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Communication Resources

Conversation Starters

First Meeting with an Instructor

Think about your specific accommodations beforehand so that you're prepared to express you needs to your professor.

"Hi, my name is (insert your full name) and I'm in your (insert class and course number) class. You signed an accommodation letter from the Office of Disability Services, and I would like to talk to you about my accommodations."

Self-Disclosing Your Disability

In order to be successful, students may choose to disclose their disability with faculty, classmates, roommates, supervisors, social groups, advisors, etc. Typically, when disclosing your disability, it is best to focus not on the condition itself but how the condition impacts your education and what you need in order to be successful.

  • Scenario A: A student with ADHD is meeting with their instructor about getting a reduced-distraction testing location.  They might say: "When I'm in a full classroom taking a test, I have difficulty tuning out some of the sounds that other students can, like papers shifting, throats clearing, etc. A separate testing space will allow me to focus on the test and perform to my best ability."
  • Scenario B: A student with a learning disability is registering for classes with an advisor who suggests they take a 17-credit load.  They might say: "It takes me longer than other students to get through reading material. I want to do well this term, so I think we should look at 12-15 credits and mix up classes so that I have some that don't require a great deal of reading."
  • Scenario C: A student who uses a wheelchair is in a group whose members have proposed meeting in a non-accessible location.  They might say: "That building doesn't have a ramp for me to get into it. How about we meet at the library instead?"

Communicating with Group Members

"Hello, my name is (insert your name) and I am assigned to work with you on the group project in (insert class name). In order for our project to go smoothly, there are a few things I'd like to share with you about my working style."

  • "I communicate better in writing and would like to provide my comments by e-mail."
  • "I tend to be a perfectionist and might need encouragement to say, 'Good Enough.'"
  • "I have difficulties with public speaking and would prefer to be assigned duties other than a spokesperson."
  • "It might take me a few minutes to respond to your questions. I'll appreciate your patience."
  • "I struggle to hear in noisy environments and might need you to repeat some things."
  • "I can't follow a conversation if more than one person is speaking at the same time."
  • "I can be sensitive to noise, lights, or smells. I work best in a quiet, distraction-free environment. Perhaps we could reserve a group study room in the library?"

Requesting a Meeting with an Instructor via Email

  • Template A:

Dear (insert professor's title and name),

I am contacting you to set up a meeting to discuss the accommodation letter you recently signed from the Office of Disability Services. I plan to stop in during your office hours (insert day your professor has office hours). Unfortunately your office is not physically accessible to me. Can we find an alternate space to meet?

  • Template B:

Dear (insert professor's title and name),

I am contacting you to set up a meeting to discuss the accommodation letter you recently signed from the Office of Disability Services. Unfortunately, I have class during your office hours, so I am hoping we can find an alternate time to meet. I am free all day Thursday and after 12 pm on Friday. What time works for you?

Requesting Extra Help via Email

Dear (insert Professor title and name),

I am experiencing difficulties understanding and being able to complete the assignment for (insert class name and course number) that is due (insert due date). Would it be possible to meet with you during your office hours on (insert date) so I can receive some additional help?

In the meantime, are there other resources you could recommend that might help me understand the material better?


(Insert your name)

Communication Tips

Many factors affect communication in the classroom including the professor’s speaking style, classroom setting and type of class. The following suggestions are designed to help you get the most out of the classroom experience:

Meet with Your Professors

It is recommended that you meet with each of your professors before the semester begins, or as early as possible in the semester, to clarify any accommodations you may need in class. It is also helpful to meet with your professors regularly throughout the semester to discuss any communication issues that may arise.


In many classes you may choose to sit in the front row. However in some classes you may prefer to sit in the second or third row in order to observe classmates and the dynamics of the class environment. Take these options into consideration on the first day of class so that you can select the seating location that best fits your needs for lecture and classroom participation.

Classroom Discussion

If you are enrolled in a class that includes discussion or participation, talk with the professor about a seating arrangement that will match your communication needs. For example, the most effective arrangement for group discussion is a circle or semi-circle. Discuss your needs with the professor any time the seating arrangement in the class does not meet your needs.


If you rely on an interpreter or on speech reading, it will be important for you to have adequate lighting during slide presentations or videos. Be sure to communicate this need to your professors early in the semester so they can make lighting modifications if necessary.

Questions and Comments

You may want to ask each of your professors to repeat comments or questions made by other students in class so you can be sure you heard or understood what was being said. This can be done very discreetly and usually benefits other students in class.