For Students with Learning Challenges
What are My Educational Needs?
The college application process marks a transition in which responsibility is gradually passed from parents to students. In high school, parents generally ensure that the school provides accommodations so that their children succeed; in college, students are responsible for being their own advocates.
In order to facilitate this transfer, a student must become increasingly aware of academic challenges and the ways in which he or she learns most effectively. The student will assess his or her needs to determine what level of modifications will be necessary in college.
Students Should Learn the Answers to the Following:
What is The Nature of My Disability?
To determine the nature of your disability, you should consult with your case manager who will help you understand your disability. Together you will determine how your learning difference impacts the way you learn. The better you understand your disability, the more comfortable you will be in communicating this information to a counselor in college. You can then become an effective advocate for your needs.
How Do I Learn?
Once you have determined the specific nature of your disability, you will want to assess how you learn best. How you learn is known as your Learning Style. There is no right or wrong learning style; it has nothing to do with intelligence or knowledge. It is simply a determination of the way or combination of ways you learn most effectively. Knowing your individual learning style will help you choose modifications and/or accommodations designed to improve your success in school.
How Do I Perform in School?
Now that you have determined your learning style, you might also assess your work habits as they affect your performance on schoolwork.
Do I manage time efficiently? Take notes effectively? Read to comprehend? Complete my written assignments successfully? Prepare for exams thoroughly? How can I improve in these areas?
Learning to Advocate
Self-advocacy refers to the process by which you request modifications and/or accommodations that reflect your learning needs.
What Do I Need in Order to Self-advocate?
You will need to understand the nature of your learning disability. Your case manager or the school psychologist who has reviewed your evaluations can explain your disability to you.
You will need:
- To ensure that all necessary documentation is on file with the college’s office of special services or student assistance.
- To know what modifications you currently receive.
- To be able to explain why you need accommodations using information about your disability.
- To know who on campus can help you with concerns and questions regarding your modifications.
- To understand the college’s policies in support of the learning disabled.
- To be proactive in seeking out those who can help you.
How Do I Document My Disability for College Services?
Schools may request current documentation of a disability. If a person obviously uses a wheelchair or is blind or deaf, no further documentation may be necessary. For those with less visible disabilities, however, such as learning disabilities, psychiatric disabilities, or a chronic health impairment, it is reasonable and appropriate for a school to request documentation to establish the validity of the request for accommodations and to help identify what accommodations are required.
Documentation should be completed and signed by a professional familiar with the applicant and the applicant’s disability such as a physician, psychologist, or rehabilitation counselor. Documentation should verify the disability and suggest appropriate accommodations. Previous documentation will likely be sufficient unless it is not current (usually no more than three years old).
If no current documentation is available, it is the responsibility of the student to have new documentation prepared. This can mean paying to have an appropriate professional conduct a new evaluation. It would be prudent to get an evaluation the year before you leave high school. This information is confidential and not a part of the student’s permanent record.
Should I Disclose My Disability?
If you do not require any accommodations, you can choose to keep this information private. If you do need accommodations because of your disability, then you must disclose in order to receive them. A school cannot provide any service, modification, or accommodation when it does not know one is required. It is a student’s responsibility to make his or her needs known in advance. This process is often facilitated by an Office for Students with Disabilities. It is then the school’s responsibility to work with the student to make reasonable modifications or provide appropriate services in a timely way.
College Admissions Tests and Non-Standard Testing
PSAT / SAT / SAT SUBJECT TESTS / AP / ACT
For students who do wish to apply for extended time on standardized tests, please understand that separate companies own the ACT and the PSAT/SAT; thus, there are two separate application processes for extended time, one for each test. Qualifying for extended time on the PSAT and SAT does not automatically grant you extended time on the ACT. Turnaround time for requests for special testing accommodation often takes around seven weeks. Be sure to submit these request forms to Collegeboard or ACT with plenty of lead time before you plan to take your first standardized test.
The first step (for either the ACT or the PSAT) is to have your child evaluated. If your child has already been officially evaluated, the evaluation must not be older than three years for the ACT, or five years for the SAT. If your evaluation is older than required it must be updated, which means you must be re-evaluated.
The evaluation must include a cognitive ability test and an academic achievement test in order to be considered for extended time. Please consult with your Case Manager for updated testing. Furthermore, accommodations suggested in an evaluation must be in place at the school for a six month period before applying for extended time for both the SAT and ACT.
Types of College Services for Students with Learning Challenges
Most colleges provide special services, accommodations, modifications, and materials for students with learning disabilities. After evaluating all the available resources, you can then decide which type of LD program will best help you to succeed.
Based on your own particular requirements, you might ask:
- Do I need a Complete LD Program with qualified specialists, counselors, and professional support personnel?
- Do I need a Support Program that includes special accommodations such as tutoring, extended time, etc., but does not include a formal LD Program?
- Do I need a Modifications Only Program that allows me to request special accommodations on an as-needed basis?
LD Program Admissions Standards
- Is there a special procedure for LD admission? Are admission requirements different for LD students?
- Is an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) or other high school record required?
- Is special preliminary testing required?
- What tests are needed? Before admission/After admission?
- Who is responsible for LD admissions? Regular admissions staff?
Special Service Programs Questions
- How many LD students receive services?
- Is there a special orientation for the LD program?
- How often does the student meet with his/her counselor? .
- Are meetings mandatory or conducted on an as-needed basis?
- For how many years may a student expect help from the program?
- Who advises LD students about course choice and course load?
- Are course substitutes available? Math? Foreign language?
Tutoring Services Questions
- Is tutoring available?
- Who provides tutoring? Professional Tutors/Peer Tutors
- Do students see the same tutor on a regular basis?
- Is tutoring one-on-one? Group?
- Are additional fees required for special services?
Available Counseling and/or Psychological Services
- Does the program include psychological and/or counseling services?
- Who provides the counseling?
- Is career counseling available?
- Are peer support groups available?
Testing Alternatives Questions
- Does the program offer extended time? Alternate settings? Untimed tests? Alternate test forms?
- Can I use computers? Calculators or other aids? Readers? Recorders?
- Oral testing? Clarification of test directions and/or questions?
Additional Study and Other Service Accommodations
- Are note takers available? Are lecturer’s notes available? Are texts available on tape? May students tape lectures?
- Is extended time given for extensive assignments? Are proofreaders available? Is preferential seating available?
- What technology is available? Books on tape? Writing software programs? Voice Activated Computers? Kurzweil readers? Dragon? Smartpens with recorders?