In order to prepare your child with LD for life after high school, it is important for the conversation to begin early in high school (or even before). As difficult as this task may be for some families, starting this dialogue in a comfortable, non-threatening way will yield a more successful result in the later high school years. Whether this conversation takes place in the comfort of your own home, or within the context of a school meeting with an educator/counselor present, it is critical for parents to be involved with the discussion. Your child’s future goals should be documented and there should be a plan for steps that will be taken each year of high school. But planning is not enough: make sure that you, your child, and all members of your child's IEP team are tracking progress toward these goals regularly.
At home, encourage your child to focus on time-management skills, such as organizing his or her own materials and limiting time spent interacting with peers on social networking sites and other technology. One of the biggest threats to student productivity is 24-hour access to peers. In our constantly wired world, it's not uncommon for students to attempt to simultaneously write a term paper, browse Facebook, and text with friends. But this multi-tasking prohibits students from doing their best work—and this may be especially true for those with LD or AD/HD, who often struggle with executive function. Helping your child learn to minimize distractions whenever possible will not only help him or her learn as much as possible in high school, but will set up a path for successful transition to postsecondary education and employment.
At school, take note of the supports and accommodations your child needs in order to be successful. With every updated IEP, make sure to review the accommodations for both classes and for standardized testing. Typically, postsecondary programs suggest that an IEP be completed within three years of the start of college. This allows for the recommendations to be relevant and still current enough to utilize for an application to the Office of Disability Services at most institutions. (But remember, an IEP does not automatically transfer to a postsecondary institution. Students must apply for assistance from the Office of Disability Services, and may not receive the same types of accommodations they received in high school.) Accommodations that may be offered at the college level include:
reduced course load
note takers and recording devices
extended time on tests
deadline extensions with professor approval
individual tutoring sessions/academic coaching
refining study skills
separate location for test taking
Remember to maintain a positive attitude during the process of transition from high school to postsecondary education or employment. Remind your child of his or her strengths. Encouraging self-advocacy during high school will allow for a smoother transition to college, where self-advocacy is key. Encourage your child to regularly talk with you and school staff about what accommodations are working well and where additional support could be useful. When you teach your child to communicate about his or her LD-related needs, you are helping them prepare for the future.
Adrienne Nagy, M.A., has a Master’s Degree in Counseling & Guidance from NYU, and a B.A. in Psychology from Lafayette College. Previously, she was the guidance counselor at Loyola School for four years. She currently works at Aaron School, where is the guidance and transition counselor. Adrienne also works privately as a college coach and social skills tutor.