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Finding the Right Fit – Levels of Support for LD Students at the Post-Graduate Level

Students with learning disabilities and ADHD are applying to colleges and universities at increased rates. And while colleges and universities are making progress in leveling the academic playing field for qualified students, campus attitudes and special services programs continue to vary. Unlike public schools, colleges and universities are required by law only to make “reasonable accommodations” for qualified students with learning challenges. Thinking about disability support programs in terms of three main categories will help students and their families determine which college support programs are a good fit.

“Basic” programs are also referred to as limited, self-directed or decentralized programs, and they only offer accommodations required by law, such as note-taking assistance and un-timed testing. Most colleges and universities fall into this category and are best suited for students who received consultative services only at the high school level. For students with on or near grade level reading, writing and math skills, strong self-advocacy, and consistent time management skills, the assistance of basic programs provide the necessary accommodations for academic success.

At the next level of support are programs described as “coordinated” services. These programs provide services beyond the required level. Students will have access to at least one specially trained staff member who may have input on admission decisions and offer study skills classes, tutors, and other support services at no additional charge. These programs are typically best for students who demonstrated on or near grade level skills in high school, but needed support in requesting needed accommodations and in effectively managing their time.

Programs offering the highest level of support are described as “structured” or “proactive” programs. They often require students to sign a contract and charge additional fees ranging from $2,000 to $8,000 a year. They offer modified coursework and specially trained staff that monitor individual student progress. Fewer than 100 schools fall into this category.

To determine the best program for your student, students and their families should schedule a meeting with the Disability Services Program on campus. Sitting down with staff from the disability services program, which every college and/or university should have, will give you an opportunity to learn more about the program, the staff and the services available to students with learning challenges. Once your family has had the opportunity to see the program and meet its representatives, you and your student will be better able to evaluate the college’s academic and extracurricular activities, college climate and its disability supports for getting you in – and out of – college.

Heather Creech
LD Educational Consultant

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