Handbook, Section I: Transition to College (Page 13 of 20)

Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Students: Plan Ahead for College!
    1. Definition of a Self-Advocate
    2. My Life Right Now: Worksheet
    3. Tips for Becoming a Self-Advocate
    4. Top Two Challenges in College for Students With Disabilities
    5. Differences Between K-12 and Post-Secondary Education
    6. Legislative Differences Between K-12 and Post-Secondary Education
    7. Developing a Transition Plan
    8. Transition Resources for Students
  3. Parents and Families: Help Your Student Become a Self-Advocate
    1. Definition of a Self-Advocate
    2. Ten Tips to Help Your Child Build Self-Advocacy Skills for College
    3. Top Two Challenges in College for Students With Disabilities
    4. Differences Between K-12 and Post-Secondary Education
    5. Legislative Differences Between K-12 and Post-Secondary Education
    6. Transition Planning
    7. How Parents/Families Can Effectively Support Their College Student
    8. Transition Resources for Parents
  4. Feedback

Introduction

The transition from high school to college is a big step. You will find that the college environment is different from the high school setting and will require you to advocate for your needs and be more independent. The “Plan Ahead” chapter will help you prepare for college while still in high school and pave the way for a smoother transition to higher education. The second chapter in this section is for your parents and family. The role that your family plays in supporting your education will change as you begin college. This chapter will help your family learn how to support you before and during college.

Students: Plan Ahead for College!

Start planning for college today! It is never too early to start planning ahead for college and life beyond high school. This is your chance to decide how you want your adult life to be. These are your goals that will impact your life. Therefore, it is very important that you think it over and speak up about what you need and want.

The first step to taking charge of your life is to become a self-advocate. Self-advocacy skills will help you develop a clearer sense of who you are, where you want to go and how to get there. This information can then be used to develop an effective transition plan. The transition plan will help you set and achieve the goals necessary to successfully pursue your dreams after high school. To prepare yourself for college you should also look at the typical challenges experienced by college students with disabilities and the differences between high school and college. Planning ahead will help you make college a reality!

Definition of a Self-Advocate

A Self-advocate:

  • Knows him/herself,
  • Knows what s/he needs and wants, and
  • Knows how to get what s/he needs and wants.

Self-advocacy is based upon a holistic model which looks at all the areas of an individual’s life. For example, a college student’s life might include the following areas…Daily Living, School/Work, Health, Relationships, Community/Recreation, Spirituality/Purpose. Life is not one dimensional, therefore, it is important to acknowledge how each area impacts the functioning of other areas.  It is also important to strive for some type of balance between life areas. This doesn’t mean that the same amount of time is spent in each life area, but it does mean that each area receives some attention.

My Life Right Now: Worksheet

What does your life look like right now? How balanced is your life? You can figure out your strengths and challenges in each life area by clicking on the following worksheet.

Self-advocacy skills are essential in the college environment and in adulthood.  However, becoming a self-advocate does not happen overnight. It is a lifelong process that is perfected as you gain a solid sense of who you are and an awareness of how to maximize strengths and work with challenges. Learning self-advocacy skills now will help you become more independent and as you plan for transition.  Your transition goals will be more relevant and effective when they are based upon what you need and want, while taking into consideration your strengths and challenges. 

Tips for Becoming a Self-Advocate

  • Pay attention to what you like, what you are interested in!
  • Discover what you do well… What are your strengths?
  • Work with your teachers to figure out your preferred learning style.
  • Explore your challenges.
  • Start looking at what you need to do to get around your challenges. What are some helpful strategies?
  • What types of supports do you need? Do you need an accommodation?
  • Dream of the future… What do you want life to be like after high school? What about ten years from now? What type of a career will you have?
  • Check out careers that sound interesting. Talk to people in these careers. Find out what type of education and/or training is needed for these careers.
  • Practice independent living skills such as getting up on time, cooking, doing your laundry, managing money, keeping track of your assignments and schedule, taking responsibility for health needs, etc.
  • Work on study skills, note taking, and test taking.
  • Learn how to talk about your disability.
  • Figure out if you need academic supports and accommodations.
  • Learn how to ask for accommodations.
  • Remember, disability doesn’t define you, it is just a part of who you are.
  • Get organized.
  • Practice decision making and problem solving.
  • Learn from your mistakes.
  • Develop stress management skills.
  • Set goals and achieve them. Start small.
  • Be proud of who you are!
  • Have fun becoming a self-advocate!

Top Two Challenges for College Students with Disabilities

Be aware of the two common challenges that directors of disability service offices often see with students with disabilities as they come to college.  (Colorado/Wyoming Consortium Meeting, Spring 2008)

  1. Unaware of strengths and challenges
  2. Unprepared to advocate for themselves and navigate the college system

These two problem areas demonstrate the need for greater self-advocacy skills.  The first challenge “unaware of strengths and challenges” denotes a lack of “knowing self” which is the first premise of self-advocacy.  The second challenge is inextricably woven through the idea of knowing how to get what you need and want and understanding the differences between the K-12 system and Postsecondary Education.

Differences between K-12 and Postsecondary Education

Many freshman students struggle during their first year in college because they have a difficult time adjusting to the differences between high school and college.  The freedom, less structure, less time in class, less access to teachers and need for self monitoring and personal initiative can be challenging for any student.  Students with disabilities often have had even more structure and support built into their K-12 education which can make the change from high school to college more significant and difficult to handle.

