Right up into high school, comprehensive options like the IEP program help equip your child with strategies and accommodations to overcome any learning issues they experience and achieve academic success.
With an experienced and qualified team, you are able to identify the challenges your child faces and craft a program to specifically address and assist with those needs.
As your child prepares to transition to college, however, it’s important to prepare early on to ensure the shift is smooth and hiccup-free.
Previously, your IEP team would evaluate, plan and implement the details of your child’s education to accommodate for their learning challenges.
In college, your child will have to learn to advocate for themselves.
But this doesn’t have to be a stressful or daunting change.
The key to a successful transition is communication and transparency, as I tell parents in my Educational Alternatives and therapy practice.
“By participating with Disability Services on campus, qualified students will receive equal access to their education, appropriate accommodations, and assistance in ways to self-advocate.”
So how can you assist your kids to ensure they know how to smoothly transition to college with learning issues?
Here are some helpful tips.
5 Ways to Help Your LD Child Transition to College
1. Break the Process Down and Use Methods Successfully Implemented in the Past
It’s completely natural for your child to feel stressed and overwhelmed as they approach and begin the university application process.
For students with learning issues, they might be even more apprehensive, and not feel as confident in their ability to meet the expectations of the admissions process.
At this stage, you need to remind your child that the same skills they have learned and have been applying to achieve academic success through high school, can be applied to their college application process as well.
If they previously struggled with tasks that relied on time management, organization, information processing, reading comprehension etc. through high school, ask them what strategies they used to successfully overcome these obstacles
Identity the strategies you developed with your IEP team to assist your child’s learning journey.
In my Educational Alternatives and therapy practice I demonstrate how chunking bigger tasks and deadlines down into smaller tasks, can reduce overwhelm and create a methodical approach to meeting goals.
The university application process may seem long, complicated and nerve-wracking, but helping your child break the overall process down into micro-deadlines and tasks makes it far more manageable.
This way, they can focus on smaller tasks one at a time, and ensure they are doing a quality job completing each task, which increases the chances of a favorable outcome.
Brain science backs this up.
For instance, neuroscience demonstrates how chunking tasks down helps your brain focus and learn better.
Short and intensive work sessions followed by quick breaks and review sessions before the next task allow your child’s brain to digest information better.
Allotting time in between tasks gives your child’s brain time to mull over what it has learned and create associations and connections.
This in turn improves your child’s memory of the information as well as creates opportunities for creativity and problem-solving.
The entire process can help reduce some of the stress and overwhelm they might experience preparing for college entrance exams or while planning their college essays.
Meanwhile, breaking a gigantic task down into more manageable mini-goals – a process called “smashing the task” – helps keep you motivated and focused.
Every time your child meets one of their mini-deadlines or completes a mini-task, not only are they a step closer to the end goal, but their brain rewards them with the chemical release of dopamine – known as the motivation molecule.
This neurotransmitter helps you experience a sense of reward and satisfaction upon accomplishing something, and makes your brain want a repeat of the experience.
As a result, rather than feeling overwhelmed and anxious, by planning ahead and smashing the task, your child can enjoy and stay motivated through the application process.
The more “small wins” they experience, the more motivating the entire process becomes.
Help your child create an overview of the process and schedule their deadlines.
Reviewing these deadlines together, using shared manuals or digital planners and calendars, can help your child stay on track, as well as assure your child that they are not alone in the process.
2. Find the Right College Match That is Personalized to Your Child’s Needs
Many students and parents alike fall into the misconception that only the ‘instantly recognizable’ schools are the best schools.
For all students, including students with learning issues, it’s better to find the right match for your child and personalize the choice, than to find a school that has great name-recognition.
Ask specific questions about each college you’re considering for your child and the ones they may be attracted to.
What can you find out about the disability services offered by this school? What types of assistive technology does this school accept?
Would your child feel at home here?
Does this school offer scholarships your child may benefit from? Does it have the type of extracurriculars your child would be interested in?
In my Educational Alternatives LLC practice, I highlight this, along with your child’s interests and many other factors to consider, so you can assist your child in thoroughly, researching and choosing the right school that fits their needs.
