As the parent of a child with a learning disability, negotiating the academic stresses of high school can be a challenge, even with many resources and support available. Continuing onto college, with its compressed schedule, large amounts of reading, and high stakes testing, may seem like an uncertain prospect. Yet, in 2014, over half of learning-disabled high school students intended to push through to higher education.
So what challenges do college-level students with learning disabilities face?
Know The Law
Many of the public school resources available to learning disabled students were born of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act. This piece of legislation required public schools to offer an individualized and appropriate education for all children with disabilities. Generally, these rights end when the child graduates from high school.
For college students with learning disabilities, the important legislation is the Americans With Disabilities Act. Through this act, students with disabilities continue to have the right to be accommodated, but only if they are otherwise qualified. That is, college students must pass the tests and courses for which they are accommodated. Otherwise, the college has the right to remove them from the program like any other student who fails to maintain passing grades.
Know Your Student Disability Services
Although colleges that receive federal funds are legally obliged to comply with the Americans Disability Act, many institutions of higher education struggle to provide the range of services necessary for a wide variety of physical and academic accommodations. Furthermore, pushback from professors is common.
As expected, some colleges are better than others in encouraging learning differences and disabilities. Check out top-ten lists to find the best fit for your child.
Know What You Need
The most important tool that any student with a learning disability can develop is self-advocacy. Bereft of the structure and active care received in the elementary/high school education system, a student must learn to articulate the disability he has and ask for the help he needs. To take advantage of the resources offered, make sure the student:
- Submits proper documentation of the learning disability to the Student Disabilities Service office
- Can articulate the specific kinds of accommodations that help him in tackling his disability
- Asks where and how to access specific resources, such as technology assistance, digital recorders, speech-to-text technology, etc.
- Asks to discuss with SDS staff as to how to best introduce the subject with professors, if necessary
Only you and your child know what he or she is capable of. A learning disability shouldn’t dissuade them from pursuing their academic dreams.