Resources for Disabled Students

Students with Cognitive/Neurological Disabilities

(including learning or perceptual disabilities, attention deficit disorder, traumatic brain/head injury, autism spectrum, etc.)

Students who have conditions that significantly affect the learning process and/or the ability to interact effectively with others may find the following information useful regarding the academic expectations at CSU.  In addition, students who have head injuries or who are on the Autism Spectrum may benefit from additional support provided through the Opportunities for Postsecondary Success (OPS), a grant program that provides one-on-one mentoring.  For more information, visit the OPS website.


Cognitive disabilities can signficantly impact an individuals ability to process information and comprehend ideas. These disabilities include, but are not limited to: attention deficit disorder, specific learning disabilities, and traumatic head injuries.  Students with neurological conditions such as those on the Autism Spectrum may also encounter difficulties that affect their learning process and/or ability to interact effectively with others. 

Students with cognitive/neurological disabilities are expected to meet the same requirements as other students for admission and for graduation. In general, course requirements are not modified as an accommodation. Students must be able to comprehend abstract ideas as well as perform concrete tasks.

The method to demonstrate mastery of knowledge is commonly at the discretion of instructors. While some courses require this demonstration through papers and projects, students are more likely required to illustrate how much they know through exams. It is possible to accommodate students through different testing environments and formats. Students are not necessarily graded on effort although some instructors may factor this in when determining final grades.

Students who maintain a cumulative 2.0 grade point average (GPA) or above are considered in good standing with the university. Students who fall below a 2.0 cumulative GPA will be placed on probation. Students then have 2 semesters in which to raise their GPA to a 2.0 or better. At the end of two semesters, if a student's GPA is still below a 2.0, he/she will be dismissed from the university. (Petitions for exceptions are possible.)

Students who receive a failing grade in a course may take advantage of what is called "repeat/delete."  This means a student can take the class again and substitute the passing grade for the failing grade.  However, this can only be used for up to 10 credit hours.


Individuals with cognitive/neurological disabilities may have difficulty meeting all the criteria required for admission to Colorado State University (CSU) due to the effect of their specific limitations.  All applicants are evaluated holistically and information provided by the applicant as to how he/she has been able to be sucessful with a particular disability may be helpful in this analysis.  Contact Admissions for more information about criteria for admission.

Students are encouraged to disclose as much information as needed to ensure admissions counselors have an adequate perception of a student's potential. A student may be admitted under specific conditions if it is determined that a student has potential. See General Information for information on the admissions process.

Students who want to attend CSU but do not meet the criteria for admissions may be able to transfer in after taking courses at another institution. Students must meet the criteria for transfer, including a minimum 2.0 grade point average. Courses at another institution must be considered equivalent courses at CSU in order to receive transfer credit. Contact Admissions for more information as a transfer student.


While some classes may present hands-on learning opportunities, many of the academic programs offered by CSU are theory-based. A student can expect a learning environment that is dependent not only on lectures and textbooks but also on self-initiative.

The majority of faculty are more than willing to meet with individual students to enhance the task of mastering course content. However, it is expected that students are primarily responsible for their own learning process. Exams are usually the method used to measure mastery of knowledge.

Students should be prepared to develop competencies in written and oral communication, mathematics, logical and critical thinking through the All-University Core Curriculum. Foundations and perspectives in the sciences, arts and humanities, social and behavioral sciences, history, global and cultural awareness, U.S. public values and institutions, and health and wellness are also part of this curriculum. The requirements of the Core Curriculum and a student's major are combined requirements for graduation from CSU.


Each student is assigned to an academic advisor once a specific major is declared by the student. Students not yet decided on a major or who want to enter a controlled major will be assigned to an advisor in the Center for Advising and Student Achievement (CASA). Controlled majors require the completion of specific courses and a minimum GPA before a student is accepted into the department. Contact the CASA for more information on courses as a student with an undeclared major or about controlled majors.

