Transition from High School

How to Help your Student with a Learning Disability Thrive in College

College can be a difficult time for any student, but students with learning disabilities (LD) face a unique set of challenges. However, with a growing number of LD students attending college, the outlook for these students is positive.

According to Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Data, more than 2.6 million students receive special education services for learning disorders nationwide. More and more of these students are graduating from high school and going on to post-secondary education. Although disabilities range from mild to severe, all parents can offer support and encouragement. For parents of college-bound students, consider the following tips to help your student thrive:

High school preparation: Encourage your high school student to meet frequently with his support team – i.e. guidance counselor, special education teachers and other teachers – to explore all the resources available to him.  During his junior and senior years, suggest that he register for challenging classes that are out of his comfort zone, and enroll him in a standardized test prep-course. If your student performs better on tests when questions are read to him or when he receives double the amount of time to complete them, request these accommodations with SAT prep-courses. Your student can also apply for testing accommodations during the actual test through The College Board.

Research post-high school options:  Encourage your student to think about all facets of his life, not just his learning disability, when considering prospective colleges. The school’s location, size, sports programs, academic programs, religious affiliation and cost should be considered. Research prospective schools and the programs they offer for LD students through several resources, like The K&W Guide or Peterson’s Guide to Colleges for Students with Learning Disabilities and Attention Deficit Disorders. Because classes and studying in college is much different from high school, attending a community college closer to home – and a support system – might be a good transition into a four-year university.

Documentation: Once your student is admitted to college, provide the school with current documentation to deem your student eligible for services under Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act. Documentation must show current testing scores by a qualified professional as well as a diagnostic interview, assessment of aptitude, measure of academic achievement and information processing. For more information on what your student’s school needs, look for a department of inclusion or learning accommodation.

Study skills: One of the biggest adjustments to college for any student is learning how to study. You and your student should be familiar with his particular challenges and strengths, so help him use this information to strategize. Planning a study schedule that includes what to study, when, for how long, where and how will help him tackle his workload systematically.

Understand and articulate the learning disability. One of the most valuable tickets to your student’s success is his ownership of his learning disability. If he can openly talk about and articulate his LD, not be embarrassed about it and ask for help when he needs it, his learning disability will not be something that defines him. It will be one characteristic of many that contributes to a determined, successful, driven college graduate.

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