Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that can have social, communication and behavioral impacts. People with ASD may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from others. This may also include different ways of paying attention or reacting to things, repetitive behaviors, and disinterest in changing regular routines. The most important piece to remember is that ASD has a spectrum of impacts and everyone is an individual. 

A diagnosis of ASD now includes several conditions that used to be diagnosed separately: autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and Asperger syndrome. These conditions are now all called autism spectrum disorder. (Adapted from the CDC ASD Homepage)

An RCPD Ability Access Specialist coordinates accommodations and programs to meet the needs of faculty, students, and staff on the spectrum.

Getting Started with RCPD

RCPD provides services and accommodations to persons with disabilities for both academic and workplace settings. Before receiving accommodations, students and employees must Identify and Register as a person with a disability and provide appropriate documentation of their disability to RCPD.

Step 1: Self-Identify

To get started in the process of registering with RCPD, start by self-identifying as a person with a disability. Use your MSU NetID and password to log into the MyProfile system to create a profile and initiate contact with RCPD. This process will then assign you to an Ability Access Specialist.

Step 2: Disability Documentation

Your assigned Ability Access Specialist will request for you to submit documentation of your disability. The disability documentation is necessary to verify the presence and severity of your disability. Documentation of a disability must appear on official letterhead from a licensed medical or diagnostic professional and include a diagnosis, scope or degree of involvement, and summary of related functional limitations. RCPD provides a downloadable Autism Spectrum Disorders form that may be used by medical providers to document conditions.

Step 3: Needs Assessment

Once your Ability Access Specialist has received sufficient disability documentation, they will reach out to arrange a Needs Assessment meeting. During this meeting reasonable accommodations are discussed and determined.


The MSU Disability and Reasonable Accommodation Policy provides additional guidance.

Implementing Accommodations

RCPD recognizes that accommodations may be required in order to assist individuals in maximizing their educational and workplace experience at MSU. While the university provides reasonable accommodations, we do not change essential academic requirements or job functions. Accommodation determinations are based on documentation and an individualized needs assessment.

The MSU Disability and Reasonable Accommodation Policy provides additional guidance.

Student Accommodations

Students will receive a Verified Individualized Services and Accommodations letter, otherwise known as a VISA. The VISA is the primary method for students to communicate their RCPD approved accommodations to course instructors. A similar document that performs the same functions as a VISA for students with conditions of a temporary nature is known as a VISTA.

Students registered with the RCPD should contact their assigned specialist by phone, email, or by scheduling a meeting to request their VISA.

  • The VISA typically has an expiration date, so students will need to request an updated VISA at least 2 weeks prior to when a current VISA is needed.
  • Accommodations are not retroactive and will not apply to events or situations that occurred prior to the student notifying and providing a copy of the VISA to the course instructor.
  • Accommodations can be updated at anytime and students should reach out to their assigned specialist to discuss this further.

Employee Accommodations

Employees will receive a Statement of Employee Accommodation Determination letter, otherwise known as a SEAD. The SEAD is issued by the Office of Employee Relations (OER), when an accommodation is granted. The employee should then work with their supervisor to discuss implementation of the SEAD.

Confidentiality & Mandatory Reporting

The RCPD adheres to strict standards of confidentiality in the management of student information. Since RCPD is the only holder of disability documentation, all disability-related documentation should be directed to RCPD (not other campus departments).

The RCPD staff are designated as mandatory reporters and must promptly report incidents of sexual harassment, sexual violence, sexual misconduct, stalking, and relationship violence that are observed or learned about in their professional capacity and involve a member of the university community or occurred at a university-sponsored event or on university property.

Dispute Resolution

RCPD Ability Access Specialists are committed to an active partnership with students and employees who make reasonable accommodation requests through our office. In the case you experience a disagreement regarding disability determination or appropriateness of accommodations, you may consider taking the steps outlined in our dispute resolution process.

Housing & Dietary Accommodations

MSU offers a variety of on-campus living and dining options. Each living environment features unique design and atmosphere. Most housing options on campus offer units that meet the needs of students with disabilities. A student with a disability in need of a housing accommodation must identify and register with the RCPD in advance, and work with their assigned specialist to facilitate the housing accommodation request process. More information about accommodations for housing and dining can be found on our Housing and Campus Life page.


Visit the MSU Housing Live On website for more information on campus housing.

Service & Assistance Animals

Michigan State University recognizes that some qualified individuals with psychiatric disabilities may have need for a service animal on campus and others may have the need for an assistance animal (emotional support animal) in University housing under certain circumstances.