High School College
Classes meet 6 hours a day/ 5 days per week or, approximately 30 hours a week Classes meet 1-3 times per week with limited instructor contact for 28 weeks or, a total of 336 hours of in-class time
Class sizes are usually small (20-30 students) Class sizes may range from 20-300+ students
Frequent small homework assignments with 1-3 hours of study time per day Larger, long-term projects with 3-4 hours per day of study time per 1 hour of class
Schedule is structured by teachers, staff and parents Schedule is planned by student.
Educational support services are built-in Student must take initiative to seek out needed academic support or accommodations
Following a structured schedule is important Managing time and personal freedom is a high priority
Teachers are available for assistance and questions during and after class Professors are available during office hours and for appointments
Teachers take attendance, monitor assignments, teach from the textbook and often use worksheets Professors rarely take attendance, may not check all homework, may lecture nonstop, and often teach from several sources. Library research is frequently required. Professors challenge students to integrate knowledge from a variety of sources.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) applies to qualified students with disabilities in K-12 education The Rehabilitation Act and Americans with Disabilities Act apply to qualified students with disabilities in higher education... Parents do not have to be consulted regarding a student’s educational plan

Legislation Differences between K-12 and Postsecondary Education:

A major reason for the shift in responsibility from high school to college is because of the corresponding shift in legislation. In K-12 many students with disabilities receive services through IDEA—Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (1990). IDEA is programmatic legislation that provides funding to states that meet the IDEA guidelines. This legislation actually has a “child find” component that seeks out qualified children with disabilities for service provision and empowers parents to be active partners in the planning of educational services. Together with families, the K-12 system takes care of and advocates for students with disabilities. This systematic approach changes in postsecondary education. The postsecondary system requires students rather than families or the system take the initiative to connect with needed services and support. As a result, some students with disabilities come to college thinking their parents or the institution will advocate for them. They are unprepared to advocate for themselves which may lead to academic difficulties.

Postsecondary Legislative Mandates:

In higher education qualified students with disabilities should receive benefits and services comparable to those given their nondisabled peers primarily through two laws—The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Title II and III) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504 and 508). The mandates of the ADA apply to all institutions of higher education, regardless of the receipt of federal funds while Sections 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act apply to colleges and universities receiving federal financial assistance. Additionally, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is another law to be aware of because it pertains to the confidentiality of students’ educational records. The three legislative mandates that address the need for access and accommodation in post-secondary education are as follows:

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (1973)

Section 504 ensures that any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance does not discriminate on the basis of disability. Section 504 states that, “No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States, as defined in section 7(20), shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance…” On a college campus Section 504 ensures the opportunity for students with disabilities to fully participate in academic programs, student services and student activities.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (1990)

The ADA is wide-ranging legislation intended to make society more accessible to people with disabilities. The ADA extends the provisions of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 1973 to entities not receiving federal funding. It protects fundamental rights and extends equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities to the areas of public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications. According to the ADA, “no otherwise qualified individual with a disability shall, solely by reason of his or her disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity of a public entity.” Title II of the ADA ensures equal opportunity and access to state funded higher education programs (universities, community colleges and vocational schools) for otherwise qualified college students with disabilities. Title III covers private colleges and vocational schools.

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act (1998)

Section 508 covers products and technologies procured by the Federal government, including computer hardware and software, Web sites, phone systems, fax machines, and copiers, among others. Section 508 requires Federal departments and agencies that develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology to ensure that Federal employees and members of the public with disabilities have access to and use of information and data comparable to that of the employees and members of the public without disabilities.

 

The following mandate addresses confidentiality of educational records for college students:

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

In general, FERPA requires institutions of postsecondary education to obtain written permission from the student to release information from a student’s educational record. However, when it is necessary for school officials to share information with each other regarding a student’s educational records, this can be done without consent, when there is a “legitimate educational interest” or, in cases where there may be a threat to health and FERPA also applies to disability information on file with the DSO or disclosed to faculty. This information is considered part of the educational record.

Developing a Transition Plan

Transition planning is critical to successful post-school outcomes. The key is for transition planning to be student-driven. The plan needs to be based upon your hopes and dreams, strengths and interests and development of self-advocacy skills. You need to be an active participant and leader in the transition planning process at home and at school.

Some students have an Individualized Education Plan in place through the schools. If this is true for you, when you turn 15, (IDEA 2005) your plan should begin to incorporate transition planning. It is essential that you attend and participate in IEP meetings to make sure that transition planning represents what you want to accomplish. If necessary, consult with school personnel about how to make IEP meetings more student-driven.

Transition Activities for Students with Disabilities

Middle School

  • Begin transition planning in middle school. (Use transition planning worksheet listed below.) Students with an IEP do not officially start transition planning until they are 15. Therefore, in middle school, start making transition plans at home. Start thinking about the future, your life after high school, and beyond. Begin to look at the steps you will need to take to get where you need to go.
  • Start considering what high school classes you will need to take to be eligible for postsecondary education and training.
  • Make sure you are taking the appropriate middle school classes that will help position you for required high school classes.
  • Begin taking on more independent chores at home.
  • Explore and learn about strengths, learning style, challenges, disabilities and compensatory strategies. Figure out (by trying) what strategies work and what types of accommodations you need.
  • Work on test taking, note taking, studying, organization, time management, stress management and social skills.

9th & 10th Grades

  • Learn how to talk about the nature of your disability and how to request accommodations as needed. Practice these skills!
  • Actively participate in the development and implementation of transition goals through IEP/ITP meetings. Attend and speak up at your meetings! If you do not have an IEP, continue developing your own transition plan.
  • To the greatest extent possible, take classes recommended for college-bound students to meet college requirements. Think twice about class waivers.
  • If needed, consider tutoring, summer school, an after-school program, extra coursework, etc to help you succeed academically.
  • Consult with your guidance counselor about your post-secondary options.  Determine if you will need to request a testing accommodation for your entrance tests (PSAT, SATII, SAT, ACT). Inquire about the use of “score choice” to release only preferred scores.  Ask about test preparation classes, books, etc.
  • Explore academic accommodations in higher education.  Go to college websites and look under disability services. Try out academic accommodations that are available in the college setting.  Explore assistive technology options. Experiment to find what works for you.
  • Check out interesting careers.  Spend a day on the job with professionals who work in an area of interest or, do an informational interview to gain insight into job requirements, job tasks, and job opportunities. Pursue summer employment in an area of interest. Develop a tentative career plan.
  • Make sure your post-secondary goals are reflected in your transition plan.

