By now, seniors have made their decisions about where they'll attend college next year. The focus for many parents with children with learning disabilities tends to surround the academic transition to college. Concerns about how to manage a more demanding course load, finding the best environment for studying, and how to access the needed resources on campus are common concerns that should be addressed early with your child. However, there are other stumbling blocks that may come up that can derail a first-year student's success. What are some things that parents can do now to ease this transition?
1. Make sure the documentation the student needs is accessible, understood by the student, and is shared before classes begin with the appropriate staff in the disability services center.
2. If medication is being taken, can the student manage this without assistance? Does s/he know how to obtain refills and how to contact the attending physician?
3. Use the summer to develop independence with daily activities, such as getting up without help and doing laundry by themselves.
4. How much financial independence does the student have? Do they understand the importance of budgeting? Will they get a part-time job to pay for expenses? What effect will this have on their scheduling?
5. Will the student need special arrangements for on-campus housing? Depending on the nature of the disability, some colleges may be able to provide special accommodations.
6. Discuss the social transition and challenges that they will face as new college students. How will they go about making new friends and navigating new social dynamics that exist?
Finally, parents need to remember that their roles are changing as their children begin college. Privacy laws will keep them from having the type of access they have been used to receiving in secondary school. Discuss the option of having students sign a waiver to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) so that the college has permission to disclose information about a child's academic records. Taking this step can help relieve many of the concerns parents have about sending their children off to a new environment with significant independence.