Due to the impact of a chronic medical or psychological disorder, some students may need academic flexibility with attendance or assignment due dates. Students who need such flexibility are often those with disorders that may worsen during the semester or require medication management, hospitalization, or other acute treatment. A reasonable academic flexibility accommodation preserves both the integrity of the course and the student’s access to classroom activities. Appropriate accommodations do not change the expectations for meeting the essential elements of the course.

Student Expectations

Students who need attendance flexibility have a responsibility to communicate with instructors about changes that could affect their performance in the course.

  • In advance, discuss the accommodation plan and guidelines with your instructors.
  • Work with your instructor to determine the extent of flexibility that can be granted using the appropriate guidelines.

Instructor Information

Instructors and students should meet privately to discuss how best to address academic flexibility accommodation needs. Instructors and students are encouraged to work together to determine flexibility guidelines for the student to meet course requirements without altering the essential nature of the course.

Attendance Consideration

Each instructor makes the determination as to how many absences are acceptable in order to pass/meet the expectations of the class. In general, this should be no more than 2-3 additional absences.

Here are some questions instructors can use to determine how much attendance impacts student success in their course:

  • What does your syllabus state regarding attendance and participation?
  • What learning objectives require participation?
  • How is attendance factored into the final course grade?
  • How much interaction is there between you and students and among students in the classroom?
  • How do student contributions impact learning process for other students?
  • How do departmental policies affect your attendance and participation policy?

Read more in the Attendance Consideration Guidelines.

Assignment Due Date Consideration

Students may need due date flexibility for an assignment in the course. Often, student requests for extensions are time-sensitive due to the sudden onset of symptoms. The instructor and the student should proactively discuss the steps for requesting an extension if the need arises.

The student must meet with their instructors at the beginning of the semester (or as soon as the accommodation is approved during the semester) to discuss how this accommodation may be applied to a course. Accommodations are not reasonable if they constitute a fundamental alteration of core elements of the program. Accommodations are not granted retroactively and do not excuse the student from failing to meet deadlines.

  • How and when should the student notify the instructor if they need an extension?
  • How much of an extension is appropriate for each assignment type?

Keep in mind that students with disorders that require due date flexibility sometimes underestimate the effect of the disorder on their studies.

Read more in the Assignment Due Date Consideration Guidelines.

If a student repeatedly requests extensions on assignments, the cumulative effect of postponing their work may cause them to fall too far behind to be successful in the course. However, you can incorporate some strategies for helping your student, including:

  • Providing due dates for all assignments clearly on the syllabus.
  • Informing the student ahead of time if due date flexibility is not possible for a particular assignment.
  • Scaffolding large projects into smaller parts with several deadlines to assist students in staying on task.
  • Referring the student to campus resources related to time management, organization, and study skills.
  • Contacting the student’s ARC Access Specialist when the student is requesting repeated extensions.
  • Granting an incomplete if the student cannot complete the course work before grades are due.


Courses in some disciplines do require that students be present in class to demonstrate mastery of a skill or the content. Such examples include performance classes, studios, labs, and other courses that require real-time interaction among learners. Furthermore, there may be times when a student has missed so many classes that they cannot be successful in the course.

In these cases, you should contact the student’s ARC Access Specialist as soon as possible to explore alternative solutions.

Helping Your Student

You can help a student who needs attendance flexibility by discussing how and when you expect them to communicate with you when they have to miss a class. You should also work with the student to determine clear guidelines for making up missed work. After you and the student have developed a plan, the student should send you an email that summarizes your agreement, copying their ARC Access Specialist. Contact the student’s ARC Access Specialist if you need assistance determining an acceptable number of absences for that student.

There are several ways you can help your student during the semester when they are absent, including:

  • Providing class notes on Canvas or helping them get notes from a classmate
  • Permitting the student to attend another section of the class or view an online version
  • Allowing the student to view a video of course content if it’s available
  • Asking the student to send you their contributions to in-class discussions
  • Granting an incomplete if the student cannot complete the course work before grades are due