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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:

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)

How does my son get special arrangements for the SAT?

You must make arrangements with Educational Testing Services (ETS) who administer the SAT. Usually, the high school officials who have been working with your son or the school official responsible for administering the SAT should have all the information necessary and should be assisting with the process. Of course, you could contact ETS directly to find out what would be necessary. You should plan on this well in advance of any scheduled administration of the exam.

(https://www.ahead.org)

Can we visit the disabled student office on our college tour?

More than likely the office would love to have you visit and learn about their services, processes, and personnel. However, if your visit is occurring during an academic term, they may be very busy and if it occurs during the summer or between terms, they may not be in the office. Either way, it is imperative to make an appointment in advance so someone can be available to answer your questions.

(https://www.ahead.org)

Which colleges are the best for students with learning disabilities?

It would be impossible for anyone to rank colleges and universities in such a way. First, as you may already have learned years ago, the term learning disability is a catch-all phrase that describes a vast array of major impediments to learning. Under §504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the ADA, each college and university is required to provide academic adjustments (i.e., accommodations) to ensure that students with learning disabilities can have access to their programs. However, there are many colleges and universities that go beyond the minimum requirements and provide a variety of programs and services to better serve students with learning disabilities. If you believe your child would benefit from a more intense program of services, it will be necessary to research the various colleges and universities providing these services to determine which best fits your child’s needs. Two sources for finding this information include: The Princeton Review K&W Guide for Colleges for Students with Learning Disabilities or ADD. ISBN 037576495X Peterson’s Colleges with Programs for Students with Learning Disabilities or Attention Deficit Disorders. ISBN 0768912687

(https://www.ahead.org)

If I am unable to get accepted to college due to my learning disabilities what are my options?

Colleges and universities are legally required to provide reasonable accommodations for students with diagnosed learning disabilities.  For information about your rights and the responsibilities of both you and the college, go to https://ldaamerica.org/category/post-secondary-options/ 

Here are some other resources that may help you look at other options:

What is the main difference between an accommodation and a modification?

An accommodation is a change to the environment; e.g., a private room for testing, a change in testing format, the use of assistive technology, etc.  A modification is a change to the content of the curriculum or the testing, or a change to what the student is expected to learn; e.g., fewer questions on a test, shorter assignments, or how test results are interpreted.

Handwriting is very difficult for me and now that I am a graduate student I need to do a lot of writing. What type of accommodation would you recommend to help me?

Access to a keyboard and/or a speech-to-text program like Dragon Naturally Speaking may be effective solutions, but using speech-to-text may not be possible for note-taking during class.  It should be very helpful for writing papers, though.  You can find out more about Dragon at http://www.nuance.com/dragon/index.htm. You can also check your computer’s list of accessible programs; most have a speech-to-text program already installed on your computer that you don’t have to pay for.

For note-taking in class, you may want to check out the “Live Scribe” pen, which allows you to take notes, draw pictures, and digitally record what the teacher is saying – all at the same time.  It also instantly syncs with your laptop so you have a digital version of what you’ve written.   For more information, go to https://www.livescribe.com/en-us/.

There’s also an app called “AudioNote” that does much the same thing and is much cheaper.  See http://luminantsoftware.com/iphone/audionote.html.

One last idea is to use a graphic organizer approach to writing reports, papers, etc.  For more information about various types of graphic organizers and resources, see https://ldaamerica.org/graphic-organizers/