In high school, students with learning differences or disabilities most commonly have a 504 plan or an IEP (individualized education plan). According to section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, a college has an obligation to provide students in need with appropriate accommodations so that all students have an equal opportunity to succeed in college. However, the way in which students apply for and receive disability accommodations is very different at the college level than it is at the high school level. Students will have to apply specifically for services by submitting appropriate documentation about their disability. Then, the disabilities office at the college will determine what accommodations, if any, the student is qualified to receive. Even if a student has accommodations on file with the disabilities office, it is up to the student to disclose his disability to his professors.
Some colleges go above and beyond and have curricula specifically designed for students with learning differences. Each college's support services will vary so it is important to speak to the learning services coordinator at each individual school to find out what that college can specifically offer for accommodations.
Every college or university out there must have a disabilities office. The disabilities office should support students in applying for accommodations and locating resources on campus. Often times, the disabilities office is housed in the same location as the learning center. The learning center is a resource for any student on campus and offers help with writing and other courses.
Students will have to reflect on their own specific needs in order to find the right fit for their education. Although some students succeed best in a small classroom where they get plenty of interaction from the professor, other students thrive on larger campuses. The best way to know if a college will work for you is to get on campus. See if admissions will allow you to sit in and observe some college classes so that you can get a feel for the workload and structure of courses at the college. Admissions will also frequently schedule overnight visits so that you can stay with a student in the dormitories in order to get a better feel for the social life and residential aspects of living on campus.
Many students elect to attend traditional college programs and succeed in these programs by taking advantage of their disabilities accommodations. Some students may feel they can work to their best potential if they go to a college or program within a college specifically for students with disabilities. Certain schools, such as Landmark College or Beacon College are designed specifically for students with LD. Other colleges, although more traditional in academic delivery, offer spectacular assistance programs such as Curry College's PAL (Program for Advancement of Learning), Arizona State University's SALT (Strategic Alternative Learning Techniques), or the University of Connecticut's BOLD (Building Opportunities for students with Learning Disabilities). These only represent a sample of the many opportunities colleges will offer to make the student's academic and social experience as dynamic as possible. Be sure to ask the schools you may have an interest in what they can offer specifically to you.
Once admitted, students may request support services in accordance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It is the responsibility of the student to identify him/herself and to provide appropriate documentation of a diagnosed disability. The students are then encouraged to introduce themselves to professors directly and to initiate a dialogue about their particular needs. Students have no obligation to disclose their disability to the college, but, for many students, sharing this information will help them to succeed in college. Students of all abilities, including successful students who want to enhance their academic skills and students who are struggling, are encouraged to use the learning center on campus. The goal of every campus is to ensure that students with needs have an opportunity to grow independently into their full potential.
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Once you have identified the campuses that best meet your academic and personal goals, it will be important to secure details about accessible housing on campus.
First, thoroughly read the campus' Web pages specific to housing and disabilities services offices. Ask the Housing Office if they have a specific form for mobility-impaired students requiring housing accommodations. Ask the Disabilities Services Office to send you a Request for Accommodations form; this form encompasses both academic and residential accommodations. Make an appointment with your doctor right away.
When you go to your doctor’s office, bring these forms and ask him/her to thoroughly fill out all sections on both forms, certifying your medical/disabling condition and requesting specific accommodations for your campus experience (academic and residential).
It is a good idea to jot down notes in advance detailing any accommodations you currently receive in high school plus your specific needs for assistance with ADLs (activities of daily living).
If the Housing Office does not have a specific form for housing accommodations, send documentation from your physician specifying your diagnosis and ADL limitations. After you have submitted your Housing Applications to each school, you can work on collecting information with regard to arranging attendant care in your dorm. The best way to start this process is to ask the Housing Office if they have a list of local agencies that provide PCA (personal care attendant) services. If not, start researching PCA agencies in the local vicinity of every college to which you are applying. Keep an organized folder for each college and keep your PCA agency lists filed with the right college.
At almost every college, attendant care services are considered the responsibility of the student, both in terms of arranging the care and financing it. When it comes to arranging the attendant care, some colleges are more helpful than others (some have existing relationships with local agencies, some will assist students by putting them in touch with local agencies, etc.).
Two options for paying for attendant care include Medicaid and Vocational Rehab.