11th Grade

  • Take SAT and/or ACT tests in the fall. If scores are low retake in the spring.
  • Take college-bound classes. Find out if your high school partners with a local community college. If so, take a class to see what you think about college level work.
  • GPA is important, but if your grades have not been as high as needed, colleges also like to see an upward trend in grades.
  • Assess if the timing is right to pursue higher education. Do you have the motivation and maturity needed? What type of higher education is the right fit? Are you interested in a training program, vocational school, community college or 4 year college?
  • Create or update your resume and seek letters of reference.
  • Understand your legal rights and responsibilities and how the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act apply to the postsecondary setting. Note how the law changes from secondary to post-secondary settings.
  • Check out post-secondary options. Use college search websites (see listings under resources). Decide what factors you are looking for, i.e., admissions criteria, size of college, location, fields of study, disability support programs, etc.
  • Develop a list of post-secondary options and gather information.
  • Contact the post-secondary institutions you are considering. Call or email the office of admissions. Find out what the admissions criteria is and ask for a schedule of junior visit days or how to get an individualized tour of campus. Contact the Disability Service Office and set up an appointment or request information on disability support services specific to your disability. Find out if there is a summer program or class for incoming students with disabilities. Ask if there are any specialized programs or resources for your disability. Is there a mentor program? Find out about disability documentation requirements and what steps you will need to take to obtain an accommodation. (Requirements may vary from institution to institution.) Find out about program deadlines.
  • Narrow down postsecondary selections.
  • Acquire applications from desired schools.
  • Obtain all financial aid/scholarship options.
  • Obtain academic transcripts.
  • Stay organized. Create files for each school application and for financial aid/scholarships. Organize critical documents: medical records, transcripts, diagnostic testing, Medicaid, Medicare, resume’, letters of reference, letters of recommendation, volunteer experiences, IEP and/or transitional goals, SAT/ACT scores, etc. Organize and color code a calendar with all deadlines: application(s), financial aid, scholarship(s), health insurance, etc.
  • Decide on whether or not to disclose disability information. (Don’t forget that disclosure will need to happen if you will be seeking university support for academic accommodations.) Institutions of higher education encourage disclosure and are often interested in “unique and compelling circumstances.” Some students choose to disclose their disability on their college application to show how disability has given them notable strengths and sometimes to explain grades or test scores.
  • However, most 4 year institutions have a cutoff point for test scores and grades, beneath which they will not accept a student for admission.
  • Update disability documentation if needed. You may want to request a complete psycho-educational evaluation to have current documentation for college.
  • Investigate eligibility requirements for adult services and connect with services as needed. For example, vocational rehabilitation may be able to pay for assessment, testing, tuition assistance or accommodation fees.

Summer After 11th Grade

  • Continue to visit colleges as needed. Update school files. Get letters of recommendation. Work on application essays. Update resume. Many colleges will start accepting applications the summer before your senior year.

12th Grade

  • Carefully consider what type of living situation will be most effective for you. Incoming freshman are usually expected to live with a roommate in a residence hall (some universities allow residence in a fraternity or sorority). If you will need different living accommodations, due to your disability, contact the Disability Service Office to discuss options.
  • Fall Semester—If you haven’t turned in college applications, complete and turn in now.
  • Based on acceptance results, choose the postsecondary institution you would like to attend. If results are not what you had hoped for, consider other options such as starting at a community college and later transferring to a 4 year institution, enrolling in a probationary program (if offered), getting an associate’s degree at a community college, attending a training program, etc.
  • Begin establishing a support system for college: peer mentor, tutor(s), counselor(s), nearby family/friends, campus resources, transportation, church, etc.
  • If you will be seeking an academic accommodation, contact the institution that you will be attending to get your academic accommodation in place ahead of time.
  • ***A reminder that upon turning 18, males must register for the selective services draft. Selective service registration is required to be eligible for federal financial aid for college.

Summer After 12th Grade

  • Attend orientation program(s) offered through your college for incoming freshman. Register for classes and make sure you take the number and type of classes that will work for you. If offered, consider attending disability-related transition programs. Get familiar with the layout and location of classes and resources on campus. The more familiar you are with campus resources and classes the easier the transition will be.
  • Congratulations! Now that you are attending a post-secondary institution, remember to ask for help whenever needed, stay organized, connect to a support system, seek accommodations if needed and don’t forget your vision for the future.

Use the following link to download the Colorado Department of Education Transition Planning and Transition Goals worksheets. If a student does not have an IEP s/he can use these forms to start the transition planning at home.

