We are all challenged in one way or another with a learning disability. It could be a place on the autism spectrum or a kid that knows learning stuff is so easy. It doesn’t really matter that much.
When you are about to commit to tens of thousands of dollars over the next four to five years, it is time to hone your consumer skills. Applications to a minimum of ten to twelve colleges (or alternatives) will be needed to get the best deal for your kid, and thankfully the digital revolution has made it easy, maybe too easy. Like any other consumer function, higher education is as caveat emptor as any other buying experience. The questions regarding the choices available start with what would be best for your kid(s).
With acceptances, it is time to assess the offices in the university that realize the need for a learning differences center (often bundled with their office of disability services (ODS) programs. I don’t know your kid. I only know mine. To make a final decision about which higher education experience is best and meets the family’s financial needs best, it is time to ask yourself and your kid some questions. These are mine. I know you will find some of them useful.
- Based on the disability or learning difference, are there specific evaluations or test results that need to be submitted to become eligible to receive services?
- How current should the documentation be?
- What is the process for reviewing documentation and eligibility determination?
- How many staff members are there in the ODS?
- What are the main roles of the staff members?
- What is their level of training?
- Do staff members in the ODS have previous experience working with students with an area of need like mine?
- If yes, what types of accommodations and services have been provided in the past?
- How many students at the college receive assistance through the ODS?
- What types of accommodations and services are provided directly through the ODS?
- (e.g., extended time on tests, a distraction-free testing environment, the use of a calculator on tests, note-taking assistance, audiobooks, adaptive or assistive technology resources, priority registration, professional tutoring, peer tutoring, study skills training, academic advising…).
- Are there any unique or additional services offered through the ODS that students seem to find helpful?
- Does the ODS offer a place for students to take exams or study (e.g., a distraction-reduced environment or a place to finish exams when extra time is needed)?
- If I am a student at the college, who would be my primary contact person in the ODS?
- Would I have a separate advisor outside of the ODS
- Are there any fees for the services that the ODS offers?
- What types of general academic support services are available for all students on the campus?
- Are there services provided to assist freshmen students with the transition from high school to college?
- How are professors at the college notified about the academic accommodations for students with disabilities?
- What provisions are in place in case an issue occurs with receiving accommodations?
- What types of housing options or housing accommodations are available on campus?
- What types of resources are available on the campus that may be helpful to me (e.g., health center, counseling services…)? Are there fees for any of the on-campus services?
- What types of community resources are near the college that may be helpful for me (e.g., medical facilities, psychological services, consultants, specialists…)?
- Is the ODS connected with any of these resources?
- Are there any considerations that students with disabilities should know about regarding the admission process at the college?
- Do you provide information about the graduation rate and/or the retention rate for students who the ODS serves?
- Are there provisions made for missing classes based on the nature of incapacity or a medical condition?
- Are substitutions available for required courses at the college if they are needed based on the nature of a disability (e.g., world language courses)?
- Is there any additional information that you can share with me about the ODS at your college?
Ask yourself does my kid:
- know how to use a washing machine
- wash dishes
- clean the bathroom/toilet
- consult the college’s website routinely – faculty and admin regularly
- use his telephone for communication, banking, networks, other
- run a monthly budget