I was diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) after dealing with symptoms for many years and experiencing a serious fall on campus that required hospitalization. After I was discharged from the hospital, my neurologist told me that I had to re-evaluate how I would be taking classes and consider updating my classroom accommodations for POTS to reflect how the condition impacts my experience in traditional in-person classes as well as virtual classes. Here are the disability classroom accommodations and modifications I receive for POTS and an additional neurological condition.
Can I get a Disability Services file for POTS?
Yes, you can get a Disability Services file and disability accommodations for POTS at the college level. My primary disability is low vision/visual impairment, and I had an IEP in high school that focused on vision-related accommodations, and I also received accommodations related to a chronic migraine and Chiari Malformation diagnosis. However, the POTS diagnosis played a role in getting accommodations for remote learning approved, and I also had to modify some of my existing accommodations for the new diagnosis.
Living in college dorms with POTS
After I was hospitalized, my neurologist said it was unsafe for me to live in the dorm setting with uncontrolled POTS, so I had to move home. However, I did receive disability housing accommodations for my other conditions, and would have qualified for housing accommodations with a POTS diagnosis alone. Examples of accommodations can include:
- Climate controlled room with heating/AC
- Building with an elevator
- Shower chair or wheelchair-accessible shower
- Lower-level room location
- Close proximity to ResLife staff, such as resident advisor
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Registering for classes with POTS
Students who have a file with Disability Services often receive priority registration for classes, which can make it easier for students to plan out their schedule. When scheduling classes with POTS, some examples of things to consider include:
- Class location. Can the building be accessed on foot or with Disability Transportation services?
- When the class is offered. If a class has multiple sessions, I can ask the professor if I can attend a later session if I can’t get to my other class in time, or make sure that I have time for meals before or after class
- Classroom layout. Are there chargers nearby? Is there space for mobility aids or other assistive technologies?
- Virtual/asynchronous classes that can be completed any time of day/night
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Positioning and seating accommodations for POTS
POTS can affect a student’s ability to stay in one position for long periods of time. When I sit or stand for too long, my arms and legs begin to change color and it is difficult for me to walk or move safely due to spasms and pain. Examples of positioning and seating accommodations I use for POTS include:
Permission to take stretch breaks or walk around the classroom as needed
My professors would offer stretch breaks to everyone every 30 minutes or so, especially in 3-hour lecture classes. In a virtual or remote class, I often play lectures on my computer or on an external monitor, and walk around my room as needed, or play them on a portable device
I need to sit near an outlet so I can charge assistive technologies, as well as sit in the front row to accommodate low vision. Some students who use mobility aids such as wheelchairs or canes might prefer certain locations for seating as well.
Sitting during presentations/limiting movement
I began using this accommodation after I lost my balance and fell during one of my class presentations- from that point on my professors let me present while sitting in front of the class. Some students may also find it helpful to have papers handed to them instead of having to get up, retrieve the paper, and then sit down.
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Notetaking and assignment accommodations for POTS
Some people with POTS experience brain fog, difficulty with taking notes, or other processing issues. This can extend to notetaking accommodations or modifications to how assignments are presented, which include:
Copies of notes/items presented on the board
My professors would share copies of presentations, items that are presented on the board, and similar documents. I would take my own notes and use these as a supplement to ensure I copied information correctly
Use of a tablet for assignments/digital formats
I prefer to read assignments on my iPad instead of a computer because I can hold the screen at a comfortable angle under my glasses and complete assignments while lying down. I had to request a separate accommodation for using my tablet during tests
Extended time for assignments
If I think I will need extended time for something, I tell the professor within 24 hours of when I first receive the assignment, and have 150% extended time to complete it. For example, if an assignment is due in 2 days, I have 3 days to complete it without penalty. This is helpful if I am having a flare and can’t sit at my computer for long periods of time.
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Attendance accommodations for POTS
I love going to my classes, but living with POTS can make it difficult for me to get to classes sometimes, especially if it is very hot outside or if I have to go to a doctor’s appointment. I was approved for the following attendance accommodations for POTS:
Permission to record class lectures/access recordings
Instead of having me record my own lectures, my professors would make recordings of lectures available for all students on the course website 24 hours after class time. Individual colleges and universities have policies for student recordings, and Disability Services will provide additional details as needed. After I disclosed this accommodation to my professors, they chose to create their own recordings to make accessible to everyone, or gave me access to videos they recorded for their online classes that cover similar material.
If I had to record lectures on my own, I would use the audio recording tool built into Microsoft OneNote or Notability.
Attending classes remotely
After I had to move home due to severe POTS, I attended classes remotely for the rest of the semester through web conferencing tools and having my brother bring an iPod Touch with FaceTime to each of my classes- if he wasn’t available, I had another plan worked out with the department manager and professors for attending class. I would also meet with individual professors during office hours and complete assignments on the course website.
Receiving an incomplete grade for classes
I couldn’t finish all my assignments for my classes before the end of the semester due to multiple hospital trips, so I requested an incomplete (I) grade in my classes so that I would have an additional 6-12 weeks to finish my finals and turn in work. I made a plan with my professors for turning in assignments, and they submitted a grade update to the registrar after I turned everything in. If I needed additional time to finish assignments, my professor could apply for an IX grade (incomplete extension), which would give me an additional semester or longer to finish outstanding assignments and exams. If I did not complete assignments before the deadline I set with my professors, the I/IX would convert to an F, or put a hold on my graduation application.
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Exams and testing accommodations for POTS
Since I have a Disability Services file, I can take exams, quizzes, and other timed assignments in the Disability Services Testing Center. My testing accommodations closely resemble the accommodations that I receive in the classroom, including:
- Extended time (150%) to accommodate for a slower reading speed or using assistive technology
- Flexibility with scheduling exams or assignments- if needed, I can take them on a different date/time with professor permission
- Ability to take breaks or walk around a small room
- Taking exams digitally or with Guided Access
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Miscellaneous accommodations for POTS
Other miscellaneous classroom accommodations for POTS that I’ve received include:
Permission to have food/drink in class and/or exams
Since a lot of my classes were in computer labs, I would eat items facing away from the computer or step out into the hall for a quick snack if I was in front of computers. I would avoid bringing items that have peanuts or tree nuts since these are common airborne allergens
There isn’t a strict dress code at most colleges, but I did make some modifications to my band uniform to accommodate for POTS, and would also choose clothing for class that would help me keep symptoms under control. For example, heat intolerance and numbness make wearing socks extremely uncomfortable, so I would change shoes before/after class in the bathroom if I absolutely had to wear socks when walking outside.
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List of disability classroom accommodations for POTS
- Housing accommodations (which are separate from classroom accommodations)
- Priority registration and options for taking virtual classes
- Permission to take stretch breaks/walk around classroom
- Preferential seating
- Limiting movement/physical activity
- Copies of notes and other materials
- Digital copies of assignments
- Use of a tablet or computer for notetaking or assignments
- Extended time for completing assignments and/or exams
- Permission to record lectures
- Flexible attendance/attending class remotely
- Extended time for completing assignments during the semester
- Use of the Disability Services Testing Center
- Permission to have food/drink
- Modifying uniforms or other clothing