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Saturday, November 16, 2013

The College Search: How Much Support Is Enough?

As students with learning differences and their families begin to think about post-secondary education options, two questions that are bound to come up are how much support will be needed and can the colleges of interest meet those needs.  While all colleges that receive federal funding are required to provide services for students with disabilities, the degree of support will vary widely.  While there are colleges specifically designed for students with learning differences such as Landmark College in Vermont and Beacon College in Florida, most traditional colleges will provide services that fall into three different categories: 
  1. Highly structured specific programs
  2. Coordinated special services
  3. General services
Highly Structured Specific Programs:
            Colleges with highly structured specific programs offer the highest level of services for students.  These schools will typically require a separate application process separate from the college's own application.  Learning specialists will want to review the student's psychological-education evaluation and gain a better understanding of the student's learning strengths and challenges in order to determine whether the student is an appropriate fit for the program.  Services may include academic coaching, individual scheduled time with a learning specialist, access to professional tutors, and modified courses.  These programs are typically fee-based.
Coordinated Special Services:
             In coordinated special services, students will often be expected to be greater self-advocates who have some understanding of their learning challenges and how they affect their performance.  While some individualized services may be provided, that time is usually more limited.  Professional or peer tutoring services may be provided for students.

General Services:
             Students receiving general services should be highly motivated self-advocates for their learning.  While they may still receive accommodations for testing, students will need to demonstrate proper initiative in order to get them.

            Students should work with their teachers, learning specialists and counselors to help gain an understanding of what level of support is best for them.  By examining their level of readiness for college, gaining an understanding of their learning differences and comfort level in discussing their needs, and assessing their degree of maturity, families can make sure that their children are selecting the right colleges for a successful transition.

Thanks, Kristen
Kristen Tabun
Director of College Guidance
Woodlynde School
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