Selecting a College for Students with Learning Disabilities or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) (page 2)
Students with learning disabilities (LD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) approach the transition from high school to college with an array of learning strengths and needs. They need to understand their own abilities and guide their own transition planning by looking at various postsecondary options. If college is the path chosen, investigating postsecondary programs to find the right match is a crucial step. In general, postsecondary support services are less intensive than secondary special education services. Students need to become experts on how to engineer their academic success, a process that requires experiences that build self-insight, self-advocacy, and resourcefulness.
When to Begin College Planning
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that the Individualized Education Program (IEP) team consider post-school goals when the student is about to enter high school at about age 14. Beginning at age 16 (or younger, if appropriate) a statement of transition services needed by the student must be included in the IEP. High school experiences, both academic and social, greatly influence future options for all students. For adolescents with disabilities, these experiences are pivotal.
Transition plans should be grounded in the student's goals and vision for life as an adult, career interests, extracurricular and community activities, and the skills the student needs to progress toward his or her goals. Planning should include preparation for proficiency tests and other assessments needed for postsecondary academic work (e.g., SATs), as well as the development of self-determination and self-advocacy skills.
During the last 2 years of high school, diagnostic testing should be conducted to further define the LD or ADHD. Colleges require documentation of a disability (i.e., results of tests indicating the presence of a disability) in order to provide support services; having an IEP or Section 504 plan in high school is not enough documentation to obtain services from colleges. Students entering postsecondary programs will need to present current assessment data in order to receive accommodations at college.
Even for students who have struggled academically in high school, postsecondary education may very well be a possibility. Students who wonder whether college is a realistic option can explore summer pre-college courses for high school students who have completed their junior or senior year. Alternatively, students can take a college course the summer before they enroll to get to know the campus, learn how to use the library, and sharpen their study strategies and time management skills.
Understanding Strengths, Learning Needs and the Support Needed
Students must understand their strengths and learning needs not only to be successful in coursework, but also to identify the accommodations they will require. For example, will they need academic support services such as math labs, writing workshops, reading courses, computer labs, tutoring, or counseling? Will they want to take courses to improve social skills, study skills, learning strategies, communications skills, or assertiveness?
Understanding and using technology can be another key to success. Computers and related technologies are expanding opportunities and increasing instructional access for numerous individuals with LD and ADHD. Students should consider both instructional technology (e.g., computers, tape recorders, or videos used as a means of instruction) and assistive technology (technology used by individuals to compensate for specific disabilities).
Assistive technology is most effective if it accentuates an individual's strengths and minimizes areas of need. Selecting appropriate technology for an individual should take into account the individual's learning profile, the tasks and functions to be performed, the specific technology, and the contexts of use (Raskin, 1998). For example, word processors with text-to-speech, outlining, word prediction, and speech recognition capabilities offer assistive capabilities depending on a person's specific disabilities. Technology is like any other tool: The challenge is to find the technology applications that work best for the individual and learn how to use them. This takes an investment of time and money, but the payoff can be increased productivity and creativity (Malouf, 2000).
Understanding Legal Rights
Once students with disabilities graduate from high school, they are no longer eligible for services provided by the school system and will not have an IEP. If they have been receiving rehabilitation services as part of their transition plans, they can continue to receive them. They will have an Individual Written Rehabilitation Plan (IWRP) and may be eligible for services such as postsecondary education, counseling, and vocational evaluation and assessment.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) bars discrimination against students with disabilities in the college application process. Once admitted, students may request reasonable accommodations to allow them to participate in courses, exams, and other activities. Most colleges and universities have a disability support services office to assist in providing accommodations.
Reprinted with the permission of the Education Resources Information Center.
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