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The Right College Match for your LD Son or Daughter

By Jill Burstein

The world for kids with disabilities is changing and most of it for the better. The American with Disabilities Act has made it possible for kids with learning differences to make fantastic educational strides and eventually work in fields that interest them.

The law demands that no person is discriminated against because of a disability. No longer are kids failing because of lack of time to finish a test, because their decoding skills are poor or because they cannot memorize multiplication facts. Not only is this because of the ADA and IDEA (which insures a free appropriate education for all students through age 21) but technology is moving faster than the speed of light. The technological boom now enables our kids to learn without interference from the problems that are inherent with a learning disability. The number of students with learning differences who graduate from high school has increased from 67 to 74 per cent.

As our kids find more and more success, colleges have come to realize what valuable assets our studentís can be and have developed programs to help them succeed. They often are housed as separate departments and students have a learning specialist assigned to them to help with their particular needs. There has also been a boom in post secondary settings that are helping students with learning differences to live on their own and often, attend college as well.

The most important consideration is to remember that our students are not defined by their learning disabilities. They are people with interests, concerns and wishes about what they want to do during their college years and after. They no longer have to be hampered by poor reading, spelling, or any other skill. The world is opening for people with disabilities and our children are reaping all the benefits.

The most important word one must use when talking about finding an appropriate educational placement is "match". The school must match all the criteria that will create a positive experience for the student and the family. Size, location, extra curricular activities, social life, and educational opportunities as well as the correct level of services are all vitally important to this success. Never look for the most "prestigious" program that a student can get in, but a placement that fits the needs of the student and family. I worked with an exceptionally bright student from my area and he and his family decided to apply to Denison University in Ohio. They have moderate support services and an outstanding reputation. He also applied to various other schools including the University of Denver, which not only has comprehensive support services but also had the classes, environment and extra curricular activities he wanted. Josh got into both Denison and Denver and based on his gut feeling and his comfort level with the support program, chose Denver. Do not consider the reputation of a school or the lists that famously come out every year in various publications. A good placement is one where your student is successful and is able to enjoy the college experience.

Parents must also have input during this process. You are a very valuable source of information regarding your kids and your comfort level must also be considered. If you need your child to be close to home, do not be afraid to speak up. It will not be good for your child if your anxieties are not considered as well as theirs. To prepare for the search, make sure all testing is up to date. Be sure the last psycho -educational testing is within three years and includes an IQ test and an achievement battery. Be sure you have applied for accommodations for the SAT or ACT well in advance.

A typical college has three levels of services. The first is what I call comprehensive support services. The student can meet with a learning specialist between once and five times a week. At some schools, the time is set in stone and others are flexible. The second type offers coordinated support services. There usually are one or two learning disability specialists that coordinate the studentís receiving services through peer tutors and labs that are provided for all students. An example would be a writing lab. The third type of program offers accommodations but no special services. They are in compliance with the law but go no further to help their students achieve success.

I hope this overview has given you some insight into finding an appropriate college for your student. Remember, doing your homework is integral to this process and the more educated you are, the better for all concerned. Concentrate on finding a supportive learning environment and your child will have the most wonderful college experience!

Jill Burstein, of helps students with Learning Disabilities find the right college program for their needs. You can reach her at:(847) 940-8090 or by email
Click to see her listing on ISER.

Disclaimer: Internet Special Education Resources (ISER) provides this information in an effort to help parents find local special education professionals and resources. ISER does not recommend or endorse any particular special education referral source, special educational methodological bias, type of special education professional, or specific special education professional.


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