Service Animal Policy

Persons with disabilities may be accompanied by working service animals on the campus of Michigan State University consistent with the provisions of the Service Animal Policy


Students with a disability who wish to utilize a service animal in a classroom are encouraged but not required to register with the RCPD. Students are encouraged to register with the RCPD for access to resources, information, and advocacy around a range of disability-related dynamics, including service animals. Registration is required for any student who wishes to use a miniature horse in University facilities.


Employees with a disability who wish to utilize a service animal as a reasonable accommodation in a University office or other areas of campus buildings not open to the general public must register with the RCPD at least 30 days before the animal is needed.

Review the Service Animal Policy for more information regarding service animals on campus.

Service/Assistance Animal Policy in University Housing

Michigan State University provides reasonable accommodations to housing residents with a documented disability, which could include the use of a Service Animal and/or Assistance Animal (emotional support animal) in University housing.

Information below was taken out of the Service/Assistance Animal Policy in University Housing. Review the Service/Assistance Animal in University Housing Policy for the complete details and more information.

Service Animals in Housing:

A person may reside with a Service Animal in housing if the person has a disability and the animal meets the definition of a "Service Animal", found in the Service/Assistance Animal Policy in University Housing and Service Animal Policy. The service animal is permitted to accompany the resident to all areas of housing where residents are normally permitted to go. A resident who will utilize a service animal in housing is strgonly encouraged but not required to identify and register with the RCPD. 

Service animals are required to be at least 12 months of age unless an exception to this requirement has been approved by the RCPD.

Assistance Animal in Housing:

A person may reside with an assistance animal (emotional support animal) in housing as a reasonable accommodation if:

  1. The person has a disability;
  2. The animal is necessary to afford the person with a disability an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling; and
  3. There is an identifiable relationship or nexus between the disability and the assistance the animal provides.

Assistance animals are required to be at least 12 months of age unless an exception to this requirement has been approved by the RCPD.

A resident who requires the use of an assistance animal in University Housing must identify and register with the RCPD in advance, at least 45 days before housing for the animal is needed, and provide the following documentation:

  1. Treating mental health professional completes the Service/Assistance Animal in University Housing Documentation Form
  2. University resident completes the Service/Assistance Animal Request Form.

Once the RCPD has received the completed Assistance Animal forms, they will be reviewed by a committee at RCPD to determine the reasonableness and need for the request. Reasons why an assistance animal request may be denied are found in the Service/Assistance Animal in Housing Policy. The committee may also need to request additional information about the request. Your assigned RCPD specialist will reach out once the committee has made a decision regarding the assistance animal request.

Building Community & Resources

MSU provides many venues for collaboration and community building on disability issues. Please consider becoming involved in organizations including:

MSU BOND Program

Autism Society of America

Autism Society of Michigan

Council of Students with Disabilities

Mid Michigan Autism Association

Frequently Asked Questions

Will RCPD inform my professors about my accommodations?

Once registered with the RCPD, the student receives an accommodation letter, called a VISA. Students are responsible for presenting this VISA to each professor at the start of the semester during office hours. It is important to go over the VISA to coordinate accommodations.

What accommodations will I receive for my disability?

Each person and setting is unique and needs will vary. Accommodations are determined during a confidential needs assessment with an Ability Access Specialist.

How does MSU facilitate note taking services?

Students work with their Ability Access Specialist to identify an individualized solution. Solutions often include: technology assisting independent note taking, shared notes with a peer, or other approaches. Visit the Accessing Note Taking Assistance page for a generalized overview of possibilities.

Will I receive the same accommodations that I got in high school?

Upon registering with RCPD, you will talk to an Ability Access Specialist about the appropriate accommodations for your disability during an individualized needs assessment. While RCPD takes historical accommodations into consideration, the college environment has different demands that may shape essential functions and accommodations. Visit our Future Students page for information about coming to Michigan State University. 

I'm having trouble in my class, where can I find tutoring?

First, talk to your professor during office hours for ideas on how to succeed in the class. The Neighborhood Student Success Collaborative (NSSC) also offers a variety of resources and supports. 

What if I disagree with the disability determination or level of accommodation I receive?

RCPD Specialists are committed to an active partnership with students and employees who make reasonable accommodation requests through our office. In the case you experience a disagreement regarding disability determination or appropriateness of accommodations, you may consider taking the steps outlined in our dispute resolution process.

What campus organizations focus on disability issues? 

Several organizations on campus exist including: 

To learn more about CSD, Tower Guard, and the Adaptive Sports & Recreation Club, please visit Department of Student Life's Registered Student Organizations or contact your RCPD Ability Access Specialist.