When it comes to time for college admission, you may be wondering if it is even a possibility for your student. Our daughter is a “special needs” student, but we never treated her as such at home, we just made adjustments and helped her learn to cope with her issues to be as successful as possible in work and academics. Since she wants to pursue college, we are now unravelling all that entails.
Colleges can and do work with special needs students regularly. For the schools we have visited, they require current proof of special needs. This generally means a student’s diagnosis should be evaluated within two years of college admission. Since our daughter had never been “officially diagnosed” we took her to a psychologist for complete testing and evaluation in the summer between her Junior and Senior years of high school. Testing took several weeks, then it took several weeks more for the final report to be complete. Be sure the final report will include information regarding any special consideration your student will need in college.
Once you have this report in hand, contact the college and ask to make an appointment with the disability resource center. Here, they can look at the paperwork, talk to the student, discuss their specific needs and put a plan in place for them to do their best work in college. In our daughter’s case, she has dyslexia (in the form of dysgraphia), ADHD and Asperger’s. For special accommodations she will likely need a scribe for tests or notetaking, tests to be given in a quiet place away from other students (the noises and such are painfully distracting for her), and the use of recording devices in the classroom.
Once you have met with the center and discussed all the possibilities for help, prayerfully consider what your student needs and be proactive. Before the beginning of every semester, the student and their assigned advocate in the disability resource center will contact each professor and discuss the class and her special needs. It may be helpful for the student to meet the professor during office hours and get to meet him or her in a positive way before class is underway.
To help ease your student into college classes, you may want to start with just one class, with a community college, dual credit, or auditing a class at college. This was very beneficial for our daughter. She was able to audit a class, see what it was like to function in the college classroom, receive graded work back, and see where help was needed. This was also a chance for her to take a class just to see if it interested her. She loved it. She thrived in the classroom. She struggled through writing papers. She struggled with the test-taking. She pushed through deadlines. She learned a lot. And she learned where she would need to ask for help. As a bonus, even though she audited it for college, we were able to count it for high school credit on her transcript.
If you make the decision to let your student try college, he or she will likely need standardized testing. Local community colleges sometimes have their own testing, but we went ahead and had her take the ACT. Check with your college of interest to see which testing is required. For the ACT or SAT, if you have a documented disability, they may grant special accommodations for it as well. This will require written documentation and a detailed description of what help the student will need, and why.
As a warning, do not send your student into a full-time college situation ill-prepared. If a student with special needs is struggling in the classroom, often grades can be negatively affected for the entire semester. Colleges want to help students with special needs but do not tolerate waiting until they have a hopelessly poor grade and then waving the white flag. Once grades have been assigned, they often cannot be recovered. Proactive students who self-advocate can and will be successful if they truly desire to work at their highest potential.
Malia Russell is the blessed wife to Duncan, thankful mother to six children, ages 3-25, a grandmother, and an author, conference speaker and director of www.homemaking911.com . She has home educated her children since 2000 and has been blogging at Homemaking 911 since 2007. She is also a member of The Schoolhouse Review Crew for 2016.