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A Parent's Guide to College
About College
College life poses different challenges for students with disabilities. When students enroll in college, they are considered responsible adults by faculty and staff. The expectations are that they will assume responsibilities for meeting their class requirements.

This added responsibility is coupled with a change in environment. Whereas the high school was a very structured environment with a set schedule, college schedules can vary dramatically. For the first time students may have considerable time between classes and frequently do not use this time wisely. Students must enforce their own attendance policies and prepare to realize personal consequences if they choose not to attend class.

Is your child ready to assume responsibilities? If not, how will she/he learn these responsibilities?

Another student responsibility is that of self-advocate. Students must become adept at realistically assessing and understanding their strengths, weaknesses, needs, and preferences. Also, they must become experts at communicating these to other adults including instructors and service providers. Although services will be available to them through an office specializing in services for students with disabilities, often called the Disability Services Office (DSO) office, students will be responsible for seeking these services and supports. Good communication skills and knowledge about oneself become crucial to success in college. How well does your child describe disability information? How well does your child self-advocate?

The list below contrasts services offered at the high school level and college.

Comparison of Services
High school and college are very different.
Consider these differences and their importance to your child.

Services are delivered to the student Student must seek out services
Services are based on an agreed upon
time allotment and menu of choices
Services are based on
situational/individual needs
Case managers act as advocates Student acts as advocate
Annual review & IEP No annual review or IEP
Regular parent contact No parent contact
Entitlement law (IDEA) Anti-discrimination law (ADA)
Education and psychology testing is
Documentation must be provided by
the student

Setting Demands
Keep in mind that the college demands will be different and often greater than in high school. These demands include the need for greater organizational skills, assertiveness, and use of self advocacy skills. Students must be prepared to handle a complicated course schedule and make more time for studying and completing assignments. Mastering learning strategies and study techniques will make college coursework more manageable. Because adults will not be seeking the students out to offer assistance, students cannot be shy about asking for help. How good are your child's study and test taking skills?

How to Lend Support
You can support your child entering the college setting in a number of ways. First, be knowledgeable about the rights and responsibilities your son/daughter has under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Your son/daughter is responsible for using the information. Prior to enrollment, make sure that your son/daughter has all the paperwork and documentation needed to obtain services. Once you have gathered the necessary paperwork, make copies and turn it over to your son/daughter as the first step toward he/she assuming responsibility (make sure that you keep a copy in a safe place).

Further Support
Beyond taking care of paperwork, consider these steps:
  1. Encourage the development and use of self-advocacy skills;
  2. Help your son/daughter understand his/her disability;
  3. Talk about your son/daughters disability comfortably. Once your son/daughter has a class schedule, discuss how his/her strengths and weaknesses will be effected by each class and what kinds of services he/she might need in order to be successful;
  4. Once the semester is underway, ask questions about progress, but remember that your son/daughter is ultimately responsible for his/her success;
  5. Listen and ask questions when you sense a problem is occurring;
  6. Realize that the coursework will be more difficult and time consuming than during high school;
  7. If your son/daughter is living at home, make sure he/she has a quiet place to study and ample time to finish assignments.
Parents’ Rights
Your child is considered an adult at the age of 18. You will no longer have access to your child’s records, unless your child chooses to share information with you. You cannot call the school and get
updates on your child.

Visit http://das.kucrl.org/iam.html to download original copies of this information at no charge.

Developed by:
Sean Lancaster and Daryl Mellard, University of Kansas, Center for Research on Learning Division of Adult Studies
This page is available in Alternative formats upon request.
This document was supported in whole or in part by the U. S. Department of Education,
Office of Special Education Programs, (Cooperative Agreement No. H324M980109).
However, the opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the U. S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education, Office of Special Education Programs, and no official endorsement by the
Department should be inferred. Note: There are no copyright restrictions on this page: however, please credit the source and support of federal funds when copying all or part of this material.