College is attainable for students with learning differences and special needs. Most colleges are prepared to accept and support students with learning, physical, and mental challenges. In fact, schools such as Carnegie Mellon and Marshall will provide coordination of care options for students on the autism spectrum.
While most colleges have disability offices where students can secure help in accessing the school's curriculum and activities (note taking, transportation, preferential seating, etc.), it's important to know that colleges are not under the same obligation as K-12 schools to provide students with support. In order to access special services, students must be able to ask for and justify what they need. There are two key elements to the success of students with learning differences and special needs:
Before heading off to school, find the exact location of the Disability Office and the best method to contact them. Get to know someone in the office before arriving on campus.
Students who have received services through an IEP or 524 program in high school, should retain all of their paperwork, including medical records. These documents will help justify a request for services.
The best way for students to get what they need is to speak up. Whenever possible, we recommend that students openly identify their learning differences and special needs and learn to communicate exactly what issues arise from them. The clearer students can be with the administration, the better the administration can respond.
Students must self-advocate beyond the disabilities office. A student speaking to professors directly about his needs will often be key to making a class work for him. The same goes for fellow students. Social success is far more likely if a student is comfortable in his own skin, and puts those around him at ease.
Handling these interactions face-to-face may not be right for every student. Sometimes it’s easier to put things in writing or have letters sent on one's behalf. Ultimately, only you will know your own best course of action. As long as it involves asking for what you want, you’ll be ahead of the game.
The following are just a few of the many websites that feature information about schools that offer disability services. Check these out and do your own more directed Google searches.
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