​Working with Students with Psychiatric Disorders

The term “psychological disorder” is broad and ranges from relatively mild depression over issues such as grades or interpersonal relationships to chronic disorders such as personality disorders, schizophrenia, or manic-depressive disorder. With treatment, such as medication, psychotherapy, and ongoing counseling, the majority of psychological disorders can be cured or controlled.

Probably one of the most serous barriers faced by students with psychological disorders is the stigma and misconceptions surrounding the illness. Societal stereotypes of people with psychiatric disabilities as violent, unpredictable, and fragile, can directly feed into unconscious fears. In reality, people with psychological disorders do not commit more violent crimes than people without diagnosed psychological disorders.

Although most students will never exhibit any symptoms of their disorder in the classroom, there are times when students with persistent or cyclical symptoms may find it difficult not to draw attention to their disorder. The majority of the time, these periods can be predicted, and if not prevented, addressed quickly to minimize any disruption to the class or the student’s academic program.

It is important to note that all students, regardless of disability, have the responsibility to meet the terms of the Minnesota State University, Mankato Conduct Code. If persistent disruptive behavior occurs, the issue should be treated as any other disciplinary issue within individual colleges or departments. The Office of Student Affairs does request notification of any disruptive behavior and subsequent actions so as to be a resource to both the University and the student.

Instructional Strategies and Potential Accommodations

This section is intended to provide faculty with a variety of suggestions for accommodating students with disabilities in the classroom. The accommodation suggestions provided are not all inclusive lists nor are all suggested strategies and accommodations needed for all students with this type of disability. Accessibility Resources office should be consulted by both students and faculty for more information, additional suggestions or further explanation.

  • Allow the use of notetakers, laptops, and tape recorders.
  • Modify seating arrangements when needed to decrease anxiety associated with large groups, maximize use of a tape recorder, allow for frequent trips to the restroom, etc.
  • Allow beverages in class as some medications create extreme thirst as a side effect.
  • Allow for periodic appointments outside of class to discuss progress, provide feedback, etc.
  • Demonstrate flexibility in attendance requirements in case of hospitalization or crisis.
  • Allow incompletes rather than failures in case of prolonged absences due to symptoms or hospitalizations.
  • Provide course materials and/or textbooks in an alternate format (e.g., electronic text).
  • Extend the time allowed to complete assignments if appropriate.