What parents and learning support students need to know
(and what your high school might not tell you!).
Entering college is a challenging transition for all students, and one that is particularly demanding for learning support students who have benefited from a learning support IEP. The IEP likely includes accommodations that have helped the student acquire and retain the curriculum, as well as enhance their ability to demonstrate their knowledge. Students with specific learning disabilities will greatly increase their chances of success in college if they continue their accommodations at the college level. However, most parents are unaware that the student will need an independent evaluation in order to do so.
With very few exceptions, a current psycho-educational evaluation is required to confirm that the student will continue to need learning support accommodations upon entering college. When students graduate from high school, they are no longer under the protection of the I.D.E.A. – the federal law that guarantees a free and appropriate public education to all students regardless of learning, developmental or health challenges. If accommodations as a learning disabled student are needed after age 18 in college, the student must be evaluated and re-certified under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Essentially, upon graduation, the student loses entitlement under education law and must prove eligibility under civil rights law. This evaluation must provide a formal diagnosis from the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual – 5th Edition), explain the functional limitations of the disability and why accommodations are still necessary for the student to succeed. The evaluation must be administered within three years before starting college to be valid. Evaluations from earlier in childhood, even with a learning disability diagnosis, are not acceptable.
Taking proactive steps before graduation is the best strategy. An updated comprehensive evaluation will not only provide documentation required by the college to allow accommodations/support services, but will help the student prepare for the transition.