By NCLD Editorial Team
May 28, 2013
Are you a soon-to-be high school graduate? If so, congratulations! But if you have a learning disability (LD) or AD/HD, there are a few things you need to do before you don your cap and gown. Read on to make sure you’re prepared for success in your post-high school educational journey.
1.) Learn about the differences between high school and post-secondary services for students with disabilities. (College is a whole new ball game, and you need to know why!) You probably already know that post-secondary education (college or a career/technical training program) is going to be very different from high school. But one thing you might not know is that your experience as a student with a disability will change too. Some students (and their parents!) are surprised to learn that there are no IEPs after high school.
Instead, you’ll need to request help on your own—and some of the services or supports you might have depended on in high school may not be available at college or may be very different. Take time now to learn about the differences you will encounter, so you can start strong and ready for success.
2.) Become an expert on your own LD. Do you know your areas of strength and weakness? Could you tell others what areas of learning your disability affects, and explain the impact it has on your performance in school or at work? Have you thought lately about what learning strategies or accommodations work best for you? Now is the time to become an expert on your own learning.
Once you graduate, getting what you need in school or the workplace is on you: not your parents, special education teachers, or other school staff. The more you know about the way you learn and what supports you might need, the better prepared you will be to self-advocate. Before you leave high school, talk to your parents, teachers, tutors, and guidance counselors to learn more about your LD. (Reputable websites like LD.org can also help you get a grasp on the basics!)
3.) Gather your files. (Hey, no one said growing up would always be exciting.) You'll need a file with all of the information related to your LD. Your parents may already have a file like this—now, it’s time for you to get involved! Get a big folder or a binder and make sure it contains your:
- Psychological and educational evaluation records;
- Most recent IEP or 504 plan;
- High school academic records (transcript, standardized test scores including SAT or ACT results);
- Medical records (if related to your academic progress—for example, if you take medication for AD/HD)You’ll need some of these records to obtain accommodations or services in college. Also, as you move on from high school, it’s likely that you’ll be working with new professionals (like tutors, doctors, or therapists) who will want to know your LD history. Having all of these documents in one easily accessible place will make this time of transition go more smoothly. If you’re moving away from home for your studies, make sure to bring copies with you.
You’ll need some of these records to obtain accommodations or services in college. Also, as you move on from high school, it’s likely that you’ll be working with new professionals (like tutors, doctors, or therapists) who will want to know your LD history. Having all of these documents in one easily accessible place will make this time of transition go more smoothly. If you’re moving away from home for your studies, make sure to bring copies with you.
4.) Get in touch with Disability Services at your college or post-secondary program. After high school, you must request any assistance you need for your LD. No one will “find you” and sign you up for services. Colleges and other post-secondary programs have resource centers on-campus for students with disabilities, which may be called “Office of Disability Services,” “Disabled Student Services,” “Special Services,” or another name. If you plan on getting accommodations or services in college, you’ll work with this office to arrange them.
Before you arrive on campus, get in touch with the staff at your college’s Disability Services. Find out what specific services are offered. You’ll want to know where to go for help before you need it.
To qualify for assistance, you’ll need to provide documentation of your disability. Be sure to ask for specifics on what documentation your college or program will require—they will have specific guidelines regarding the type and age of evaluation reports you submit. Work with your parents and guidance counselor to make sure your current documentation meets your college’s standards—and if it doesn’t, to obtain any new evaluation you might need.
5.) Be prepared to self-advocate. We can’t say it enough: once you graduate from high school, you take on the responsibility of speaking up and taking actions to get your LD-related needs met. This can sound overwhelming, but the good news is that many high school students already are strong self-advocates!
If you’ve been attending your IEP or 504 meetings, talking to your teachers about any accommodations you need, and requesting extra help when you need it, you’re well on the way to developing the kind of self-advocacy skills that will help you in college and beyond.
Check out our Self-Advocacy Tips for Students with LD for ways to grow as a self-advocate.
For a comprehensive checklist of things to consider as you make the transition from high school, check out NCLD’s Transitioning from High School to College Checklist.