatric disability are eligible to receive all of following listed accommodations, nor are they limited to those listed when receiving accommodations. Eligibility for receiving any kind of accommodation depends upon factors specific to the nature of the student's disability and the nature of the course in which the accommodations are to be used. The accommodations included on the Student Accommodation Letters are approved by Disability Services and are considered to be both appropriate and required for that particular student.

Extended Time on Exams and Quizzes
  • Reduced Distraction Environment (exams)
  • Note taking Assistance
  • Tape Record Lectures


Main Campus Building Room E108

300 The Fenway
Boston, MA 02115


For more information regarding Disability Services, please contact:

Timothy Rogers
Director of Disability Services

Erin Glover
Coordinator, Disability Services

For appointments, call 617-521-2474.