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Learning Disabilities – 18 Critical Factors For Successful Post-Secondary Transition
Since students with learning disabilities are at higher risk in college, they need to set aside enough time to prepare now for post-secondary success. Keeping the eighteen factors below in mind increases the likelihood that the transition from high school to college will be as seamless as possible.
1. To begin your college search, make a list of desirable qualities in a school (i.e., commuter/residential, size, location, etc.) Begin your search on the internet then begin school visits university. Allow your parents to narrow your list down to their acceptable choices. Then, once you see where you are accepted, you know that these schools are all “parent approved”.
2. Perseverance is the most important factor in academic success. Tied second are the ability to delay gratification (ie say “no” when your friends go out, but you really should study) and an organization system that works for you. The sooner you work on these three things, the easier college will be.
3. In college, you are a legal adult and must self-identify your disability. Self-representation goes hand in hand with this; it is essential to meet your needs in college.
4. If you are serious about a school, ask to meet a successful student from Disability Services. Before making your final choice, find out about the possibility of spending a night with this student. You will have a better idea of whether or not you would feel comfortable in this college.
5. FERPA – The Educational Family Rights and Privacy Act is a federal law that protects the confidentiality of student educational records. However, keep this in mind: the support of your parents helped you get to where you are today. Considering they’re footing the bill, it’s not unreasonable for parents to want to be kept in the loop. LD-friendly colleges allow you to sign a FERPA waiver.
6. The Director of Disability Services sets the tone for the entire department. If you find this person off-putting, think twice about whether you would feel comfortable in college.
7. If your documentation is more than 3 years old, it should be updated. Make sure the list of recommendations at the end of the documentation includes things that are essential to your success. (Of course, they should be supported by testing.)
8. Start exploring technologies that you have never used, but that could help you level the playing field. You can get an idea of the different technologies when you visit the Disability Services offices at different colleges.
PROCEDURE FOR OBTAINING ACCOMMODATION
9. You and your parents must meet with the Director of Disability Services upon admission. Bring your documentation with you. The IEPS have no value in college.
10. The principal will review your documentation and then meet with you to discuss accommodations to include in letters to your teachers. One accommodation you should strongly consider requesting is a reduced course load – at least for the first semester. Students can be considered full-time with as few as 6 credits, depending on how much work they can handle. Ask the manager to write a letter for your parents’ insurance company explaining your full-time status with a reduced charge, but don’t submit the letter until it’s requested.
11. Return to the Disability Office at the start of school to collect your accommodation letters. You must deliver a letter to each instructor to whom you disclose. Find a private time before or after class to do this, or make an office hour appointment with your instructor, to preserve your privacy. This meeting is a good opportunity to introduce yourself and explain your needs to your teachers.
12. The process of requesting, picking up and delivering letters must be repeated each semester. If you require a change of accommodation, discuss this with the Director of Disability Services.
13. Initial class selection is based on the result of college placement exams that all freshmen take. Remember that most colleges prohibit the use of calculators for the math exam. You should be prepared to do all the math the old fashioned way. That means extensive practice until it comes back naturally.
14. Your schedule should be balanced between difficult classes and easier classes. Take the difficult classes three times a week, not two.
15. Courses should be manually selected by someone in the Disability Services office who knows your learning style and the instructors that are best for you.
16. Keep your ears open for engaging teacher recommendations from your friends – but make sure they match your learning style before you sign up.
17. For most freshmen, tutoring three times a week is recommended to get off to a good start. Consider empowering tutoring; the more help you have in the beginning, the sooner you will feel confident in your abilities.
18. As you become stronger and more metacognitive (the learning-to-learn state), your learning specialist may suggest that you gradually reduce tutoring. Some students will eventually be able to access tutoring as needed, rather than by permanent appointment.
©2007 Joan Azarva
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