Information for Faculty

Students with Behavior Disorders

All students experience periods of frustration, anger, depression and anxiety. However, when a student's behavior disrupts the learning environment or inhibits others from full participation, it is the faculty member's responsibility to respond to the behavior in an appropriate manner and then to notify professionals on campus who can determine whether further intervention is warranted.

The following suggestions are taken from Handbook on Supported Education by Karen V. Unger.

Verbal Aggression

A student may become verbally aggressive when he/she feels frustrated or out of control. He or she will lash out at others as a way to express these feelings.


  • allow the student to vent and describe what is upsetting him or her, but indicate that verbally abusive behavior is not acceptable.
  • sit down, and ask the student to maintain a reasonable distance.
  • be aware of the closest exit.
  • if necessary, walk the student to a quieter, but public, place.
  • If the student agrees, walk him or her to the Counseling Center or the University Police office.
  • enlist the aid of other students to quiet the student down.
  • threaten, taunt, or push the student.
  • press for an explanation of the student's behavior.
  • get physically cornered.

Violent or Physically Destructive Behavior

A student may become violent when he or she feels totally frustrated and unable to do anything about it. Being frustrated over a long period of time may erode the student's control over his or her behavior. This behavior may present the most immediate danger to staff and to other students.


  • get help immediately from University Police or the Counseling Center or the disAbled Student Support Services office.
  • present a calm appearance and let the student talk.
  • respond to him or her calmly and quietly.
  • explain that only behaviors that are safe for others are acceptable.
  • call for assistance, but first tell the student of your intention.
  • get others away from the immediate area if possible.


  • threaten, taunt, or push the student.
  • push for an explanation of the student's behavior.
  • confront or threaten the student.
  • get physically cornered.

Poor Contact with Reality

A student in poor contact with reality may be having hallucinations or delusions or have difficulty separating fact from fantasy. He or she may behave in strange or unusual ways and is most likely scared, frightened, and overwhelmed; he or she probably is not dangerous.

  • respond to the student with care and kindness, and maintain eye contact.
  • acknowledge the student's fears without either supporting or contradicting his or her misconception.
  • try to change the focus from the student's delusion to the immediate reality.
  • contact the Counseling Center or disAbled Student Support Services office.
  • argue or try to convince the student that he or she is irrational.
  • play along with the student's delusions.
  • demand, command, or order the student.
  • expect customary responses.


The student who is anxious appears overly concerned with trivial matters. He or she may require very specific guidelines and seek more structure in assignments. Unfamiliar or new situations often raise the level of anxiety.

  • be clear and explicit about expectations
  • let the student express his or her feelings and thoughts
  • recommend that he/she seek counseling or DSSS assistance
  • remain patient with the student
  • discount the student's anxiety by saying "It's not really that bad, is it?"
  • blame yourself for the student's anxiety


A student who is depressed may go unnoticed. His/her behavior may indicate low energy, lack of interest in what is going on, feelings of sadness and hopelessness, and difficulties with eating and sleeping. Personal hygiene may be poor.

  • express concern and privately inquire if he/she is receiving any help. If not, refer or escort the student to the Counseling Center or the DSSS office.
  • discount the significance and intensity of the student's feelings.
  • say such things as "crying won't help."
  • discount a suicide threat.

If the student says that he/she is contemplating suicide, notify the counseling or DSSS office immediately, and give the student a crisis hotline number to contact. DO NOT leave the student unattended unless he/she has agreed to a positive course of action such as calling the hotline or seeing a mental health professional.

Overly Dependent

A student who is dependent may attach himself or herself to staff and demand more and more time. He or she is often lonely and has poor interpersonal skills. The student may see the amount of attention given to him or her as a reflection of his or her self-worth.

  • set limits on the time spent with the student and limits on which subjects will be discussed.
  • let the student make his or her own decisions.
  • refer the student for counseling.
  • let the student use staff as the only source of support.
  • assume the role of parent, give advice, or give more time and energy than is realistic or appropriate.

Overly Suspicious

A student who is suspicious often is tense and distrustful. He/she may interpret minor oversights as personal rejection and overreact to insignificant occurrences. He/she is overly concerned with fairness and being treated equally. He/she may view attention as the staff wanting something from him/her and inattention as the staff having it in for him/her.

  • express compassion without overstating friendship
  • be firm, steady, punctual, and consistent
  • be specific and clear regarding the standards of behavior expected from the student
  • refer the student to the Counseling Center or the DSSS office
  • become the student's friend
  • be overly warm and nurturing
  • be cute or humorous; this can be misinterpretred as a slight or rejection
  • challenge or agree with any misconception


A student who is flirtatious or seductive may ask many personal questions, make demands on staff time, and request special treatment. The student may misinterpret attention as meaning staff have special feelings for him/her.

  • set limits on the amount of time spent with the student and which subjects will be discussed
  • see the student only in a classroom or an office
  • keep the door open during meetings
  • be careful about giving double messages or saying things that might be misinterpreted as having a personal interest in the student
  • encourage the student by responding positively to inappropriate behavior
  • give the student special treatment

DisAbled Student Support Services does not expect you to change course guidelines or standards.  The purpose of accommodations is to ensure equal educational opportunity.  If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call disAbled Student Support Services at 770-423-6443.


I have been asked to identify a volunteer note taker in this class.  The note taker will be provided with notetaking paper which provides a copy for the note taker to keep and a copy to share.  Your notes will not reflect on your grade in this course, but I may review the notes for accuracy before sharing them with others.  Please see me immediately after class if you are willing to serve as a volunteer note taker this semester.