Thursday, February 9, 2017

Navigating the College Search for Students with Disabilities

by Genevieve Guellnitz

Adding another level to the college application process, students with learning differences have the additional task of making sure that colleges offer the appropriate supports for their learning style.

I recently attended a counselor workshop at Curry College to help guide students with learning disabilities, ADHD and/or executive function difficulties navigate the college search and find the right college for them. Curry’s own program, PAL (The Program for Advancement of Learning), was highlighted along with other programs and resources for prospective students such as the College Internship Program (CIP), College Living Experience (CLE), Maplebrook, PACE, Berkshire Hills Academy, the Threshold program at Lesley University, and others. It is important to note that support services are available to all students on all campus, however students must take the initiative to find them.

PAL is a comprehensive program designed to assist students obtain a Curry degree by helping with accommodations, assigning student mentors, utilizing assistive technology analyses tools, the use of academic cohorts as well as other supports. There is an additional fee and a separate application process to be accepted into this program. This type of program might be a good fit for a student who has had substantial supports in place in high school.

For students who had a lesser degree of support in high school there are a wide range of services available to all students. All higher education institutions are legally required to provide disability services and an academic resources center. Prospective students should look for information concerning learning centers, writing skills centers, counseling centers and any other resources that colleges or universities might offer. This varies by college and should be part of the college research process for any students who are interested in extra support in college.

Other factors to take into consideration are changes in how support services are requested and arranged. In college, students must play a more active role and assume the responsibility in obtaining the necessary resources for their academic success. Finding out about these details during the research process by calling the colleges resource centers will ensure that prospective colleges are truly a good fit for a student's individual needs.

Here is a sampling of questions provided by Curry that students may wish to ask when choosing a college with LD Programs and Services:

  • Are LD students fully integrated into the college?
  • Is there a fee?
  • Is academic credit received?
  • What is used to evaluate students for admission?
  • Is there a preparatory summer program?
  • What is the nature of the support?
  • Is subject area tutoring available?

Further resources for students with disabilities and postsecondary education (provided by Curry College):
Association for Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD)
US Department of Education
LD Online - college planning and LD students

Guide books:
K&W Guide to Colleges for Students with Learning Disabilities - Kravets and Wax
Peterson’s Colleges with Programs for Students with Learning Disabilities or Attention Deficit Disorders - Mangrum and Strichart
Colleges with Programs or Services for Students with LD - Midge Lipkin
Survival Guide for College Students with ADHD or LD - Kathleen Nadeau

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