Planning for Postsecondary Transition
With the first half of the school year almost complete, I think it’s safe to say that everyone (parents, educators, students) is looking forward to some holiday time away from the classroom. But for students who will be finishing high school in the spring, the next few weeks are likely to be filled with paperwork and planning, meetings with guidance counselors, conversations with college admissions personnel,and hours of online research.
Whether students plan on attending college, joining the workforce or pursuing a combination of both, now is the time for gathering information, identifying needs, creating a preliminary plan of action (yes, preliminary... it will change many times between now and graduation!) and getting started on a path to greater independence.
In partnership with the 92nd Street Y in New York City, NCLD created a menu of easy-to-use materials that are intended to help teenagers and their families get a head start on the post-high school transition process, including:
- “Looking Back and Planning Ahead: Reflections from an Office of College Disabilities Services”
- “Making the Transition from High School to College for Students with Disabilities: Knowing the Differences”
- NCLD’s “Top 10” Tips for High School Students
- Successful Transition to College for Students with Learning Disabilities: Questions to Consider Along the Way
(Be sure to read the piece called “Making the Transition” written by Colleen Lewis, the Director of Disability Services at Columbia University, it offers a side-by-side look at the ways high schools and colleges differ in terms of services and supports for students with LD.)
More Resources to Help Smooth Your Transition
In addition to these resources, a number of Web sites provide reliable information about students with LD and a wide variety of post-secondary options:
- HEATH Resource Center
This Center hosts the Online Clearinghouse for Postsecondary Education for Students with Disabilities at George Washington University.
- HEATH Guide
This Guidance and Career Counselors’ Toolkit offers information on advising high school students with disabilities on postsecondary options.
GreatSchools is a Web site full of resources about learning disabilities created by the former Schwablearning.org group. Look for articles such as:
- Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD)
Here you’ll find a listing of resources for young adults transitioning to college.
- College Board
This site offers a number of useful and important resources to assist students with disabilities and their families in planning for college, finding colleges that match students’ needs and interests in completing the application process. (Also look for specific information about assessment accommodations for SATs and other exams as well as documentation required to substantiate LD.)
All students who are engaged in a postsecondary transition process could benefit from taking time to consider and better understand the challenges they will face as they transition from high school to college. This is especially important, however, for students with LD. The ability to articulate areas of strength and weakness and to secure the kinds of services and supports they need are essential to their success. A few words of advice:
- Know your learning disability and how it effects your ability to succeed in the classroom, in the dorm room and other social settings; make sure you are able to disclose the nature of your specific disability and the specific types of assistance you need to be successful (make NO ASSUMPTIONS about what others know or think they know about LD!).
- Hone your self-advocacy skills, be prepared to speak out and in respectful and unrelenting ways request the help you need (and to which you are entitled).
- Be flexible in how you approach seeking help and arranging for formal and informal accommodations; identify a community of resources to which you can turn for help and stay in touch with these folks even when things are going fine.
Know Your Rights!
The good news is that the law is on your side when it comes to getting the help you need in postsecondary settings. While the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) no longer applies in college settings, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does extend the opportunity for services and supports to be offered. Learn more from the following resources:
- The Americans With Disabilities Act
This article, by Dale Brown, is a wonderful primer on the ADA.
- US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Civil Rights (OCRS)
This informative web site is a good starting point for questions regarding education rights.
Sheldon H. Horowitz, EdD is the Director of LD Resources & Essential Information at the National Center for Learning Disabilities.>