How to Plan a Successful Transition to College for Students with
Learning Disability or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
Here are some practical tips for high school students who have been identified with a Specific Learning Disability (SLD) and/or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) who are transitioning to a postsecondary institution.
Contact the Disability Services Office of the university to determine the necessary requirements for academic accommodation application available under Section 504 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 and the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) of 2008. Each institution may have a slightly different name for that office. For example, the University of North Carolina (UNC) is listed as Accessibility Resources & Services, Duke University is the Student Disability Access Office and Wake Technical Community College (Wake Tech) is Disability Support Services.
Collect and review your existing educational reports from your high school and other documentation, which may include previous standardized testing such as the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and/or the American College Test (ACT), high school transcripts, report cards, Individualized Education Plans (IEP) or End of Grade/Course test scores.
Obtain a current psycho-educational evaluation, and check with your college to find out what they consider recent enough. Often you will need to do new updated testing, which would be at the student’s own expense. This assessment must be conducted by a qualified psychologist and include background information (IEPs are helpful, but are not sufficient documentation by themselves), a clear interpretation of the test data, a specific diagnosis, an explanation of how the diagnosed disability substantially limits a student’s major life activity (learning), and recommendations for academic accommodations.
After gathering all relevant data, schedule a meeting with the appropriate disability services personnel, who have the authority to determine eligibility for accommodations. Submit the documentation prior to the meeting so personnel have a chance to review it and be prepared to discuss options. Basic accommodations include time and one-half on exams and rest breaks. Other accommodations may include double time, reader, scribe or keyboard entry aid, separate testing room, calculator, American Sign Language substitute for Foreign Language, access to class notes, taped textbooks, use of a text reader, use of a computer, priority registration, note-taker, reduced course load, course substitution.
The student may be expected to meet with a disability counselor at the beginning of each semester to discuss the disability and its relationship to accommodations for the upcoming courses or the disability services office may send a letter to the instructor. Be prepared to explain in a simple and concise manner why specific academic accommodations are being requested. LD and ADHD are lifelong conditions, but severity and manifestations may change over time, so be able to discuss your current experience and related needs.
Seek any additional support offered through the disability services office such as tutorial services, study skills and learning strategies training, writing tutorials, and stress management. Many of these offerings may be at no cost.
It is important to note there are differences in the laws that govern accommodations in K-12 education and those that apply to postsecondary education. Due to these differences, the same accommodations that were available in past educational settings may not be available in postsecondary settings. Common standards for accommodations in many postsecondary institutions are based on criteria established by the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD) or the Educational Testing Service (ETS).
Be proactive — the student needs to advocate for himself/herself! The intent of accommodations in a postsecondary setting is to provide equal access to educational opportunities to individuals diagnosed with disabilities. It is the student’s responsibility to establish and manage his/her own academic support system. To be most effective, this assistance needs to be in place BEFORE academic difficulties are experienced.