Transition Planning and Transition Goals Worksheets from Colorado Department of Education

Transition Resources for Students

National Center on Secondary Education and Transition (NCSET)
The National Center for Secondary Education and Transition is a web-based resource focused on disseminating research and information related to transition services, secondary/postsecondary education, assistive technology and national/state level issues for individuals with disabilities.
National Council on Disability (NCD)
NCD is an independent federal agency that advocates for equal opportunity, for individuals with disabilities and their families, through policies, legislation and programs.
Learning Disabilities Online &
National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities
(NJCLD)
LDOnline is a website that provides information for parents, educators and students relating to various learning disabilities and the possible implications on academic success. This site provides additional resources, strategies and articles related to learning disabilities and education.
U.S. Department of Education
The U.S. Dept. of Education is a government regulatory agency that manages laws, policy, and funding for the education system nationwide. The website provides a plethora of information relating to financial aid, publications, budgets, research, programs and much more.
National Center for Learning Disabilities
NLCD website provides essential information for adults, children, adolescents and parents regarding learning disabilities, literacy, advocacy, public policy and education.
Association on Higher Education and Disabilities (AHEAD)
AHEAD is a professional organization that strongly supports the dissemination of information regarding post-secondary education and full participation of individuals with disabilities. The organization provides trainings, workshops, publications, conferences and consultation services.
Project DO-IT
DO-IT serves to increase the participation of individuals with disabilities in challenging academic programs and careers. It promotes the use of computer and networking technologies to increase independence, productivity, and participation in education and employment.
College: You Can DO IT!
Video about transitioning from high school to college and what to expect
Colorado Department of Education
Transition Planning and Transition Goals Worksheets

College, scholarship and financial aid information sites:

http://www.collegebound.net
http://www.collegelink.com
http://www.collegenet.com

Online resources for students with Learning Disabilities:

LD Resources
Learning Disabilities Resources
Learning Disabilities Association of America
National Center for Learning Disabilities

Parents and Families: Help Your Student Become a Self-Advocate

As the parent of a student who is getting ready for college, you play an important role in helping your young adult navigate the college system. Today’s young adults often seek family support and guidance during their college experience. The key for families is to provide the right kind of support for the right situation.

Support strategies change significantly from high school to college, but the goal remains the same—to help your student succeed. For students with a disabilities, this shift in support is even more significant. In the K-12 educational system, parents and families of a student with a disability are usually accustomed to advocating for their son or daughter and playing an active role in the educational process. In college, the role of advocate becomes the student’s responsibility. Students are expected to seek out any needed services or supports.

Many studies show that college students who develop self-advocacy skills experience greater levels of success in college and adult life. There are many ways that families can promote and encourage their young adult to become a self-advocate. Below you will find a definition of self-advocacy and ideas on how to help your student build self-advocacy skills before and during college.

Definition of a Self-Advocate

A Self-advocate:

  • Knows him/herself,
  • Knows what s/he needs and wants, and
  • Knows how to get what s/he needs and wants.

Self-advocacy is based upon a holistic model which looks at all the areas of an individual’s life. For example, a college student’s life might include the following areas…Daily Living, School/Work, Health, Relationships, Recreation/Leisure, Spirituality/Purpose. Life is not one dimensional therefore, it is important to acknowledge how each area impacts the functioning of other areas. It is also important to strive for some type of balance between life areas. This doesn’t mean that the same amount of time is spent in each life area, but it does mean that each area receives some attention.

Self-advocacy skills are essential in the college environment and in adulthood. However, becoming a self-advocate does not happen overnight. It is a lifelong process that is perfected as an individual gains a solid sense of who s/he is and an awareness of how to maximize strengths and work with challenges. Parents and families can play a key role in supporting and promoting the development of self-advocacy skills in their children before and after they go to college.

Ten tips to help young adult build self-advocacy skills for college:

  1. Promote Self Knowledge – Facilitate the development of a strong sense of self by helping your student explore and discover his/her strengths, interests, skills, learning style, faith, values, dreams, fears and challenges. Encourage your young adult to use his/her personal gifts to the fullest degree possible and come up with strategies to accommodate challenges. If you have disability related documentation or testing, review this information with your son/daughter (and a specialist if needed) to gain further insight into strengths and challenges that affect day to day activities. Help your student become the expert on his/her disability. In disability related meetings make sure your student attends the meeting and has the opportunity to give an opinion or feedback and set goals. The more leadership in this area the better!
  2. Identify Needs – Help your student explore what his/her needs are and then encourage him/her to come up with a plan to support those needs. Consider needs in each life area i.e., daily living, school/work, health, relationships, recreation/leisure, spirituality/purpose.

    Parents and families, often feel responsible for meeting the needs of their children. At younger ages this makes sense. But, once again, as your child gets older it is important that they take over these responsibilities. Help your young adult process his/her essential needs:

    • Eating
    • Sleeping
    • Studying
    • Managing Time
    • Exercising
    • Taking medication
    • Organizing
    • Seeking accommodations for disability

    If accommodations are needed, help your son/daughter investigate what those might be. Try out different approaches to find the most effective one. If academic accommodations are needed, research what your targeted college/university, may be able to provide.
  3. Dream – Help your student start to visualize what s/he wants in his/her future. Talk about hopes and dreams for high school and beyond. Again, look at dreams for each life area i.e., daily living, school/work, health, relationships, recreation/leisure, spirituality/purpose. Ask questions such as - Do you want a high school diploma? What type of career would you like? What type of education and training will that require? What type of lifestyle would you like to have? Where would you like to live? Etc.
  4. Be Resourceful – Guide your student in finding resources and information to address identified needs. Minimize “doing for.” Help your student learn to help him/herself. Encourage your young adult to practice asking for help and seeking information in a wide variety of situations. Have your student check out services for students at the targeted college/university website or in the student directory or handbook. Every college has a number of student service offices to support students in everything from study skills to health, recreation, stress management, and career seeking.
  5. Communicate - Help your student learn how to communicate support/accommodation needs to others including teachers, administrators and eventually professors. Practice and role play effective communication. If your son/daughter has IEP meetings make sure s/he is attending and speaking up.
  6. Problem Solve - To the greatest degree possible, when your student encounters a dilemma or problem, strive to empower your young adult by asking open-ended questions that require thoughtful consideration, rather than solving a problem or telling your son/daughter how to think. This will encourage your son/daughter to become a competent decision maker and problem solver.
  7. Prepare for Difficulties - Accept that your student will make mistakes and when the opportunity presents itself, let your son/daughter learn from his/her mistakes. For example, if your child consistently goes to bed late and expects you to wake him up in the morning, it is time to talk to him about setting his own alarm clock. If he wakes up late, and is late to class he will hopefully learn to be more responsible the next time. Experience can be a very powerful teacher.

