How Colleges Can Accommodate Students with Anxiety Disorders

by Eileen Bailey Health Writer

Anxiety disorders are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and may make you eligible for accommodations to help compensate for symptoms of anxiety. Your first step is to visit the disability service office of your college. Each school has different requirements for documentation. Make sure you understand what information you need and provide the school with all paperwork. You will also need to request specific accommodations and explain why these accommodations are necessary. The following are some examples of accommodations which have been found helpful for students with anxiety.

Exam location

Taking exams in a separate, quite area can help reduce test anxieties.

Exam time

Requesting extended time for taking exams is completely acceptable for students with anxiety disorders. The additional time helps ease the stress and panic that is heightened with an anxiety disorder.

Seat location

Being able to choose seating which makes you feel most comfortable, for example, some students with anxiety feel most comfortable sitting near an exit where they can easily escape from the classroom if they have an anxiety attack.

Comfort zone

Identifying safe, quiet areas to give students a place to calm down during times of high anxiety.

Alternative Homework Options

Having alternate work, such as reports, papers or projects for students with a high level of test anxiety gives them another option if test taking triggers their anxieity too much.

Avoid traumatic triggers

Providing alternate ideas for projects if the current assignment will trigger memories of previous traumas.

Special allowances

Procedures or allowances for making up missed work. Students with anxiety may miss class time because of panic or anxiety attacks. In these instances, professors can allow extra time to complete assignments or make up work completed during class.

Technology assistance

Allowing tape recorders in class or lectures. Taking notes can be stressful, for example, those with generalized anxiety disorder may worry so much about getting the notes right, they miss important details in a lecture. Using a tape recorder can help alleviate stress and allow the student to listen and participate more fully in class.

Web access

Email or web access to class notes. Some professors will post class notes online, allowing all students to access the notes before or after the class.

Reformatting of tests

Different formats can be used depending on how your anxiety impacts you. For example, for those with test anxiety, tests can be divided up into segments and taken over several days, using essay tests rather than multiple choice (or vice versa) or giving tests orally can help students with anxiety focus on demonstrating their knowledge rather than their nervousness at taking the test.

Established class syllabus

Receiving advance notice of tests or changes within the class. Students with anxiety can focus more on completing their work if they know what to expect. Professors can help by providing pre-planned breaks during long classes or lectures, advance notice of all tests and assignments, and a clear syllabus the student can follow throughout the class.

Eileen Bailey
Meet Our Writer
Eileen Bailey

Eileen Bailey is an award-winning author of six books on health and parenting topics and freelance writer specializing in health topics including ADHD, Anxiety, Sexual Health, Skin Care, Psoriasis and Skin Cancer. Her wish is to provide readers with relevant and practical information on health conditions to help them make informed decisions regarding their health care.