Step 1: Consider whether law school accommodations may be right for you.
Many of our LSAT accommodations clients do not know whether they also need to consider requesting accommodations once in law school. It’s important to look at each academic circumstance on its own, because accommodations are only available for students with significant, current functional limitations. That means that, while you may have been limited in your ability to take the LSAT exam, the functional limitations you experience may not still exist during law school exams.
However, as law school begins, if you notice yourself becoming increasingly symptomatic, it might be a good idea to begin the accommodations process before your first exam hits. After all, you will not get the opportunity to retake that exam if you experienced a functional limitation while taking it, but did not have your accommodations request approved by the disability services office of your law school yet.
So, if your chronic back pain is becoming unmanageable when sitting for long periods of time, or you find yourself making medication adjustments with your doctor because you are struggling with panic, depression, and lack of concentration, then you may want to consider them as signs to speak with your disability services office, or to reach out to a disability consultant like me who can assist you with the accommodations process.
Step 2: Don’t let fear of stigmatization prevent you from asking for help.
Many students offer worry that peers or professors might judge them or assess them differently, so opting to not get accommodations feels like relief from that perceived social or academic stigma. In those cases, I encourage my clients to not only examine those fears, but also to list the benefits of accommodations so that their negativity bias does not override careful decision-making.
Benefits like experiencing less stress, less stomach pain, less pressure, and fewer panic attacks are best not to be ignored. After all, accommodations give you the opportunity to deal with those issues without missing out on the extra time or private room you may need to simply level the playing field for yourself and avoid cognitive dysfunction on your exam.
Step 3: Ensure that you are covered under the ADA
The Americans with Disabilities Act covers anyone with a disability that substantially limits one or more major life activity. Until 2008, a major life activity was defined as something that contributes to the proper functioning of the human body (seeing, sleeping, hearing, talking, moving), or the proper functioning of internal organs.
Following an amendment in 2008, a “major life activity” now includes self-care, the ability to perform manual tasks, and the ability to write. The 2008 amendment also added Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as an example of a physical or mental impairment in §§35.108(b)(2) and 36.105(b)(2).
Step 4: Be prepared to submit updated documentation of your current functional limitations.
Your law school may advise you that their school’s paperwork requirements are more rigid than those of the Law School Admissions Council, but the requirements for accommodations are essentially the same by law—you must have proof of a diagnosis, proof of a current functional limitation that substantially limits your ability to work or learn, and the documented support of a qualified professional.
If these requirements did not exist, then anyone could apply for and be approved for accommodations, and that is not the purpose of these services. To that end, the more documentation you have of your history with your present disability or illness, the easier it is for law school’s disability services to distinguish between legitimate candidates and those looking to abuse a system not designed for them.
If you are overwhelmed by the law school accommodations process, we are here to help. Schedule a free consult with me today here.