This is a very delicate topic and needs to be approached with the utmost sensitivity. Students will range in their comfort level of discussing this topic. The most important thing to do is to meet with the student and discuss your concerns. Oftentimes, it is helpful to ask open ended questions to begin the discussion.
- “I have noticed that you are struggling with X, please elaborate if you have found this to be a problem in your other classes? or
- What types of academic struggles did you experience in high school?”
Usually, students will open up and share their experiences which will give you some feedback as to whether or not they have sought help for similar issues in the past.
If they have, it would be appropriate to refer the student to DSS at this point. However, if the student does not reveal indicative information about having a disability, we would encourage you to use your best judgment in what you say.
If comfortable and it seems appropriate, you may want to mention that DSS has services that may be helpful for the student (if in fact the student has a disability) and that DSS can refer the student to a provider that can further investigate these concerns.
Typically, you want to avoid saying that you think he/she has a disability as this can be off-putting to the student and sometimes even inaccurate; rather, use words like “academic concerns” and “struggles” when referring to the issues you have experienced with the student.
Each situation will be different so if you or the student are unsure or have further questions, please contact DSS and we can discuss the situation with the student in more detail.