    Communicate your confidence in his/her ability to learn from mistakes. When possible, proactively discuss what to do when difficulties are encountered next time. To cope with mistakes, support your young adult in developing stress management skills.
  8. Encourage Independence – Ask yourself, “What additional responsibilities is my son/daughter capable of taking on right now to become more independent and self-reliant?” Help your student develop the necessary learning, studying, organizational and living skills to be independent and successful in post- secondary education. Have your child help out with food prep, laundry, house cleaning, medication management, budgeting, etc. Make sure your son/daughter is aware of the differences between K-12 and postsecondary education and the change in legal rights and responsibilities so that s/he can prepare for the additional challenges of being independent (See below.). Remember, the more practice the better!
  9. Build Natural Supports – Help your student identify and build a natural support system for college (especially if they will be out-of-town or out-of-state). This may include friends or family in the area, mentors, advisors, student service professionals, connection with advocacy offices on campus, student clubs or organizations, clergy, adult services, etc.
  10. Set Goals - Assist your student in learning how to develop and accomplish achievable goals for the above listed initiatives. Practice small, short-term goals. Also, help your student get excited for and take ownership of his/her future by setting long-range goals related to your child’s hopes and dreams. Work with your student to develop a plan of action that addresses needs and lays out what steps should be taken right now to get through high school, into college and on the road to making hopes and dreams a reality. Include this information in transition planning at home. If your child has an IEP, these goals should also be reflected there.

Ideally, the shift in advocacy from family to student should happen gradually starting no later than middle school and continuing through high school.

Top two challenges for students with disabilities reported by higher education professionals

Be aware of the two common challenges that directors of disability service offices often see with students with disabilities as they come to college. (Colorado/Wyoming Consortium Meeting Spring 2008)

  1. Unaware of strengths and challenges
  2. Unprepared to advocate for themselves and navigate the college system

These two problem areas demonstrate the need for greater self-advocacy skills. The first challenge “unaware of strengths and challenges” denotes a lack of “knowing self” which is the first premise of self-advocacy. The second challenge is inextricably woven through the idea of knowing how to get what you need and want and understanding the differences between the K-12 system and Postsecondary Education.

Differences between K-12 and Postsecondary Education

Many freshman students struggle during their first year in college because they have a difficult time adjusting to the differences between high school and college.  The freedom, less structure, less time in class, less access to teachers and need for self monitoring and personal initiative can be challenging for any student.  Students with disabilities often have had even more structure and support built into their K-12 education which can make the change from high school to college more significant and difficult to handle.

High School College
Classes meet 6 hours a day/ 5 days per week or, approximately 30 hours a week Classes meet 1-3 times per week with limited instructor contact for 28 weeks or, a total of 336 hours of in-class time
Class sizes are usually small (20-30 students) Class sizes may range from 20-300+ students
Frequent small homework assignments with 1-3 hours of study time per day Larger, long-term projects with 3-4 hours per day of study time per 1 hour of class
Schedule is structured by teachers, staff and parents Schedule is planned by student.
Educational support services are built-in Student must take initiative to seek out needed academic support or accommodations
Following a structured schedule is important Managing time and personal freedom is a high priority
Teachers are available for assistance and questions during and after class Professors are available during office hours and for appointments
Teachers take attendance, monitor assignments, teach from the textbook and often use worksheets Professors rarely take attendance, may not check all homework, may lecture nonstop, and often teach from several sources. Library research is frequently required. Professors challenge students to integrate knowledge from a variety of sources.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) applies to qualified students with disabilities in K-12 education The Rehabilitation Act and Americans with Disabilities Act apply to qualified students with disabilities in higher education... Parents do not have to be consulted regarding a student’s educational plan

Legislation Differences between K-12 and Postsecondary Education:

A major reason for the shift in responsibility from high school to college is because of the corresponding shift in legislation. In K-12 many students with disabilities receive services through IDEA - Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (1990). IDEA is programmatic legislation that provides funding to states that meet the IDEA guidelines. This legislation actually has a “child find” component that seeks out qualified children with disabilities for service provision and empowers parents to be active partners in the planning of educational services. Together with families, the K-12 system takes care of and advocates for students with disabilities. This systematic approach changes in postsecondary education. The postsecondary system requires students rather than families or the system take the initiative to connect with needed services and support. As a result, some students with disabilities come to college thinking their parents or the institution will advocate for them. They are unprepared to advocate for themselves which may lead to academic difficulties.

Postsecondary Legislative Mandates:

In higher education qualified students with disabilities should receive benefits and services comparable to those given their nondisabled peers primarily through two laws – The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Title II and III) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504 and 508). The mandates of the ADA apply to all institutions of higher education, regardless of the receipt of federal funds while Sections 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act apply to colleges and universities receiving federal financial assistance. Additionally, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is another law to be aware of because it pertains to the confidentiality of students’ educational records. The three legislative mandates that address the need for access and accommodation in post-secondary education are as follows:

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (1973)

Section 504 ensures that any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance does not discriminate on the basis of disability. Section 504 states that, “No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States, as defined in section 7(20), shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance…” On a college campus Section 504 ensures the opportunity for students with disabilities to fully participate in academic programs, student services and student activities.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (1990)

The ADA is wide-ranging legislation intended to make society more accessible to people with disabilities. The ADA extends the provisions of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 1973 to entities not receiving federal funding. It protects fundamental rights and extends equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities to the areas of public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications. According to the ADA, “no otherwise qualified individual with a disability shall, solely by reason of his or her disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity of a public entity.” Title II of the ADA ensures equal opportunity and access to state funded higher education programs (universities, community colleges and vocational schools) for otherwise qualified college students with disabilities. Title III covers private colleges and vocational schools.

