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College Advice for Students with Learning Disabilities

September 25 2009 | by

For students with learning disabilities, applying to college is a daunting task. An article in the New York Times’ blog, The Choice, reports on a Nacac conference, “Supporting the Transition to College for Students with Learning Disabilities,” where educators tried to answer some of the nettlesome questions for high school counselors trying to guide students with disabilities — including dyslexia, ADHD and Asperger Syndrome — toward supportive colleges where they might thrive. While the Nacac conference was geared to high school counselors and college admissions officers, there was plenty of useful material for parents, too:

* The Association on Higher Education and Disability found that just 28 percent of students with learning disabilities graduate. And only 25 percent of students with disabilities take advantage of the services available to them on campus.

* Catherine Axe, the director of Disability Support Services at Brown University, said that it was illegal for colleges to directly ask whether a student has a disability and applicants don’t have to tell the school. But she said could help admissions officers decide whether an applicant should be admitted, by providing an explanation for something unusual on a transcript, or example.

* If an applicant does disclose a disability, the information, such as from a psychoeducational evaluation, should probably go directly to the school’s disabilities services office, which will know better how to handle the information than the admissions office.

* Before students apply, they should contemplate what they’re looking for in college, and decide where to apply based on the best fit. In such cases, that fit might be defined as the level of accommodation the school is willing to make; the kind of services they provide, and whether the school has a structured program for students with learning disabilities.

* A school in a small city could have fewer distractions for students who have trouble focusing on their studies.

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