Monday, June 17, 2013

Summer "To Do" List for High School Grads

The end of high school is an exciting time, filled with special events like prom and graduation and, for most students, the anticipation of starting a new adventure at college in the fall. There is an understandable urge for students and parents alike to want to spend the summer catching their breath and relaxing. But for students with learning or attention issues, relaxation will have to wait. As we have written about in prior blogs, this is the time to make sure you have your accommodations in place for the fall and are setting yourself up to succeed in your college courses.

Unlike in high school, where students with IEPs or 504 Plans could rely upon their school to make sure they got the necessary accommodations in their classroom or on tests, in college the full responsibility for arranging for accommodations and making sure they are implemented is on the student -- not the school. This is because the law that governs learning and other disabilities changes upon graduation from high school – from the IDEA to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). As your blogger often tells students and their parents, “there is no IEP in college!”

So, students who will need accommodations, such as extended time on exams, a quiet exam room, specialized software, a note taker, or any one of what the ADA calls “academic adjustments, auxiliary aids and services, and modifications” need to take several steps to make sure these are available for them.

First, the student must disclose his or her disability to the college. This happens after the student accepts a spot and sends in the deposit. The disclosure is made by advising the Office of Disability Services (every college is required by law to have one, although they sometimes go by another name) and submitting documentation of your disability. You can find the specific requirements and forms for this on the website of your college’s Office of Disability Services.

After the college has reviewed and accepted the documentation, you will need to let them know what accommodations you require. This is usually a discussion - and sometimes a negotiation - where you let them know what you have used in the past and they may suggest other accommodations that can be helpful. This discussion can take place as late as during Freshman Orientation, but we urge those students who can do so to make an appointment to visit (or for a virtual visit) with the Office of Disability Services during the summer to finalize the accommodations that will be offered.

Only once the Office of Disability Services has approved the accommodations can the student take the crucial step of advising his or her professors of their accommodations, so they can be implemented. For those readers who have a copy of Life After High School: A Guide for Students with Disabilities and Their Families, you can find more specific information on documenting disabilities in Chapter 4 and on arranging accommodations with your professors in Chapter 12.

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