If your high school student has a learning support IEP or Chapter 504 plan for ADD or another health concern, continuing the accommodations that were granted to him during his elementary and secondary school years into his college years will greatly increase his chances of completing a college degree. However, many parents don’t know how to secure these accommodations in advance and, regrettably, many high schools do not inform students and their parents about it. Please consider the following three points as your child commences the college search and application process:
1. In college, different education laws pertain to your child.
When your child enrolled in kindergarten, he or she automatically became entitled to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) guaranteed to all students under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) regardless of learning, physical, or developmental challenges. However, once your student reaches the age of majority (age 18) or graduates high school, he or she loses these entitlements and protections as a special needs student.
Once the high school diploma is conferred, a student is no longer entitled to receive accommodations under education law, but must prove eligibility for accommodations under civil rights law, specifically the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This law stipulates that the student must prove that he or she has a disability and that it would be a violation of civil rights to not provide reasonable accommodations. These may include extended time for exams, having a reader explain exam questions in advance, being allowed assistive technologies in class, and being allowed to take exams orally or in a distraction-reduced setting. Colleges are not, however, required to provide assistive technologies, tutorial services, or any other interventions.
2. A current documentation evaluation is required in order to support eligibility for continued accommodations after high school.
The ADA specifies that adult students applying for accommodations must prove to their colleges that they have a disability and remain eligible for accommodations. This proof must be in the form of a current psychoeducational evaluation that meets required format guidelines, employs the most updated assessment techniques, and presents a compelling argument that not affording accommodations will violate the student's rights as a disabled learner.
Many parents mistakenly believe that presenting the most recent IEP or reevaluation report to the college’s Office of Academic Support is sufficient documentation. While some community colleges may accept the IEP, 504 plan, or latest reevaluation report, other community colleges and four-year institutions are becoming increasingly stringent about proper documentation and require it to be on file before the student commences his freshman year. Presenting evaluations from early childhood, even with a diagnosis, is not sufficient.
3. Your child’s high school is not required to provide documentation.
The documentation evaluation—who is responsible for administering it and when it should be done—has been a point of contention for many years. Some parents erroneously believe that documentation will be provided as part of the student’s transition plan. It is not. There is no law under the IDEA or ADA that requires a school district to provide or pay an outside evaluator for college documentation. This should be discussed at the transition conference and a list of qualified outside evaluators provided to parents, but the district's responsibility ends there. College is an individual post-graduation choice, and taxpayers are not responsible for precollege expenses.
It is recommended that the evaluation be administered during the junior year and no later than fall of the senior year—however, any time after the student’s 16th birthday is permissible since an adult intelligence scale is required. Having the evaluation done during this time frame will also allow the student time to act upon recommendations such as increasing vocabulary or math skills, learning self-advocacy skills, and practicing with assistive technologies that will be essential in college.
The evaluation can provide more than confirmation of eligibility for accommodations. Students undecided about a career direction or needing information about their learning styles and executive function can be guided accordingly and helped to prepare. Having this information during high school can be a valuable tool during the college selection process and deciding a major field of study.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Paul Meschter, PA Licensed and School Certified Psychologist
Paul Meschter is a Pennsylvania-licensed and school certified psychologist with over 30 years of professional experience serving the needs of preschoolers through college-age adults. He provides evaluation and therapy services in his 18th-century farmhouse outside of Collegeville, PA, and has assisted more than 100 learning support/504 students after high school. A free consultation regarding your student’s needs is invited by calling 610-489-2177. Further information is available at www.collegelearningsupport.com and https://therapists.psychologytoday.com/rms/state/PA/Collegeville.html