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act (1998)

Section 508 covers products and technologies procured by the Federal government, including computer hardware and software, Web sites, phone systems, fax machines, and copiers, among others. Section 508 requires Federal departments and agencies that develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology to ensure that Federal employees and members of the public with disabilities have access to and use of information and data comparable to that of the employees and members of the public without disabilities.

 

The following mandate addresses confidentiality of educational records for college students:

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

In general, FERPA requires institutions of postsecondary education to obtain written permission from the student to release information from a student’s educational record. However, when it is necessary for school officials to share information with each other regarding a student’s educational records, this can be done without consent, when there is a “legitimate educational interest” or, in cases where there may be a threat to health and FERPA also applies to disability information on file with the DSO or disclosed to faculty. This information is considered part of the educational record.

Developing a Transition Plan

Transition planning is critical to successful post-school outcomes. The key is for transition planning to be student-driven. The plan needs to be based upon your hopes and dreams, strengths and interests and development of self-advocacy skills. You need to be an active participant and leader in the transition planning process at home and at school.

Some students have an Individualized Education Plan in place through the schools. If this is true for you, when you turn 15, (IDEA 2005) your plan should begin to incorporate transition planning. It is essential that you attend and participate in IEP meetings to make sure that transition planning represents what you want to accomplish. If necessary, consult with school personnel about how to make IEP meetings more student-driven.

Transition Activities for Students with Disabilities

Middle School

  • Begin transition planning in middle school. (Use transition planning worksheet listed below.) Students with an IEP do not officially start transition planning until they are 15. Therefore, in middle school, start making transition plans at home. Start thinking about the future, your life after high school, and beyond. Begin to look at the steps you will need to take to get where you need to go.
  • Start considering what high school classes you will need to take to be eligible for postsecondary education and training.
  • Make sure you are taking the appropriate middle school classes that will help position you for required high school classes.
  • Begin taking on more independent chores at home.
  • Explore and learn about strengths, learning style, challenges, disabilities and compensatory strategies. Figure out (by trying) what strategies work and what types of accommodations you need.
  • Work on test taking, note taking, studying, organization, time management, stress management and social skills.

9th & 10th Grades

  • Learn how to talk about the nature of your disability and how to request accommodations as needed. Practice these skills!
  • Actively participate in the development and implementation of transition goals through IEP/ITP meetings. Attend and speak up at your meetings! If you do not have an IEP, continue developing your own transition plan.
  • To the greatest extent possible, take classes recommended for college-bound students to meet college requirements. Think twice about class waivers.
  • If needed, consider tutoring, summer school, an after-school program, extra coursework, etc to help you succeed academically.
  • Consult with your guidance counselor about your post-secondary options.  Determine if you will need to request a testing accommodation for your entrance tests (PSAT, SATII, SAT, ACT). Inquire about the use of “score choice” to release only preferred scores.  Ask about test preparation classes, books, etc.
  • Explore academic accommodations in higher education.  Go to college websites and look under disability services. Try out academic accommodations that are available in the college setting.  Explore assistive technology options. Experiment to find what works for you.
  • Check out interesting careers.  Spend a day on the job with professionals who work in an area of interest or, do an informational interview to gain insight into job requirements, job tasks, and job opportunities. Pursue summer employment in an area of interest. Develop a tentative career plan.
  • Make sure your post-secondary goals are reflected in your transition plan.

11th Grade

  • Take SAT and/or ACT tests in the fall. If scores are low retake in the spring.
  • Take college-bound classes. Find out if your high school partners with a local community college. If so, take a class to see what you think about college level work.
  • GPA is important, but if your grades have not been as high as needed, colleges also like to see an upward trend in grades.
  • Assess if the timing is right to pursue higher education. Do you have the motivation and maturity needed? What type of higher education is the right fit? Are you interested in a training program, vocational school, community college or 4 year college?
  • Create or update your resume and seek letters of reference.
  • Understand your legal rights and responsibilities and how the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act apply to the postsecondary setting. Note how the law changes from secondary to post-secondary settings.
  • Check out post-secondary options. Use college search websites (see listings under resources). Decide what factors you are looking for, i.e., admissions criteria, size of college, location, fields of study, disability support programs, etc.
  • Develop a list of post-secondary options and gather information.
  • Contact the post-secondary institutions you are considering. Call or email the office of admissions. Find out what the admissions criteria is and ask for a schedule of junior visit days or how to get an individualized tour of campus. Contact the Disability Service Office and set up an appointment or request information on disability support services specific to your disability. Find out if there is a summer program or class for incoming students with disabilities. Ask if there are any specialized programs or resources for your disability. Is there a mentor program? Find out about disability documentation requirements and what steps you will need to take to obtain an accommodation. (Requirements may vary from institution to institution.) Find out about program deadlines.
  • Narrow down postsecondary selections.
  • Acquire applications from desired schools.
  • Obtain all financial aid/scholarship options.
  • Obtain academic transcripts.
  • Stay organized. Create files for each school application and for financial aid/scholarships. Organize critical documents: medical records, transcripts, diagnostic testing, Medicaid, Medicare, resume’, letters of reference, letters of recommendation, volunteer experiences, IEP and/or transitional goals, SAT/ACT scores, etc. Organize and color code a calendar with all deadlines: application(s), financial aid, scholarship(s), health insurance, etc.
  • Decide on whether or not to disclose disability information. (Don’t forget that disclosure will need to happen if you will be seeking university support for academic accommodations.) Institutions of higher education encourage disclosure and are often interested in “unique and compelling circumstances.” Some students choose to disclose their disability on their college application to show how disability has given them notable strengths and sometimes to explain grades or test scores.
  • However, most 4 year institutions have a cutoff point for test scores and grades, beneath which they will not accept a student for admission.
  • Update disability documentation if needed. You may want to request a complete psycho-educational evaluation to have current documentation for college.
  • Investigate eligibility requirements for adult services and connect with services as needed. For example, vocational rehabilitation may be able to pay for assessment, testing, tuition assistance or accommodation fees.