Advisors help plan a student's path toward completion of not only the requirements of the major but also those needed for graduation. Not all advisors, however, will be familiar with a student's particular needs concerning a cognitive disability. Students are encouraged to discuss with their advisors their particular learning difficulties as well as strengths and to consult with the RDS Counselor concerning their selection of courses.

The RDS Counselor can provide added insight into what to expect and the possible impact a particular schedule may have on a student.

Course Requirements

The All-University Core Curriculum includes the requirements of composition and mathematics, either of which may be difficult for some students with particular learning disabilities. Students have the option of taking the equivalent of these courses at another institution (e.g. community college) for transfer or completing the requirements at CSU. (See General Information concerning transfer of credits.)

Composition is a general requirement for graduation.  Students who have difficulty with the process of writing may need to employ a variety of strategies to meet this requirement.  Contact the RDS Counselor or the English Department (359 Eddy Building, (970) 491-6428) for more information.

All students must take the Mathematics Placement Exam (MPE) prior to taking any mathematics course at CSU. Three (3) credits of mathematics are required for graduation. These credits may be completed through a three (3) credit course (e.g. in applied mathematics) or through the Individualized Mathematics Program (IMP). The IMP offers self-directed modules in algebraic functions (one (1) credit per module). The satisfactory completion of the three IMP courses (or transferred equivalent) is a pre-requisite for majors that require advanced mathematics. Group tutoring sessions are available for any student enrolled in lower-division mathematics courses. For more information, contact the RDS Counselor.

Individual substitutions for courses are initiated through the department of a student's particular major field of study. (Substitutions are generally not allowed for courses considered essential to a particular major.) Any alteration to a student's course of study must be supported by appropriate disability documentation and negotiated within the student's major department and approved by the department's college. Exceptions for requirements must also be approved by the Provost. Final approval for any substitution or alteration is required by the university's Registrar for graduation purposes, excluding extra time for completion.

Tutoring and other support can often help students complete difficult requirements, especially if there are no other alternatives available for essential courses of a major (see Tutoring for sources).

Interacting with Instructors

Students with cognitive disabilities are strongly encouraged to discuss their needs for accommodation with their instructors within the first two weeks of classes. Students are expected to provide instructors with a memo from the RDS Counselor that verifies the need for accommodations.

If an instructor is unfamiliar with the accommodations needed for a cognitive disability or hesitant to work with the student, the RDS staff will help facilitate or negotiate the provision of a specific accommodations. Instructors are encouraged to consult with RDS concerning accommodations so it is recommended that a student also contact RDS prior to meeting with an instructor to discuss what might be needed.

Faculty are provided academic freedom to determine what is and is not required for their particular courses. Each will also have their own teaching style. While minor changes may be requested of a faculty member (e.g. deadlines for assignments), significant changes to course requirements and/or teaching style is generally not considered a reasonable accommodation.

Some courses may be taught by a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) who is supervised by a professor. Some accommodations may have to be requested from, or negotiated with, the supervising professor even though many GTA's are given the authority to implement them


The provision of an accommodation begins only once the need is made known to appropriate university personnel. A student must be considered eligible for an accommodation based on the documented presence of a disability and the significance the limitation has to participating in a course or program.

A student who needs accommodations in courses should first meet with the RDS Counselor. After an assessment of needs, the RDS Counselor will provide the student with a letter that will be given to each faculty member for each course for which an accommodation will be needed. This letter verifies for the faculty member that the accommodation is appropriate for a student's need. A faculty member need not provide an accommodation simply on the word of a student.

A student who does not request accommodations prior to receiving an unsatisfactory grade on an exam, or for a course, will not have that grade "forgiven" after the fact, regardless of whether or not an accommodation was needed. Students can take the course again and request a "repeat/delete" procedure that would substitute the second grade for the first, providing the second grade is higher. The deleted grade will not be included in calculating the student's overall GPA.

In addition, while faculty play a major role in the accommodative process, not all may be familiar with how best to accommodate a student with a cognitive disability. Therefore, the student is responsible for initiating the accommodative process as well as for participating in determining what would be the most appropriate and reasonable accommodation.

