Dear Estelle. Are there differences in the way that high schools and colleges view a student’s learning disabilities? Our son will be attending college next fall and is very conversant with his learning issues. Since he was a young child he has had terrific support from the school district. However, since he will soon become independent, we were wondering whether he needs some strategies that will make his college experience successful.
CS, Littleton, CO
The questions you’ve asked could fill a book. One key question that concerns most parents, whether or not disabilities are involved, is how to assist their children in becoming independent. Hopefully your son has developed several important skills that he will access once he is away from his support team. The most important is self-advocacy, an important skill for those with disabilities. This essentially is the ability to know how to be responsible for one self in all situations, especially academics. Knowing how to recognize the need for assistance and ask for help requires training. Self-advocacy skills must be taught repeatedly in order to be integrated into a students repertoire and it is important for parents to step back and allow the student to learn to function on his own.
On a different level, legal issues differentiate the way colleges and high schools address a student’s disabilities. The IDEA act of 2004 incorporated several important issues to facilitate the transition from high school to post secondary education. For high school students, the responsibility rests with the school district; at a college level, the student becomes the responsible party and must request necessary accommodations for himself. They must understand their strengths, weaknesses, and the services they will require in college.
Several important contrasting items include: The school district must develop an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) and assure it is implemented. At a college level, the student develops and implements the plan. There is no IEP. School districts must screen and identify whereas the student must self-identify in college and act as his own advocate. Parental involvement obviously decreases.
It is a good idea to have your student professionally evaluated prior to attending college. Colleges want recent documentation that has been completed within the last three years.