The following is a transcription of the podcast, “Transitioning to College for Students with Learning Disabilities (Audio).”
In this podcast, Karen Golembeski, Assistant Director of Public Policy at the National Center for Learning Disabilities, and her guest Vincent Varassi discuss the topic of students with learning disabilities transitioning to college.
Vincent Varassi represents Fairleigh Dickenson University in New Jersey and presents nationally on topics of transition to college and alternate post-secondary options for students with learning disabilities. Mr. Varassi served as the campus director of the Regional Center for College Students with Disabilities on the Metropolitan campus in Teaneck, New Jersey.
In this discussion, Mr. Varassi helps listeners gain a better understanding of what high school students with disabilities need to know before they apply to college and how to be successful once on campus.
Karen Golembeski: Thank you for joining us today. Please give our audience a brief description of the Regional Center for College Students with Disabilities.
Vincent Varassi: The Regional Center for College Students with Learning Disabilities is a program that’s actually partially funded by the State of New Jersey through the New Jersey Commission on Higher Education. My center at Fairleigh Dickenson is one of eight centers scattered throughout the State of New Jersey. And of the eight centers, there is one that’s set up to be in consultant with regards to assistive technology. Five of us specialize in learning disabilities and two others work with the deaf and hard of hearing.
Karen Golembeski: Have your programs set an example for other colleges and universities in this field?
Vincent Varassi: I believe we have. At the present time, to the best of my research, there is no other state in the union that has set up regional centers along the lines of New Jersey’s.
Karen Golembeski: You mentioned documentation. One of the top questions students and parents have when discussing college planning is whether or not a student’s IEP is valid, relevant, or necessary in college. Can you clear up some myths for us? Are IEPs valid in college? If not, are there IEP-like plans written at the college level?
Vincent Varassi: Actually, there are no IEPs in college. IEPs come from special education legislation that exists for the K-12 world. It’s the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), most recently revised in 2004, which provides for special education and related services.
IEPs are valid during the time period that students are covered by that law, the time period from age 3 through 21, or until a student graduates from high school. So once the student has taken the [high school] diploma, the assumption is that he has met the goals and objectives of his IEP, is eligible to graduate and move on. At that point, the IEP is no longer a mandated document and the items in the IEP no longer mandate that someone do anything on behalf of the student.
So that’s a major shift for students and parents to grasp. It’s a big shift in thinking about services. Special education does not exist in the post-secondary world as it exists prior to high school graduation.
Now, an IEP is still a wonderful document in terms of the history that it provides of the student’s strengths and weaknesses, gifts and talents that are noted in the student’s IEP under the present levels of educational performance and in other places. So it has information that can be helpful to people who might be working with the student, but it is no longer going to mandate particular accommodations or curricular modifications and things like that.