This section introduces some neurological conditions and explores how they could impact on a student's academic performance and participation in university life. Here, the main focus is to suggest ways in which you as a staff member can support students with a neurological condition to manage their role of being a student.
- Difficulties that may be experienced by university students who are blind or visually impaired
- Strategies staff can use to support students
Neurological conditions are disorders of the brain, spinal cord and nerves throughout the body. Many conditions may be stable, others may be variable and some will be progressive.
Major types of neurological conditions include Epilepsy, Huntingtons Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Motor Neurone Disease, Friedreichs Ataxia, Parkinsons Disease, brain injury, stroke, and some speech and language difficulties. Speech, language, and communication difficulties include problems with articulation, voice strength, fluency problems, understanding others, expression, or being unable to speak.
Difficulties that may be experienced by university students with neurological conditions
Naturally, the conditions mentioned above and other neurological conditions vary in their symptoms and effects. In general, students with these types of illnesses:
- Often experience fatigue (physical, cognitive, and emotional exhaustion).
- May have difficulties with concentration and completion of tasks or assignments.
- Experience pain.
- Have to take medication (with possible side effects).
- Can be more susceptible to stress, and illnesses could be exacerbated by times of stress.
- Can miss lectures due to medical appointments, illness, or time in hospital.
- Some students may have mobility or postural difficulties; with walking, climbing stairs, or remaining in one position for long periods of time.
- Writing and other fine motor activities (including computer use) may also be affected.
- Students may have difficulty with oral communication.
Strategies staff can use to support students
- As explained here, students may have disclosed a neurological condition to their School. Access the LENS report for details on how you can support the student. Implement and support a student’s reasonable accommodations with efficiency and discretion. Be mindful of how the neurological condition may impact a student’s experience of university life.
- Make lecture notes available in advance if possible. Students with neurological conditions may find it difficult to maintain their concentration during lectures. Having lecture notes in advance enables students within the lecture to reduce the amount of handwritten notes they need to take, allowing them to concentrate on the material being delivered. This may enable the student to conserve energy for the rest of the university day.
- Prioritise reading lists. This enables students to engage more easily with pertinent course texts.
- When planning course timetables, try to ensure timetabling gives all students sufficient time to move between teaching venues. Try to avoid significant location changes within a university day e.g. between Trinity main campus and Trinity Centre for Health Sciences, St. James’s Hospital.
- Be mindful of keeping areas clear, to reduce the likelihood of accidents. In long lectures, it may be helpful to allow students a quick break. Avoid drawing attention to students who may need to leave class. Accommodate students who may need to sit in certain learning situations e.g. in labs or practical anatomy.
- Be patient when teaching students with speech, language, and communication difficulties. Give students the opportunity, without compelling them, to speak in class. Give students the time they require to express themselves. Do not be reluctant to ask the student to repeat a statement.
- Students with complex needs or severely reduced mobility may have a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan (PEEPS). The information for the students safe evacuation in the event of an emergency will be contained in their LENS report. Training in the use of the evacuation equipment can be obtained from the Disability Service.
- Follow Trinity Inclusive Curriculum guidelines as much as possible.
- Help and advice on using the College Accessible information policy.
If you would like more information or support, contact the Disability Service. See the following links for more information about some neurological conditions and useful resources:
- Assistive Technology in TCD
- Student Learning Development in TCD
- Acquired Brain Injury Ireland (http://www.abiireland.ie/)
- MS Ireland (http://www.ms-society.ie/)
- Ataxia Foundation Ireland (https://afi.ie/)
- Irish Motor Neuron Disease Association (http://www.imnda.ie/)
- Huntington's Disease Association of Ireland (http://www.huntingtons.ie/)
- Brainwave- The Irish Epilepsy Association (http://www.epilepsy.ie/)