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My daughter has been in Special Education since elementary school but her high school would not agree to update her testing before graduation. Should her documentation be recent to get disability accommodations or services in college?

You ask an excellent question about the need for ‘recent’ disability documentation. Each college or university develops their own policy for reviewing student documentation, determining barriers to education, and providing needed accommodations. When looking at schools for your daughter, read through the documentation policy for each disability office. Ask questions about what type of evaluation material is needed and how current it must be to access accommodations at their institution. Schools can vary greatly in what they require to determine accommodations for students with disabilities. The Association of Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD) is another excellent resource for information about disability services in the post-secondary setting. AHEAD provides the following explanation on their website about current, relevant and recent documentation:

 

“Disability documentation should be current and relevant but not necessarily “recent”. Disabilities are typically stable lifelong conditions. Therefore, historic information, supplemented by interview of self-report, is often sufficient to describe how the condition impacts the student at the current time and in the current circumstances. Institutions should not establish blanket statements that limit the age of acceptable external documentation”. (www.ahead.org)

What role does depression play in one’s ability to understand? Can you recommend a helpful book?

According to http://www.bipolardisorderscenters.com/how-depression-affects-learning/, depression can impair one’s cognitive functioning. The disorder interferes with one’s thought process, the ability to make decisions and concentration. Depression changes the brain, which can slow the brain’s functioning. Depressed people frequently experience memory problems and have trouble remembering events or details. As a result they may be unable to complete tasks that require both high-motor and cognitive skills. Patients may appear confused, scatterbrained, overwhelmed or become frustrated easily. Even everyday tasks can be difficult for someone struggling with depression. These mental impairments are especially costly to children and students who are still attempting to learn crucial fundamental skills.

The following symptoms of depression can also contribute to learning problems or disabilities:

  • Mood swings and emotional irregularities
  • Low self-esteem causing feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness and self-hatred
  • Feeling irritable, agitated or anxious
  • Not finding pleasure, ultimately causing the individual to become disinterested in activities, work and other performance-based behaviors
  • Significant sleep disturbances (insomnia or hypersomnia) that affect the individual’s physical and psychological health

Other online articles regarding this topic include:

What strategies would you suggest when working with adult ESL students that have a learning disability?

Strategies that are helpful for non-ESL students with learning disabilities are usually appropriate for ESL students with learning disabilities, too.  Real-life, experiential, hands-on learning; graphic organizers; using the student’s learning strengths; accommodating the individual’s disability as needed; and the use of assistive technology when possible.

My professor refuses to give me my accommodations; what can I do?

You should discuss the issue with the college’s office for disabled student services. The processes and procedures used by colleges for providing accommodations vary greatly but all are directed towards ensuring equal access to their programs for students with disabilities. The office can guide you through the appropriate actions you need to take or they may need to intercede. You may need to utilize the college’s appeals process or file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights, both of which are processes that are generally used if all other avenues have failed.   (https://www.ahead.org)

My doctor says I should get unlimited time for taking tests. The disability office says I’m allowed time and a half – why?

The college has the responsibility under Federal law for ensuring access to their programs and activities by students with disabilities. Often, the office for disabled student services is delegated the authority to make decisions on what is regarded as reasonable adjustments to ensure equal access because they have the knowledge, credentials, and experience to do this. The office often uses medical or other professional documentation provided by the student as a basis for making such decisions but they are not required to follow exactly the recommendations made in the documentation provided. If you feel the decision is not fair or appropriate, you may utilize the college’s appeal process or file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights.  (https://www.ahead.org)

How do I find out what my rights are in college?

The college may very well provide you this information in the admission packet. Prior to that, you can go online to Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Dept. of Education’s page: http://www.ed.gov/policy/rights/guid/ocr/disability.html which provides access to the Federal law and regulations as well as some FAQ’s. You may also contact the college’s office for disabled student services which can provide you information on Federal, state, local, and campus regulations that you should know.  (https://www.ahead.org)

Are there any scholarships for students with disabilities?

Generally, no, there are no Federally-funded scholarship or loan programs specifically targeted to students with disabilities. However, there may be local or regional scholarships or loan programs established by eleemosynary or charitable organizations for which you might be eligible. You should contact the Student Aid Office at the colleges you are considering; they are knowledgeable about the various scholarships and loan programs available and often can give you a list which describes the qualifications and application deadlines required for the various loans and scholarships. If you are not a client of Vocational Rehabilitation, you may wish to apply for services from VR to see if you are eligible and could receive support.

The HEATH Resource Center produces a helpful guide to scholarship and other funding sources. Look for the “Financial Aid Guide” publication at https://www.heath.gwu.edu/.  (https://www.ahead.org)

Should I tell about my disability on my application to college?

You are not required to disclose your disability at any time and the college is prohibited by Federal law from asking you about a disability on the application form. If you believe your disability has had a negative impact on your grades and test scores and, thus, those scores do not truly reflect your ability to do college level work, then it might benefit you to explain that to the admission officer or committee. However, this is a personal decision that you should also discuss with knowledgeable folks such as your parents, school counselor, vocational rehabilitation counselor, or even someone at the college. Often, once a student has been accepted, the college will give incoming students information regarding the office or offices that provide services for students with disabilities as well as time frames for requesting accommodations. It is, then, up to you to contact the appropriate officials if you feel you will need services.  (https://www.ahead.org)