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Transitioning to College with Learning Challenges

Did you know that when your student transitions to college, their IEP doesn’t necessarily transfer with them?

This is because high schools follow the IDEA Act but colleges follow the ADA Act. What’s the difference? The IDEA Act, which legally requires K-12 schools to provide students with learning disabilities needed learning accommodations, expires when a student graduates high school. In college, a student must now seek out those services individually. Colleges operate under the ADA Act, which offers many protections for students with disabilities, but as an adult, the student must apply for them; they are no longer provided automatically. Colleges are required to be ADA compliant, but the level of support provided varies widely from school to school.

This means you need to be proactive when researching and

choosing a college for a student with a learning challenge. Consider what kind of accommodations your child needs, what the schools can actually provide and the quality of those services in helping your child to be successful in college. There is a spectrum of learning support at the college level, and students need to know where they fall in it and what they need. Check with the Office of Student Disabilities on campus to see what kind of services are provided and who is providing those services. Depending on the level of services needed, sometimes these services are free and sometimes they are fee-based.

Another point to keep in mind is that colleges may need an updated and more recent psych evaluation in order to provide specific services for a student. Your child’s evaluation must be within three years of going to college in order to receive services -- or sometime after they turn 16. A more recent psych evaluation will also help you plan for the best kind of accommodations to seek out in a college in order to make the transition to college more successful. This evaluation should be part of the college planning process for students with learning challenges.

Here are some important questions for parents to ask when approaching the transition to college with a child who has learning challenges:

  1. What kind of accommodations does my child need to be successful? Where do they fall on the spectrum of support?

  2. Does the college offer the specific learning support my child needs?

  3. Will my child self-advocate? Do they know where to go and how to receive services? Do they know what to ask for?

  4. Does the college have a Learning Center staffed with professionals if needed?

  5. Is the support provided at the college fee-based or free? What is the cost?

Here are some helpful resources for parents and students with learning challenges:

Students with learning challenges definitely can be successful in college! The transition just may require some extra thought, planning, and research to find the best fit college for your student. Please contact me if I can ever be of assistance in your college planning!

Kelly Clinch

Independent College Consultant


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