Lately, I have been receiving a lot of e-mails asking how you can explain to your professor that you have Crohn’s Disease. The embarrassing symptoms and the fact that a lot of people have no clue what Crohn’s Disease is make it hard to talk about, especially to some grumpy college professor. However, it is super important that you communicate with your professor early in the semester about your disability so they can help you, or at least refrain from flunking you for missing assignments or classes.
That said, the question still lingers. How do you tell your teachers you have Crohn’s Disease? From my experience, there are two ways to do this.
E-mail is nice because you don’t have to deal with the potential weird looks and eye rolling. There is also the added bonus of a “paper” trail just in case you run into complications obtaining accommodations. The con is that e-mails can easily be ignored or overlooked. I have provided a sample message you can adapt and e-mail to your professors at the beginning of the semester. Just make sure you remember to replace all the names and dates with your personal data.
Dear Professor Hamilton,
My name is Tony Gumbo, and I am enrolled in your ECON 130 class at 10:00 a.m. on MWF this semester. I am writing to let you know that I am a student with a registered disability called Crohn’s Disease, and that I may need certain accommodations during the semester. I wanted to contact you and let you know about this as early in the semester as possible to ensure I can start off the semester in the best possible way.
In case you don’t know what Crohn’s Disease is, it’s a type of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). It can sometimes flare up causing severe pain and some other rather embarrassing symptoms. Here is a link to a Crohn’s website that will provide a complete description of the disease and its symptoms: CrohnsOnCampus.com/WhatIsCrohns
During a flare-up I will sometimes be unable to attend class. For this reason I am requesting an attendance accommodation and some possible flexibility in terms of assignment dates. I am also requesting the assistance of a note taker for days that I am unable to attend class. I realize there are limits to how much flexibility is permissible, and I understand that I will still be responsible for completing all assignments, tests, and quizzes.
I have already registered with Student Disability Services and have been approved for these accommodations. If you have not yet, you should soon receive an e-mail verifying my status with them and the accommodations that have been approved for me.
Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns about my disability or my accommodations. I am really excited to be in your class, and will work very hard throughout the semester. I appreciate your understanding and support, and look forward to learning a great deal from you!
2. In Person
Talking to your professors in person shows that you are the type of person that takes initiative. It does take some courage, however, to plead your case to someone with the power to make your life difficult. On the positive side, professors usually respect students with the courage to come up to them and talk after class. It shows that you care about your studies and are willing to come to class when you are able.
As a rule of thumb, whenever you approach your professors to talk about anything it is a good idea to ask if they have a moment to speak with you. You don’t want to be standing there poring out your personal details while he is eying is watch because he is late for a meeting with the dean. Professors have lives too. Just because your health is the most important thing in your life, don’t expect your professor to drop everything just to listen to your plight. If there are other students around, or you are embarrassed, it might be a good idea to ask if you can speak in private . If your prof doesn’t have time to speak after class ask when you can set up an appointment. Also, many professors have regular office hours when students are encouraged to stop by for face-to-face conversation, Show that you respect the professor’s time by meeting with him during his office hours,
When you meet with your professor, bring a brochure or some other literature that describes Crohn’s and any disability status identification you have. Then ask him what he’d like you to do if you are going to have to miss class or have trouble meeting an assignment deadline. Be prepared to tell him what you would like him to do to help you, For example, is it OK to have a friend record lectures? Do you have a calendar with regularly scheduled treatments that you know will interfere with your professor’s posted test dates or other deadlines? If so, can you reschedule?
So which way is best?!
Both! Start with the e-mail approach, After you send the e-mail, go up to the professor after your first class and introduce yourself. This way the professor can put a name with the e-mail, and the e-mail can’t be ignored. This also ensures that the professor knows that you are serious about your studies. Look presentable that first day so you make a good impression. Remember, they hold all the cards. If they think you are just using your disability as a way to get out of things they don’t have to help you.
Your turn! Do you have any additional tips for discussing Crohn’s Disease with your professors? How have your professors helped you? Share them in the comments section below!