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Helping My Sons Transition to College and Access Needed Services

Written by Hilary Cole, Parent Contributor | November 7, 2011

When our family began the college search with our identical twin boys there was a lot of criteria that needed to be met. Size, location, cost, and of course, educational quality, really mattered. But there was another criterion that we were all really interested in as well. What types of disability services were provided? My boys both have dyslexia and have had an IEP in place since the third grade. We all knew that the school they decided on would have to provide the support they needed to be successful.

In the fall of the twin’s senior year in high school we visited a few colleges that they were interested in possibly attending. During each visit we made sure that we searched out the disability services department to inquire about how things worked on the campus. We made sure to get contact information and literature from each school. During our initial visit to the university they are currently attending, we were actually able to talk to the head of the Disability Services Department who told us all of the steps we would need to take in order for the boys to qualify for services at that school. This particular university needed to see a copy of the most recent disability testing we had as well as a copy of the most recent IEP we had, in its entirety. Once the boys were accepted there and decided they wanted to go we forwarded all the required paperwork.

Today, most colleges and universities have new student orientations that are held a few months before school actually starts. During these orientations, placement tests are taken and course schedules are made. For these reasons, it is imperative to be in contact with the Disability Services Department prior to orientation. In our case, even though we had not had a chance to discuss the boys’ learning disabilities in detail, the university had been provided with enough documentation to determine that they needed accommodations on their placement tests.

Prior to orientation we made an appointment to meet with the Disability Service Department to discuss the boys’ paperwork. They each met with a counselor who reviewed their paperwork and decided that they would be eligible for accommodations for their freshman year. In our case, the testing that we presented was not current or conclusive enough for them to qualify the boys indefinitely. We were told that this is often the case and were directed to local resources that will help us get the testing done that the school requires. This is something that our family is 100% responsible for doing. The boys were then given a letter to present to their professors which explained that they have a learning disability and offered suggested accommodations that would benefit the boys. We were reminded that college was not like high school and that no services or accommodations were guaranteed.

Before the boys met with their professors during the first week of classes, I reminded them that they have been great advocates for themselves for years and that this was a great opportunity to really tell a teacher what they needed and what learning environment worked for them. I spoke to the boys last week and asked how their meetings with their professors went. They told me that the professors had all been very understanding and willing to work with them to give them the support they need. It seems that their freshman year is off to a great start.

Our process in getting the boys qualified for accommodations was not difficult. I believe that is because we did our research, followed the steps that needed to be taken and did not wait until the last minute to make it happen. Those of us with children with LD know how important it is for our children to have the support they need. I see now that it is still out there, even at the university level. We as a family are feeling confident that the boys will be getting the support that they need to be successful in college. For us, this knowledge is priceless.

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