Summer After 11th Grade

  • Continue to visit colleges as needed. Update school files. Get letters of recommendation. Work on application essays. Update resume. Many colleges will start accepting applications the summer before your senior year.

12th Grade

  • Carefully consider what type of living situation will be most effective for you. Incoming freshman are usually expected to live with a roommate in a residence hall (some universities allow residence in a fraternity or sorority). If you will need different living accommodations, due to your disability, contact the Disability Service Office to discuss options.
  • Fall Semester – If you haven’t turned in college applications, complete and turn in now.
  • Based on acceptance results, choose the postsecondary institution you would like to attend. If results are not what you had hoped for, consider other options such as starting at a community college and later transferring to a 4 year institution, enrolling in a probationary program (if offered), getting an associate’s degree at a community college, attending a training program, etc.
  • Begin establishing a support system for college: peer mentor, tutor(s), counselor(s), nearby family/friends, campus resources, transportation, church, etc.
  • If you will be seeking an academic accommodation, contact the institution that you will be attending to get your academic accommodation in place ahead of time.
  • ***A reminder that upon turning 18, males must register for the selective services draft. Selective service registration is required to be eligible for federal financial aid for college.

Summer After 12th Grade

  • Attend orientation program(s) offered through your college for incoming freshman. Register for classes and make sure you take the number and type of classes that will work for you. If offered, consider attending disability-related transition programs. Get familiar with the layout and location of classes and resources on campus. The more familiar you are with campus resources and classes the easier the transition will be.
  • Congratulations! Now that you are attending a post-secondary institution, remember to ask for help whenever needed, stay organized, connect to a support system, seek accommodations if needed and don’t forget your vision for the future.

Use the following link to download the Colorado Department of Education Transition Planning and Transition Goals worksheets. If a student does not have an IEP s/he can use these forms to start the transition planning at home.

Transition Planning and Transition Goals Worksheets from Colorado Department of Education

How Parents and Families Can Support Their College Student:
Advice from a Student Services Expert in Higher Education

At Colorado State University, Dr. Jody Donovan, the Executive Director of Parent and Family Programs, among other titles, shares the following advice for effective parent and family support strategies that promote self-advocacy:

You have played a very significant role in helping your student through the educational system from kindergarten through high school graduation. Congratulations! Now that your student is entering a college or university, your job is not over, however, your role is shifting. To successfully transition your student from dependent child to interdependent adult, you must step back and foster your young adult’s self-advocacy skills.

An interdependent adult is neither dependent nor independent. S/He recognizes the benefit of being interconnected, being mutually responsible to and sharing a common set of principles with others. It requires a mutual reliance emotionally, intellectually, economically, environmentally, and socially.

Colleges and universities share a common goal of helping students move from dependence, through independence and finally, to interdependence. A place where they can be both responsible to, and for, others!

This new role may not be easy because you may have been your child’s strongest advocate to ensure s/he received services, accommodations, resources, and ultimately a high school diploma. This was developmentally appropriate and may have been necessary.

Higher education is different. College students are challenged and supported to assume personal responsibility, hold themselves accountable, and become interdependent adults. The parental/familial role is no longer the ever-present advocate, rather, parents and families must take on the spectator, guide, mentor, and advisor roles, while students assume the director, active participant, and leader roles.

The Tandem Bike Analogy

Tandem Bike

A tandem bike is designed for more than one rider, on conventional tandems, the front rider, known as the captain or pilot, steers the bicycle, sets the speed, and navigates around obstacles, actively making choices about direction; the rear rider only pedals, having no ability to set direction and little ability to influence speed.

During K-12, parents and/or family members are the captains or pilots, sitting on the front seat, actively making choices in the best interests of the students who are sitting on the back of the bike. Parents & family members anticipate obstacles and roadblocks, navigate bumpy roads, and press on toward their destination. Their children, on the other hand, may assist by pedaling or may also choose to coast, letting the pilot make all the decisions and choices. This has been the acceptable and accepted means of traveling the educational journey.

As your student begins the transition from high school to college, switch places on the tandem bicycle! It may be scary at first, but it can also be very rewarding, to see your student make decisions, balance competing demands for attention, and progress toward becoming an interdependent adult, knowledgeable and capable of self-advocacy.

Sometimes you or another family member may be on the back of the bicycle, providing suggestions, encouragement and guidance as your student chooses the speed and direction for this particular leg of the educational journey. At other times, a teacher, staff member, academic advisor, or peer mentor may join your student for the ride, offering support and wisdom.

Riding a bike is challenging but it is also thrilling. Sometimes we hit a bump, fall down, and even scrape a knee or elbow. The important thing is to pick ourselves up and get back on the bike. The best lessons are learned from making mistakes and evaluating what went wrong in order to not make the same mistake twice.

Eventually, your student will demonstrate a readiness to ride a single-seat bicycle and you, family members, faculty, staff, peers, and community members will cheer and watch proudly. Ultimately, this is the goal: Students will become interdependent adults, experiencing life, capable of making their own decisions and choices.

The Umbrella Analogy

Umbrella

A more positive and helpful analogy derived from the negative “helicopter parent” analogy is called the “Umbrella Parent/Family Member.” Rather than highlight what should NOT be done (i.e. “hover”), this analogy capitalizes on the helpful behaviors when sharing an umbrella with someone in need.

