If you have a student with a disability, how you as a parent can assist in their transition to college?
College is a difficult transition for any eighteen year old, but especially for those students with a disability. This is because high school is a very different environment for those with disabilities. In most cases, you as the parent are in charge of the Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) and the student would attend the meetings, but the student would often rarely speak. Now, in college, we want them to be the expert on their disability and be able to articulate their needs to the Accessibility Services Coordinator. The Accessibility Services Coordinator and the student come up with accommodations together during what we call the “Initial Conversation.”
As a parent, this can be scary since the last eighteen years or so you have always been in charge of what they needed and all throughout the education process thus far, you have been included. What can you do now? How can you assist in the accommodation process in college? First by making sure your student is able to articulate their disability and the accommodations they feel they need. In addition, by having copies of the documentation and encouraging your student to be in charge of emailing it to the Accessibility Services Office. Even though it is difficult to watch if they do not want accommodations in college, it is often better to wait until they have decided they need them instead of pushing them into it. Students who figure out for themselves that they need the accommodations after midterm exams, in the first semester or even after a full semester or year goes by will then often begin to take charge of their accommodations unlike those who are pushed into it by their parents.
Accessibility Services is always here if a parent has questions. However, I would greatly encourage you to have your student ask those questions themselves. Here is what you can do. Along with making sure your student is the expert on their disability you can also encourage them to seek out help when they need it. Your child becomes the advocate or expert and you become more of a consultant and listener. At Lafayette College, there are so many services to assist in your child’s learning and growth including supplemental instruction, tutoring services, the writing center and counseling services. We are all here to assist your student. If your student has a disability, is struggling and does not know where to turn; encourage them to make an appointment with Accessibility Services and we can assist in problem solving and the first steps.
Rebecca Brenner, MSW
Accessibility Services Coordinator