How should I accommodate a student with a chronic illness or medical condition who may miss classes that exceed the number of excused absences I allow other students? I do appreciate the need to be flexible, but I am concerned that extended absences may place the student in jeopardy in my course. Can I place a limit on the number of classes the student can miss?
You have the authority to establish an attendance policy for your class while recognizing that you may be asked to modify your attendance policy as an accommodation for a student with a disability. In deciding how to modify your policy, consider the essential objectives of your course, how attendance serves the learning experience of students, and what, if any, alternate means may exist to accomplish course objectives. By doing so, you are helping to insure that the decision to modify the policy is a deliberate one which preserves academic freedom without impinging upon the civil rights of students with disabilities.
When a student initially comes to see you, he may present an overly optimistic account of his circumstances and may not foresee or may be hesitant to anticipate problems or difficulties, including the possibility of missing class. To allow for the possibility that things may change over the course of the semester in unanticipated ways, it would be a good idea to establish a protocol for communicating with the student on a regular basis in order to assess how things are progressing. Another good practice would be to agree upon how you want your student to inform you about class absences.
Students should not assume that because they have a documented disability or are registered with the office of disability services that all of their absences are automatically authorized or excused. Giving a student a clear idea of the limit on the number of absences you allow enables him or her to make an informed decision about whether to remain in the course.