As your student transitions to higher education, it is crucial to make sure s/he owns an umbrella and knows how to use it. This is an important life skill, similar to learning how to do one’s own laundry, make doctor/dentist appointments, and other self-advocacy responsibilities.

Now, if you or any family member notices your student needing assistance or support, rather than popping out your umbrella immediately, ask your student if s/he would like to share your umbrella. This allows your student to make a decision about your role in the situation. In other words, ask your student what s/he needs from you. Is it a listening ear, a supportive shoulder, a sounding board, or a person with whom to brainstorm options? These are all appropriate roles for parents/families of college students. Your student may want you to rescue him/her. This is not appropriate and ultimately does not promote interdependence and the development of self-advocacy skills. When you hold an umbrella for someone else, you stand next to, or beside them. You don’t stand in front of them. This extends to “holding the umbrella” for your student. Allow them to stand in front of you, or next to you. They are benefitting from your support, but they are “in charge.”

Remember, when you hold an umbrella for someone else, they benefit from your support, but still have their hands free to conduct their own business. Once again, continuing with this analogy, hold your student’s umbrella so they can do their business on campus, i.e. students can make their own dr. appointments, inquire about an exam grade during the faculty member’s office hours, or resolve their roommate conflicts.

Finally, the umbrella only comes out when it is necessary. We don’t hold open umbrellas “just in case.” We don’t run after people to protect them from the weather when it isn’t raining. Likewise, allow your student the ability to navigate the campus without you and your umbrella constantly overhead “just in case.” As stated previously, ask your student if s/he needs your additional “umbrella” of support.

You may be wondering “What if…they fall, they get lost, they can’t do the work, they fail an exam, they don’t turn their homework in, they miss class?...the list is endless.

These are legitimate questions that nearly 100% of parents and families of college students ask themselves and university administrators. Our answer: We support students as they face consequences and learn from mistakes. We support them to make modifications and encourage them to seek the vast resources available to them on campus.

In short, we challenge and support students to promote growth and self-discovery which in turn, helps students strengthen their self-advocacy skills. Students grow when they exhibit a readiness for appropriate challenges and are provided appropriate support. An overly-challenged student may drop out or turn to risky behaviors to cope with the challenges. An overly-supported student may drop out or turn to risky behaviors because they are bored (and not self-motivated), and will rarely demonstrate any growth. The key is to provide a ratio of just a bit more challenge than support to encourage growth and development.

As you can see, there are a number of situations where it is helpful for parents/family members to use their umbrella to support their student through stormy situations. However, increasingly, your student should also be learning how to use his/her own umbrella to build self-advocacy skills and become more independent. This path will eventually lead to greater interdependence and the time when your student is able to hold the umbrella for someone else.

Transition Resources for Parents

National Center on Secondary Education and Transition (NCSET)
The National Center for Secondary Education and Transition is a web-based resource focused on disseminating research and information related to transition services, secondary/postsecondary education, assistive technology and national/state level issues for individuals with disabilities.
National Council on Disability (NCD)
NCD is an independent federal agency that advocates for equal opportunity, for individuals with disabilities and their families, through policies, legislation and programs.
Learning Disabilities Online &
National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities
(NJCLD)
LDOnline is a website that provides information for parents, educators and students relating to various learning disabilities and the possible implications on academic success. This site provides additional resources, strategies and articles related to learning disabilities and education.
The PACER Center (Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights)
The PACER Center is a national organization, based out of Minnesota, which aims to improve the quality of life for individuals with disabilities through dissemination of information to parents and parent groups. The center has information regarding advocacy, legislation, employment, transitions and much more.
U.S. Department of Education
The U.S. Dept. of Education is a government regulatory agency that manages laws, policy, and funding for the education system nationwide. The website provides a plethora of information relating to financial aid, publications, budgets, research, programs and much more.
National Center for Learning Disabilities
NLCD website provides essential information for adults, children, adolescents and parents regarding learning disabilities, literacy, advocacy, public policy and education.
Association on Higher Education and Disabilities (AHEAD)
AHEAD is a professional organization that strongly supports the dissemination of information regarding post-secondary education and full participation of individuals with disabilities. The organization provides trainings, workshops, publications, conferences and consultation services.
Project DO-IT
DO-IT serves to increase the participation of individuals with disabilities in challenging academic programs and careers. It promotes the use of computer and networking technologies to increase independence, productivity, and participation in education and employment.
Preparing Your Child for Making Their Own Choices
Section 504 Online Tutorial
Secondary to Postsecondary Education Transition Planning for Students with Learning Disabilities
College: You Can DO IT!
Video about transitioning from high school to college and what to expect
Colorado Department of Education

Articles and Books

Comparison Chart: 504 vs. IEP
Comparison of IDEA
Frequently Asked Questions for Students With Learning Disabilities
Motivation: The key to academic success
Person-Centered Panning: A Tool for Transition
Parenting Post-secondary Students with Disabilities: Becoming the mentor, advocate, and guide your young adult needs.
Goldberg, R. J., Higgins, E. L., Raskind, M. H., & Herman, K. L. (2003). Predictors of success in individuals with learning disabilities: A qualitative analysis of a 20-year longitudinal study. Learning Disabilities Research and Practice,18 (4), 222-236.
Brinkerhoff, L.C. (2001) Postsecondary education and transition for students with learning disabilities (2nd Ed.). Austin: ProEd.
Raskind, M. H., Goldberg, R. J., Higgins, E. L., & Herman, K. L. (2003). Life success for children with learning disabilities: A parent guide. Pasadena, CA: The Frostig Center.

College, scholarship and financial aid information sites:

http://www.collegebound.net
http://www.collegelink.com
http://www.collegenet.com

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Transition to College
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