Sunday, November 22, 2009

There's No IEP in College

Students who have received special education services during high school -- and often throughout most of their school careers -- are often surprised to learn that their IEP does not continue in college. The IDEA, which is the federal law that guarantees a free appropriate education to students with disabilties who are in need of special education services, does not apply to students who have graduated from high school (with an exception for those who receive IEP "diplomas" which allow students to continue to receive special education services until age 21).

What does apply to students in college is the Americans with Disabilities Act, the ADA. This law requires colleges to provide students with accommodations to give them equal access to their class materials and school buildings, to provide them with extended time to take examinations and any other reasonable accommodation that will "level the playing field" with their nondisabled classmates. Colleges have the right to require documentation of a disability and need not provide all the accommodations a student is used to getting or that he may request. While colleges may look at the accommodations and services provided to a student during high school, as reflected on his IEP, they will make their own decisions about what accommodations and services to offer.

What can a high school student who learns differently or who has a physical or emotional disability do to make sure he gets the support he needs in college?
  • Make sure that the college you are going to attend has sufficient support services. Some schools do the minimum to comply with ADA requirements; others make support for students who need extra help a fundamental part of their mission.

  • Make sure that your testing or medical reports are up to date. Colleges want current documentation of a disabilty.

  • Check out the campus Office of Disability Services; speak with a counselor there and learn all you can about what supports that college offers to students.

The college application and decision process is fraught with enough stress for students and their parents. Understanding a student's rights to services and knowing what a particular college can provide can help smooth the way to a successful college career.

No comments:

Post a Comment