Preparing Your Dyslexic Student for College – A Parent’s Perspective
The following information provides a guideline for the actions and accommodations that may benefit your dyslexic child preparing for college. When you are visiting colleges a visit to their Disability Office is a must. It will help you to understand what they offer and their process for your child to be accepted.
By law all colleges have to provide accommodations for students with disabilities. Colleges do not have to make accommodations that fundamentally alter their requirements (such as waiving or making substitutions for required courses) or provide services that can be considered personal services (such as one-on-one tutoring). For the University System of Georgia’s definition of Disability please click here.
As well as learning about available accommodations from the Disability Office of the colleges you are visiting, it is also important to look for Disability Offices that have full time staff members as well as learning specialists. The office will become an important resource for students as they work through the classes and requirements to obtain a degree in their chosen major(s).
Once you have decided on a college and your child has been accepted, the earlier you start the process with the Disability Office the better. Some programs require a separate application and additional information for proof of a disability. Some colleges may also require additional fees not covered by tuition.
There are plenty of decisions and items to take care of when moving to the next level of education. What classes to take, where to live, whom to live with and getting accustomed to the new campus. Your dyslexic student can be eligible for one or more accommodations. Securing these accommodations early is one less item to be concerned about.
How to get the appropriate accommodations:
Colleges are not allowed to ask students applying to their institution if they have disabilities. Students must apply for these services once accepted. It is important to contact the college’s Disability Office to learn about their process and to start early. Optimally these are the items you will need.
- Documentation that is no more than three to five years old and written by a qualified diagnostician whose credentials are appropriate to the disability.
- Documentation that includes a comprehensive evaluation with specific recommendations.
- Information regarding current accommodations via an IEP or a 504 plan that your child is already receiving.
- Information regarding accommodations granted for Advance Placement and/or ACT/SAT/PSAT testing.
Colleges have the right to decide what documentation students must have to provide as well as whether a student is or is not eligible. Even if you have the documentation it may be found to be unacceptable for various reasons (it is considered too old, it does not show a need for services, etc.). The websites of colleges your child is interested in attending are good resources for knowing what sort of documentation is required. When in doubt ask the Disability Office directly for answers. The University of Georgia System Academic and Student Affairs Handbook has a section on disability documentation that you can read by clicking here.
Your child’s IEP or a 504 plan does not transfer to college; it ends once you child has graduated from high school. Students are not guaranteed the same accommodations they received in high school when they attend college. As well, students will have better knowledge and experience as to which accommodations worked best for them in high school and may not need all of the list of accommodations granted previously.
The following is not a full list but includes the typical accommodations students with Dyslexia find beneficial. Your student may not need nor be eligible for all of these accommodations.
- Access to print material in audio or digital format that can then be read with screen reading software.
- A separate or reduced distraction testing room. Your student will be responsible for scheduling the room with the disability office once his exams have been scheduled.
- Additional testing time.
- Note taking assistance, if appropriate. The student can also request the instructors’ notes but this may not be possible in all cases and may not be available right after the class.
- Priority registration so that your student can set up his course schedule in the optimal learning times for him/her. The timing of classes will have to be also taken into consideration if your child is granted extra time to take their exams.
- Strategic seating in the classroom that is away from distractions and close to the instructor.
- Mark test answers on test booklets instead of Scantron form.
- Use of other technical assistive devices and other software such as screen readers, recording devices, dictation software and so forth.
- Not as common but may be allowed if it is specifically noted on the recommendations on your comprehensive evaluation from your qualified diagnostician, is the ability to substitute alternative classes (credits) instead of taking language classes (credits).
Once all the accommodations are agreed upon you will receive a letter of approved accommodations from the Disability Office. At some institutions the Disability Office will inform the student’s instructors of the accommodations granted while at other institutions the student will be responsible for copying the letter and giving one to each of his or her instructors.
The International Dyslexia Association also has a fact sheet on Accommodations, the differences between Accommodations and Modifications, and information about choosing Accommodations wisely and purposefully. To access this fact sheet please click here.
Other Items to Consider:
- Housing: Your child may benefit from a quiet and undisturbed place to do their studies. This can be an item on your list as you visit colleges.
- Reading / Writing Centers: Some colleges have reading and writing centers that review documents such as essays, letters, resumes and so forth. This service could be a huge plus for your Dyslexic student.
When visiting the college disability office here are some of the questions you should consider asking concerning the various assistive technology (AT) support for your child.
- What types of AT are available?
- Where is the technology AT available? (Classroom or computer labs)
- Will the student be able to use this AT in the dorm?
- Can the AT be taken off campus?
- How early must a student place an order for alternative media (textbooks in digital format for example) in order for it to be available prior to classes starting?
- Is there any user support or training available on campus?
- If your student has technology they are already comfortable with (Apple or Windows), ask it that can be used at the college and is technical support available.
Hopefully through high school your child has learned to be an advocate for himself when it comes to receiving accommodations. Once a student turns 18 he has reached the age of maturity in Georgia. If desired, when in college both parents and students can sign a Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) release form. This will allow parents to communicate with the school on behalf of their child.
Students should realize that they have responsibility for making this process work. The Disability Office is not responsible for knowing about the student’s upcoming exams nor delivering the student’s letter of accommodations to their Instructors. Just as with other parts of college life such as applying for housing and financial aid, it is the responsibility of the student to follow the process as defined by the college.
It’s important that your child understand their rights and available accommodations so that they can advocate for themselves for a rich college experience.
Here are some links to some other good resources.
A website designed by a Student for Students and Parents of students going to College: LDadvisory
Students Rights and Responsibilities: US Department of Education
General Information about going to college for students with disabilities: Going to College
International Dyslexia Association Home Site with Fact Sheets about various topics concerning Dyslexia: IDA Fact Sheet
Difference between High School and College concerning disabilities: Making the Transition
Assistive Technology and Research Center (AMAC) a University System of Georgia site for Assistive Technology: AMAC
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