A reader asked:
How do you ask for accomendations when you don’t have a go-to reason to explain why you need it? I don’t know if I’m disabled (I find info about disablities completely inaccessible to me, though i’ve wondered from seeing people talk about things i’ve also experienced) but I do know I can’t learn in certain ways, or process information that’s presented in certain ways, and that I’m prone to sensory overload. people act like i’m being overdemanding when I bring it up. am i? if not, what do I do?
I’ve been there, a lot. I was only diagnosed after college, even though I’ve always been disabled. I was just as impaired before diagnosis; being without a label didn’t magically create abilities. So I’ve spent a lot of time negotiating accommodations informally.
I’ve found that what works best is to give a very simple version of the problem, and to ask for something specific. This can make accommodating you seem like a straightforward thing to do.
For instance: “This is hard for me to read. Is there an electronic copy?” works much better than “I’m autistic and I have visual tracking issues and executive dysfunction and I need a different format.“
Or: “Noisy College Hall is big and crowded. I never understand anything there. Can we have class in the usual room instead of moving?”
Or: “I don’t understand the assignment when it’s said verbally. Can you email me the details?”
Short version: You don’t have to go into great diagnostic detail when you’re negotiating with a teacher directly. You can start by describing the problem and a solution you think would work. This doesn’t always work, but it’s the most effective approach I know of for this situation.