Managing Students

So you’ve hired a student with a disability – now what? 

Sometimes employers worry that an employee with a disability will bring more personal and performance problems to the workplace than other workers. Some also feel uncomfortable talking with the employee about problems when they do occur. However, supervising people with disabilities really isn’t very different from supervising someone who is not disabled. 

Strategies for Supervision:

  • Like any new employee, people with disabilities should be made to feel a part of the company. They often experience low self-esteem, or may have very little work experience, which may make them feel unsure of themselves on the job. You can build their confidence by including them in decision-making and social activities and providing regular feedback about their performance. Let the employee know which co-workers they can ask for help, and encourage them to ask questions.

  • Make performance standards clear to all workers and hold them to those standards. Employers are not required to hire or retain individuals who are not able to meet qualitative or quantitative standards, even with accommodations.

  • Arrange regular meeting times. Explain that this time is set aside to give both of you the opportunity to plan together and to practice any work skills that need reinforcing. Successes and any necessary modifications in tasks and behaviors can be discussed. These types of meetings offer a less-threatening atmosphere for evaluation than conferences called when problems occur.

  • Be patient. Individuals with certain disabilities may need repetition and time to process information.

In the event that a problem does arise, here are some guidelines for handling the situation:

  • Deal with personal or performance problems of an employee with a disability just as he or she would any other employee. Workers with disabilities do not have exemptions from punctuality and attendance rules and other employment conditions.

  • Do some “detective work” to determine the cause of the problem. Was it a behavior generally attributed to someone with this specific disability? Were expectations too high or too low? Consider if expectations were clearly established and understood by both parties.

  • Meet with the employee and state the issue clearly and precisely. Use facts and documentation to support your statement and describe the impact of the issue. 

  • State clearly how behavior and performance must change to resolve the situation, and state the consequences if the problem is not resolved. Document the results of the meeting and all follow-up activities in your records.

  • Allow the employee to respond to your concerns and to provide additional information. Use active listening to arrive at possible solutions – for example, say “Describe what you think might work”.

  • Agree on a time frame for follow-up and describe how you will monitor progress. 

  • Finally, end the meeting on a positive note.

Keep in mind that disabilities have varying degrees of severity. Treat each person with a disability as an individual. Let the person know you respect their privacy, but you need to understand their needs to help them become a successful employee. Finally, individuals with disabilities should have the same opportunities as co-workers who are not disabled when it comes to promotions, awards, assignments and participation in special programs. Remember, disability does not equal inability.



How to Hire and Supervise a Person with a Disability

Supervising People with Disabilities - Hint, It Really Isn't Very Different than Anyone Else