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Nov 192014
Image of "College" - hosted on Wikimedia under Creative Commons 2.0 license

Image of “College” – hosted on Wikimedia under Creative Commons 2.0 license

School has started.  Leaves are in the process of changing colors.  The weather is turning brisk.  These are signs that fall is in the air.  For high schoolers, this season brings with it the excitement and perhaps intimidation of applying for colleges and universities.  These deadlines are approaching quickly, but for struggling students or students with disabilities, there are still questions that need to be answered.

There are many resources for students who struggle to learn or have disabilities to make college life easier to manage.  The problem lies in the knowledge of what resources do the student qualify for and how to get the help that is needed.  If your student falls in this category it is never too early to get the understanding that you will need to make the best higher education choice for your student.  Having the information before touring campuses will give you a head start on the questions that you may need to ask while on campus.  If you have narrowed the choices down from tours already taken, the information will aide you in the final decision of what school is the best choice.

Many college and university campuses are equipped with offices and departments prepared to help your student.  Student services and disability coordinators have the unique job of making campuses inclusive environments, provide advocacy, support and assurance that academic services are being met.  Services can range from accessibility, accommodation, or assistive technology for a diverse range of needs.

It is estimated that over 3.5% of all students enrolled in higher education have either a learning or physical disability.  Disclosing the specific disability to the campus is the choice of the student and the parents.  However, in order to receive aide, assistance, or adjustments this information will need to be disclosed.  If you plan on accessing the academic adjustments a campus can provide, it is important to learn the campus procedures to do so in time for classes to start.  Some examples of student’s academic adjustments are:

  • Sound amplification aids
  • Speech to text software
  • Accessible testing locations
  • Note-taking services
  • Priority class registration
  • Sign language interpretation
  • Audio recordings of lectures
  • Course substitutions

Many school age children receive benefits from a 504 plan.  However, not every college or university provide such services and coverage.  Many private colleges and universities do not receive federal funding and therefore do not have to comply with the federal regulations.  Some colleges and universities do not meet the requirements to access the funds that sustain the 504 aide.  Gaining this information will be of utmost importance if the student already benefits from this kind of aide.

While making the decision on what campuses to apply to, take into consideration what specific attributes you desire.  It is wise to profile the campuses that advertise the characteristics of campus life and are a good fit for the student’s personal, academic, interests and needs.  Be sure to make an appointment with student service offices to define specifically what aides and accommodations are available.  Receive a point of contact from this office to help during the application process.  Some campuses allow for inquiring students to spend a weekend on campus as a trial period to campus life in the dorms, dining hall, and parking situations; contact student housing offices to see if this service is available.   Almost all campuses have a version of on-line courses available, allowing even younger students to gain accesses to the academic standards of the campus in question.

Colleges and universities strive to make their campuses and classrooms more accessible for students with disabilities; however there may be additional needs to address.  Student Services offices are there to assist you in any way that they can.  There are also many apps, websites, and software available for assistance for specific issues your student may have.  Make sure you do your research on the current technology aids that are being developed.  Examples of some situations that have specific technology resources are:

  • Deaf and hard of hearing
  • Visual impairment
  • Physical disabilities
  • Autism
  • Learning disabilities
  • Dyslexia
  • ADHD

Making the transition to higher education is a joy and a milestone in every person’s life.  It also is a time in life where uncertainties, fears, and feelings of inadequacy can damper the experience.  Assistance is out there to make sure that every student is living up to their potential and has the tools needed to thrive while experiencing their college years.