College & Disabilities ... Parents Are Pivotal
Two days and two Twitter chats on college and disabilities. One as a guest and the other I hosted. And tomorrow airs an interview with Dr. Richard Selznick, psychologist, author, and a university professor of pediatrics on this very topic (http://www.blogtalkradio.com/thecoffeeklatch/2015/07/14/college-transition--adhd--learning-disabilities).
Increasing numbers of students with disabilities are attending college....a very good thing. And throughout, my focus remains on parents. Why? Because parents play a pivotal role in helping their children succeed in college, particularly when a disability is part of the picture. And there are things parents need to know and do whether college begins in a matter of days or in a few years.
Here are some key points:
I've addressed this one before but it's important to repeat -- your child's IEP and 504 goes away once they graduate from high school as does their "coverage" under IDEA. In college, it's ADA and Section 504 which means "leveling the playing field" and anti-discrimination. And accommodations are not automatically provided.
If you'll be touring colleges this fall, a few important questions to ask Disability Services: what are their "typical" accommodations; the number of students utilizing their services; whether their staff has expertise with specific disabilities (e.g. Asperger's Syndrome); how professors receive information about a student's accommodations; housing options; and the graduation rate for students with disabilities.
You and your child need to connect with Disability Services after acceptance to request accommodations and this process requires a relatively current (i.e. within the past 2-3 years) evaluation report and providing them with your child's IEP and 504 as well. And make certain that this re-evaluation report addresses the accommodations the student may need in college (often omitted).
If your child has mental health issues, connect with counseling or psychological services to evaluate their supports. Determine whether they collaborate with Disability Services as well. And if your child is attending college far from home, consider securing off-campus resources and supports too.
Ensure that your child signs a FERPA or release of information form so that you're able to speak with college. And do this in all relevant departments -- a form signed in one department - e.g. Disability Services, is not necessarily shared with the Bursar's Office. You want to have your safety net in place should issues arise.
And finally, yes...your child should secure accommodations early on as it's up to them to determine in which classes they'll be needed. It's similar to preparing for a blizzard just in case. Accommodations are not retroactive so if your son/daughter is failing a class mid-semester, any accommodations would kick-in from that point forward.
The transition to college is a major life milestone, for you as parents and for your child. It's taken plenty of work to reach this point and while success is the goal, preparation is the key. And be sure to maintain ongoing communication with your child once the transition happens. Texting is fast and easy, yet you as the parents can tell plenty by hearing the sound of your child's voice and seeing their face (a true benefit of Skype).
Yes indeed...parents are pivotal. And while - as the saying goes - you've given your child roots to grow and wings to fly, keep one of those roots close at hand...