There is a big difference between having a disability in high school and what that means when it is time to go to college. In a nutshell? Students need to learn to find their own way.
During a recent educational session that we at Dollars 4 Tic Scholars attended at the National Tourette Association of America conference in March, Deborah DeMille-Wagman, Director of Academic and Disability Support at American University, said there is a big learning curve for students with Tourette Syndrome and other challenges to adjust to college, and she outlined the major hurdles and differences.
For instance, in Kindergarten through 12th grade, it is the responsibility of the child’s school to:
- Identify and evaluate students with disabilities
- Evaluations are performed at no expense to students
- Parents are notified, involved and consent to placement decisions
- An IEP (Individualized Educational Program) is developed with parents, teachers and involved specialists.
According to DeMille-Wagman, college lies on the opposite side of the caretaking axis.
- Students are responsible for self identifying their disability and must provide adequate documentation
- Evaluations/required documentation is the student’s responsibility to obtain and is at the student’s expense
- Students are responsible for advocacy and negotiating accommodation plans
- Accommodation plan is developed between the student and the college’s disability support office. There is no I.E.P.
All this advocating requires the student to quickly learn advocating skills. When Kelsey went to school at Florida Gulf Coast University, she immediately visited the Adaptive Services Office and developed a plan of accommodations with the counselors there. She was then required to take a document showing her proof of disability and of her meeting with the Adaptive Services Office to each professor in order to make them aware of the accommodations she had negotiated for.
As Ms. DeMille-Wagman points out, students need to be able to discuss their disability in an informative manner. They should be familiar with their rights and responsibilities as an individual with a disability, be ready to explain their overall learning style, be ready to articulate their own strengths and weaknesses and discuss with the office of disabilities what accommodations are and are not helpful to them, and why.
When college begins, the immediate difference is the limited access of a student’s information to the parents. Confidentiality guidelines between parents and university officials severely restrict information sharing, making it imperative that the student know his or her rights, opportunities and be able to advocate for themselves.
High school to college is an intimidating transition already without the extra challenges brought on by a student being suddenly in charge of the way his disability impacts his academics and his college experience. With preparation, though, a student can be ready.
Dollars 4 Tic Scholars
With thanks to Deborah DeMille-Wagman