Targeted study support for students with disabilities – what teachers need to know
Every student has different needs. There are students with some kind of disability or special needs on most courses who need study support and adaptations. As the course coordinator or teacher, you are one of several key persons when it comes to making education accessible and providing equal opportunities for all students.
Targeted study support covers individual support and adaptions for students with disabilities that affect their study situation.
Read more under the headings below:
- Distance teaching because of the coronavirus – what applies to support and adaptations?
- Checklist for course coordinators
- Accessible teaching
- Support and adaptions in short
- Support for students with a permanent disability
- The student must apply for targeted study support
- Build on the intended learning outcomes when adapting examinations
- Consult with the coordinators when choosing how to adapt examinations
- The department can be reimbursed for extra costs
- Communicating with students and professional secrecy
- Information to students who have been granted support
- Students with reading and writing difficulties but no assessment report
- Laws and policies
- Resources available to all students
- Launch the course page and post the reading list at least 8 weeks before the course starts to give students who use audiobooks sufficient time to acquire the literature needed.
- Post the preliminary schedule at least 4 weeks before the course starts.
- Inform students both orally and in writing that they need to contact you if they have any special needs.
On most courses, there will be students who have been granted targeted study support. What helps these students is usually helpful for all students. Some suggestions for how to make your teaching more accessible:
- Make sure the course as a whole, as well as the individual components, has a clear structure. If possible, avoid making changes to the structure.
- If you have to change the structure, inform students about this both orally and in writing.
- Make handouts available on the web, if possible before the lecture.
- Plan for sufficient breaks and make sure you take them.
- When lecturing, start by presenting how the lecture is organised and finish by summarising what you have been saying.
- Make sure you and others can be heard:
- Always use a microphone if possible.
- Stand facing the students.
- Repeat questions and comments.
As a teacher, you will be closely involved in some of the support and adaptations. Others will be handled by the coordinators at the Division of Educational Affairs.
- Adapting course components. Planned by the course coordinator together with the student, if necessary in consultation with a coordinator.
- Adapted examination. Decision by the examiner, recommendation by the coordinator. More information below.
- Additional supervision for independent projects (Bachelor's or Master's level). Agreed in advance with the coordinator.
- Course books in adapted formats such as audiobooks. Student coordinates with help from the library.
- Note-taking assistance. A fellow student helps with note-taking and is reimbursed through the coordinator.
- Mentor. An experienced student or a teacher helps with planning and structuring the student's studies and is reimbursed through the coordinator.
- Software (speech synthesis and spell checkers). All students and staff have access to this software. Students can download them from the SLU software share or get help from IT support. It is a good idea to remind students about this.
- Sign language interpreter. Handled by the coordinator.
Read more about support and adaptation on the pages for students.
Only students with permanent disabilities are entitled to targeted study support. Examples of permanent disabilities are dyslexia, neuropsychiatric disorders such as ADHD and Asperger syndrome, mental ill-health, visual or hearing impairments, reduced mobility or chronic diseases that affect studies.
Application should be done through the nationwide Nais system. The student will need to provide documentation from a specialist certifying that they have a disability. The coordinator will then make an assessment based on this certificate and an interview with the student. The coordinator's decision will be posted in Nais, with information on the kind of support the student is entitled to (such as note-taking or a mentor) and recommendations for adaptations. The course coordinator/examiner decides what adaptations are feasible and suitable for the course in question. The student can download the decision from Nais and send the recommendations to the course coordinator.
All students should fulfill the same intended learning outcomes, but they may use different methods for doing so. It is important not to deviate from the learning outcomes specified in the course syllabus. All SLU course syllabuses contain a standard phrase that gives the examiner the right to provide an adapted examination or let the student take the test in a different manner, provided the student has been granted special learning support.
The following are some adaptations a student can typically be granted at written examinations:
- Extra time (usually 25%)
- Take the exam individually or as part of a smaller group.
- Use of a computer with speech synthesis.
- Other forms of adaptions, or alternative forms of examinations that may be possible:
- Orally supplementing a written examination.
- Oral instead of written examination.
- Dividing an examination into two parts.
- Oral presentation in a small group.
- Written instead of oral examination.
- Extra time for written assignments. If the student meets their individual deadline, they can still be awarded one of the higher grades.
The practical solutions available for written examinations vary between campuses. In Alnarp and Umeå, as well as at the VH Faculty in Uppsala, there is a joint service for administration related to examinations. A similar organisation is being developed for all of Campus Ultuna.
According to the SLU Education Planning and Administration Handbook, students who want to request an adapted examination must contact the course coordinator or the course administrator at least 15 working days before the examination date. (Section 8.2, https://internt.slu.se/en/support-services/education/education-at-bachelors-and-masters-level/local-statutes-and-organization/education-planning-and-administration-handbook/)
Provided the student gives their approval, the coordinator can discuss suitable adaptations for different course components and examinations with the course coordinator. The coordinators can also visit your department and give a presentation on learning support and accessible teaching.
SLU allocates funding for targeted study support. The department should contact the coordinators for reimbursement of extra costs related to examination or extra supervision. All support must be agreed with the coordinator in advance.
The student owns their own personal data and is responsible for contacting those concerned such as course coordinator, the examiner or the person handling administration of the examination. Sometimes the coordinator may contact those concerned, after agreeing this with the student. As course coordinator, you can also invite the student to discuss suitable adaptations. Remember that some of the information the coordinator has about the student and that you as course coordinator may sometimes take part of, are covered by professional secrecy. Any details related to the student's integrity must be handled with the utmost care.
Students granted support are:
- instructed to contact the course coordinator as soon as possible;
- reminded that only the student receives the decision on support and that it is their responsibility to forward the information to those who need it;
- informed that it is the examiner who decides what adaptation is possible for any given examination;
- told to always inform those concerned in good time before e.g. an examination to allow sufficient time to organise the examination according to the student's needs. According to the SLU Education Planning and Administration Handbook, students who want to request an adapted examination must contact the course coordinator or the course administrator at least 15 working days before the examination date.
SLU does not conduct assessments of reading and writing difficulties or dyslexia; the student will need to contact the regular medical services or a private consultant for this. The coordinators can help with contact details and information about what support is available for students who do not have an assessment report.
More information below under 'Resources available to all students'.
- SLU is committed to ensuring equal opportunities. Special learning support is offered to compensate for any disabilities and make education accessible to all students on equal terms.
- The Discrimination Act
- Ordinance on the responsibility of national authorities for implementation of the disability policy (only available in Swedish)
- UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
- Swedish Agency for Participation
We suggest you refer students who may need support to the information available on the student web on resources available to all students.
- Reading and writing support at the SLU Library
- Download writing support software
- Centre for Academic Language
- Tips on study techniques
- Study and career guidance
- Student Health Centre
- University chaplaincy/student chaplains