HomeArticlesLearning Disabled Students Require Self-Advocacy Skills in College

Question. Are there any strategies you can suggest for our son, a “rising” college freshman, with learning disabilities for managing his academics in college? John will be attending a wonderful college this fall and we want to ensure that he has every opportunity for academic and social success. He’s been a diligent, hard-working student in high school but has always depended on our encouragement and support plus the assistance of the learning specialists at his high school. We are concerned that without our help he will not be able to manage his college academics and activities. AG Smith, Centennial, CO

Your concern is understandable. All parents sending their children off to college for the first time worry whether they will be able to manage college academically and socially. For parents of children with learning issues, the concern is justified. Conversely, it’s important for parents to step back and allow their child to function independently. It’s critical, therefore, for the LD student to know the skills of self-advocacy, and typically this comes with lots of practice.

Trying to learn these skills while adjusting to college presents a formidable task. Many students are unable to manage this dual agenda. A college student is considered an adult and is expected to understand and request needed services, which will enable him/her to succeed academically. Whereas in high school a student is covered by an IEP or 504 plan that is coordinated by a learning specialist, college students must seek out services themselves and take charge of needed accommodations.

Students must understand explicitly what their learning disability is and how it impacts on their academics. They should know their strengths and weaknesses, what accommodations they require, and how to ask for assistance. Practicing self-advocacy skills prior to leaving for college, even as early as elementary school, will ensure a student’s ability to perform independently and successfully in college.

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