The NY Times college admissions blog is well regarded and had a 2011 Q&A about this topic: http://thechoice.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/07/marybeth-one/
A well-regarded guide to colleges and their assistance to students with learning disabilities: http://www.collegexpress.com/lists/list/colleges-where-students-with-learning-disabilities-can-and-do-make-it/401/
I attended a one day workshop at Curry College “Helping Students with Learning Disabilities Navigate the College Search” in January 2009. Curry has a Program for Advancement of Learning (PAL), an unusually comprehensive program and a culture that is sensitive to the gifts & needs of LD students. There is an extra fee for the program.
Here’s some general information about the college search for students with learning disabilities.
First, some definitions. Most students in the PAL program have language based LD. Non-verbal LD include poor math skills, missing social cues, concrete learners, lack of comprehension, trouble with abstract thinking. ADHD is an inability to focus, cannot sit still, chewing on pens, drumming fingers, doodling in class. Executive Function issues: planning problems, lack of organization, cannot prioritize, poor working memory.
Transitioning from High School to College can be especially difficult for a student with LD. College has: less structure, fewer rules, lots of personal choice and more free time, reduction in feedback, syllabus but not daily reminders, changes in grading and time with teachers, self-advocating for help. The transition is hard for students and parents. Accommodations are not offered, but colleges respond to requests from students through their own initiative only. There are no IEPs in college. The student must present documentation to request accommodations, and colleges have no “obligation to fundamentally alter the nature of the curriculum”.
Common Options for Students with LD
-PG year (post grad, a 5th year of high school).
-Gap Year: take a break from schooling, and enjoy travel or volunteer work. Outward Bound is a popular program.
-2 year colleges have more hands-on majors like technology, culinary, automotive
-4 year college with special focus on LD students: Curry, Mitchell, College Living Experience, Maplebrook, PACE in Illinois. “Comprehensive Program” with separate admissions process, LD specialists, curriculum tied to student’s documented needs, proactive, fee-based. Half of the incoming PAL students participate in the summer learning academy to get ready for college life.
-4 year college only focused on LD students: Beacon, Dean, Lynn, Landmark.
-4 year college. All colleges must offer ADA accommodations, and might offer LD services or LD programs beyond that. Minimal compliance with federal law includes extended time or books on tape. See the ADA Coordinator on campus, and there is likely no extra cost. Some colleges have “coordinated services”, a level of service above the basic ADA accommodations, where professionals provide outreach, advocacy and training to faculty and students. There is usually no fee for these drop-in type services.
The student should ask themselves, “what services do I need, from the least amount to the most offered” and determine which colleges are a good match for that need. How to match students with colleges: model of service delivery, faculty/staff expertise, number of students, any stigma, curriculum, process for accessing services.
Disclosure of LD on College Applications
This is a confusing part for parents and students. Should you mention in your college application that you have a diagnosed learning disability?
YES: admissions can then better understand the student. Admissions can inform the applicant of the level of services available (or not available).
NO: wait until you are admitted to college, then ask for accommodations through Disability Services at any college. Must have documentation, and it must be requested by the student and not the parent.
Getting into a Comprehensive LD Program like Curry’s PAL
- average to above average cognitive ability (college able)
- LD and or AD HD diagnosis
- Diagnostic Eval completed in last 3 years
A major resource on the web is NCCS
links verified 5/2019