3. Highlight Your Child’s Your Strengths
The college application process might be a challenge for your child, but when approached properly, it can also be an opportunity for them to learn to advocate for themselves and their strengths, while developing their self-esteem.
While a quality college essay and stellar admissions interviews can make the difference in getting into their dream schools, many students and parents make the mistake of trying to show colleges what they think they want to see.
Help your child reflect on their own strengths, interests, and goals, and practice how they can communicate their authentic selves to admissions officers whether in writing or in person.
Admissions officers can easily tell college essays and interview answers apart from those that are sincere and interesting, versus those which are packaged to appeal to the college.
If you are helping your child look over their college essay, remember to limit your input to grammar and other technical elements.
Parents must stress the importance of helping their children maintain their own voice throughout the application process.
Also help your child focus on their own merits and strengths, rather than fixating on what they perceive to be their weaknesses.
Teach your children never to speak ill of themselves.
Everyone has strengths and vulnerabilities, and students do not need to draw attention to their vulnerabilities, unless they are highlighting how they overcame a disability and used the process to transform an aspect of that disability into a strength.
For example, as a child, I struggled with two disabilities.
I discovered a system to overcome them, use compensatory strategies and for over 30 years, my biggest strength has been helping others overcome their learning challenges.
As apprehensive as your child initially might be, with strategies like “smashing the task”, and practicing interview questions they may face, you can help them gain a sense of control over the process and build their confidence as you work on each item in smaller bits.
Encourage your child to feel pro-active and self-sufficient; the sooner they grow comfortable with self-advocating, the smoother their journey through college will be.
4. Take the Necessary Evaluations and Keep the Results Current
Once your child has completed their SATs and ACTs and wrapped up the university application process, ensure they sit for a psychoeducational or neuropsychological evaluation.
In order to notify the school’s Student Disabilities Services, these results need to be current – results older than three years are not considered current, so ensure you schedule this accordingly.
These evaluations play a significant role in helping your child secure the accommodations they will need and give them the opportunity to pursue academic success on an equal playing field as their peers.
The best time to approach Student Disabilities Services and discuss your child’s needs is prior to the start of the fall semester.
By partnering with Disability Services qualified students will receive equal access to their education, appropriate accommodations, and assistance in ways to self-advocate.
5. Complete the ADA Intake Form
Once your child has completed the evaluations, the next step is filling out the American Disability Act (ADA) Intake Form to request specific accommodations based on the recommendations made by the formal evaluations.
Among the accommodations you can request are things like additional time on testing, preferred seating, digital recordings of books, and so on.
During the orientation period before the formal start of classes, you and your child can schedule a meeting with Student Disability Services on campus.
Once you submit the evaluations and the ADA Intake Form, you’ll be able to speak with an informed counselor who is familiar with your child’s specific needs.
Here, you can personally request specific accommodations.
A discussion will then ensue with other members of the Committee of students with disabilities, and in a short amount of time, students will receive written notification explicitly stating what accommodations have been approved.
This is why it is extremely important to ensure you complete current evaluations and the ADA Intake Form in a timely and thorough manner.
It allows your child to put their best foot forward from the very beginning of their college tenure, and ensures that they are able to keep up and strive for academic success without being held back.
Has this article answered your questions, and cleared up any doubts you might have had about how to smoothly transition to college with learning issues?
I see parents with their students from all over the world in my Educational Alternatives practice and you can connect with me there to receive several more, easy to follow strategies to overcome learning issues and answers many of the questions you may have about how to assist your child in accomplishing academic success.
Dana Stahl grew up with a learning disability. With the right help, she resolved it and her superpower is helping your LD child succeed at school, through college, or during remote learning.
As an Educational Consultant in practice for over 30 years, you may connect with her at Educational Alternatives LLC and set up a consultation appointment for your high school age child.
If you have younger children with learning challenges, (8-13) she also created an easy-to-follow, step-by-step online course called The ABCs of Academic Success so you can help your child thrive academically! Hyperlink using the regular link to her course Nafisa