An accommodation cannot alter the fundamental nature of a course or program, nor is it to produce an undue administrative burden.

There are no guarantees that a student will receive exactly the accommodation requested. Accommodations are provided that give effective access to the academic environment and for which resources are available.

Extra Time

Students with cognitive disabilities may need extra time to complete assignments within a semester. This is considered a reasonable request that is negotiated with individual instructors. However, unlimited time is not considered a reasonable accommodation.

Some students may also find it necessary to take longer in completing course requirements for a particular major. While eight (8) semesters is considered optimal for completion of a degree, students often find it necessary to extend their student status in order to balance the demands of the courses with their learning abilities. Decreased course loads per semester are often recommended, especially during the first two years, so that students have the opportunity to adjust to the pace of university study. Specific combinations of courses, too, can have a detrimental impact on students. Since some courses are not taught every semester, it may require students an extra semester or two to ensure all courses are completed as successfully as possible.

Extra time may be an appropriate accommodation for taking exams and quizzes. Students may be eligible for time and a half or double time, depending upon their individual need. This determination is made by the RDS Counselor after interviewing a student and evaluating appropriate documentation.

RDS Support

Students with cognitive disabilities must have appropriate documentation on file with RDS before they will be considered eligible for accommodations. This documentation must be from someone qualified to diagnose the specific cognitive disability and who is not related to the student.

Documentation should describe the student's strengths, as well as weaknesses, caused by the cognitive disability. Suggestions concerning accommodations are helpful.

Before any accommodation is implemented by RDS, a student must first meet with the RDS Counselor for an intake and assessment interview. At this time, she will suggest appropriate services that might be useful as accommodations. These services include, but are not limited to: priority registration, alternative testing, taped textbooks, and note-taking support. (See General Information for more details.)

Students are also encouraged to meet regularly with the RDS Counselor if so desired. Assistance is available with advising (in consultation with academic advisors), study strategies, and problem-solving as well as providing guidance in dealing with day to day issues of student life. Appropriate referrals will also be made if a particular concern is outside the purview of RDS.


While tutoring is not considered an accommodation, it is often very helpful for students with cognitive disabilities. Peer tutoring is usually available from a variety of sources. Some tutoring is provided as group study while other tutoring may be one-on-one.

Tutoring offered by specific departments is generally free. Private tutors may also be found through academic departments for a fee. Some tutoring programs are sponsored directly by the university. The following resources are used most often by students with cognitive disabilities:

  • The Academic Advancement Center (AAC) provides one-on-one tutoring for most undergraduate subjects. Students must meet the AAC specific criteria to be eligible.
  • The Mathematics Department provides free walk-in tutoring for specific courses especially related to the Individual Mathematics Program (IMP).
  • The Teaching Institute for Teaching and Learning (TILT) provides free group tutoring for courses related to a variety of courses.

RDS may also have available information and resources for more specific needs related to tutoring. (See General Information for details.)


The following resources have also proven helpful for students with cognitive disabilities. (See General Information for additional resources.)

The Writing Center

Students who would like help with their writing skills may go to the Writing Center located in C104 Aylesworth, (970) 491-0222. This is a free tutoring service for students who have work "in progress" only. The Writing Center does not provide proofreading support. Walk-in appointments are welcome during the Center's open hours.

Study Skills

Students are encouraged to seek out effective study strategies. Information designed to assess and/or improve study skills may be available through the Academic Advancement Center, through the Residence Hall system and through the Learning Assistance Program. For more information, see General Information or contact the RDS Counselor.

Assistive Technology Resource Center

Specific software such as DragonSpeak (voice activated) can be effective for students who have difficulty with the process of writing. The Assistive Technology Resource Center (ATRC) is able to assist students in discovering which available technology support would be of most use to them. For more information contact the ATRC at 304 Occupational Therapy Building, (970) 491-6258.


RDS will assist students in locating other appropriate services on campus and in the Fort Collins community as needed. If you have further questions concerning CSU and the accommodations that are available to you as a student, please contact RDS.



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