College Planning: Match Services to Needs

Selecting an appropriate college for students with learning disabilities is vital to their success. Because students leave high school with different levels of preparedness and varying abilities, a continuum of support services has emerged. Some colleges offer extensive services, while others provide minimal support. To ensure a good match, evaluate your child’s learning style and link him or her with an institution that provides the level of support appropriate needed.

Minimum Support

Colleges with minimal support cater to students who received minimal support in high school. In this environment, students must

  • Be willing and able to advocate for themselves
  • Know their strengths and needs
  • Understand the college’s expectations

While recognizing the needs of students with learning disabilities and providing adequate adjustments, these schools may not have a structured support program to administer appropriate accommodations.

Moderate Support

Colleges with moderate levels of structured support may offer accommodations that are more sensitive to students with learning disabilities and attention issues. There may be

  • A Learning Center staffed by a degreed professional
  • A distraction-free environment for testing (usually in a Support Center)
  • Peer or professional tutors, support groups, and workshops
  • Specialized summer programs
  • Organizational and study skills assistance
  • Help with advocating
Maximum Support

The highest level of support comes from comprehensive, usually fee-based programs that provide support until a student feels comfortable assuming full responsibility for his own program. Colleges with these programs may offer:

  • Separate programs for students with LD
  • A full-time director with trained staff that may help with the admissions process, communicating with professors, identifying individual needs, advocating for accommodations, and monitoring student performance
  • Distraction-free environments for tests in a Support Center
  • Professional tutors, support groups, self-advocacy and social skills groups
  • Tutoring in organizational and time-management skills

Students who require this level of structure may have completed high school within the general education classroom but relied on the resource teacher for direction and support. They may be unable to self-advocate and may have had difficulty completing their high school requirements. A summer transition program offered on campus may be helpful to communicate academic and social expectations and acquaint students with available support services, as well as the town and gown environment.

This article is based on information presented by educational consultant Daria Rockholz, Ph.D., at an event sponsored by SPED*NET, Special Education Network of Wilton, Ltd., in Wilton, CT.

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