College life poses different challenges for students with disabilities. When students enroll in college, they are considered responsible adults by faculty and staff. The expectations are that they will assume the responsibility for meeting class requirements. This added responsibility is coupled with a change in environment. Whereas the high school was a very structured environment with a set schedule, college schedules can vary dramatically. For the first time students may have considerable time between classes. Students must enforce their own attendance policies and prepare to realize personal consequences if they choose not to attend class. Also important is the fact that Sandhills Community College Student Code of Conduct applies to ALL students regardless of ability or disability.
Differences Between High School and College
There are many differences between how disability services are provided at the K-12 level and at the post-secondary level. While it is not practical to list them all, there are some key points to know.
|Parents are responsible for making sure they school is accommodating their student appropriately.||The parent is no longer responsible for making sure their student is accommodated. This is now the student’s responsibility both to initiate and to make the appropriate office aware if they are not being accommodated.|
|Schools will make academic adjustments based on IEP or 504 Plans.||Documentation of the disability is your student’s responsibility. The student is required to provide and pay for documentation of their disability. IEP and 504 Plans will not be accepted as the sole means of documentation.|
|High School can change academic requirements for your student.||Colleges are not required to reduce or waive essential course requirements.|
|High School Academic Adjustments||College Accommodations|
|High school allows shortened assignments.||In college, shortened assignments are not a reasonable accommodation.|
|High school allows the use of notes, formulas or word banks on exams.||The use of these items on exams is not considered a reasonable accommodation in
|High school explains questions using different words.||Explaining questions using different words is not reasonable in college.|
|High school can request a copy of the teacher’s notes.||Requesting a copy of a professor’s notes is not a reasonable accommodation. The notes are many times considered intellectual property of the professor.|
Additional Helpful Information
At the college level, students must request services. Students must self-identify to the Office of Disability Services (ODS) as having a disability and present appropriate documentation. Students must contact the office at the beginning of every semester that they wish to receive accommodations. Even if the Office of Disability Services and an instructor know that a student has a disability and is eligible for an accommodation, if the student does not request and provide letters to their faculty, then they will not receive any accommodations.
College students must notify their faculty directly as to their accommodation needs. The ODS will not, as a general rule, contact instructors for students. ODS can provide accommodations, but it is the student’s responsibility to share the accommodation letter with instructors and to discuss the stated accommodations.
Colleges are not obligated to provide the exact same accommodations as were given at any point from K-12. Even if an accommodation is listed on a 504 Plan or other documents, the ODS office may determine that is not reasonable at the college level.
How Parents Can Help
The following are some important ways parents can help:
- Encourage your son or daughter to take advantage of available services. While services cannot be forced upon a student, it is in the student’s best interest to know what services he or she is eligible for.
- Encourage your son or daughter to meet with ODS staff at the start of each semester. Even if a student does not want services or accommodations, it is helpful for the student to discuss this with the ODS. Students are welcome anytime to make an appointment with the office.
- Encourage your son or daughter to speak up for him or herself and to be on his or her own best advocate.
- Encourage your son or daughter to meet regularly with his or her instructors to get feedback as to their progress in class, and to check in with their academic advisor as well.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is my role as a parent of a college student with a disability?
Students need the support of parents and other family members. Appropriate parental involvement must take place within the boundaries set by law, good sense, and by keeping the long term best interest of the emerging young adult in mind. Such involvement most often involves advising and encouraging the college student from the sidelines. Only the most extreme circumstances, such as those that seriously threaten the health of the student, allow for direct parental involvement.
- How do the responsibilities of working with students with disabilities in college differ from those of high schools?
The responsibilities towards students with disabilities in college are very different from those of high schools. High schools are required under IDEA to identify the educational needs of students with a disability and provide a free and appropriate education. This responsibility is not required of Higher Education institutions. Higher Education institutions are required to provide appropriate academic accommodations to ensure that a student with a disability is not discriminated against. The student is responsible for disclosing his or her disability to the institution.
- I have heard that my son or daughter can sign a waiver that will allow me to speak with staff at the disability services office. Is this true?
The student can sign a release giving staff permission to share information with parents’. However, you should know that even if a student signs a release, the Disability Services staff prefers to communicate with parents, or other parties, in the presence of the student. Also, the Disability Services staff requires that the student handle any matters related to our office, including registration and accommodations. We do not work with the parent in place of the student.
- Can I request accommodations for my child?
All requests for accommodations must come directly from the student.
- In high school, teachers kept me informed of how my son or daughter was doing. Will a professor contact me if my student is having difficulties in class?
In college, students should know how to seek assistance if they are having problems. The university is not permitted to release information about a student’s academic progress. If you contact ODS and would like to discuss concerns about your child, you are welcome to do so, but arrangements must be made with the ODS coordinator for the student to be present in order to discuss any specific information regarding the student. The ODS staff will be happy to speak with parents and answer any basic questions but will not share specific information about their student unless the student is present or has specifically requested the information be shared.
- What is my son or daughter’s role as a college student with a disability?
College is a different environment in which each student needs to grow and develop their self-advocacy skills. We know that students with disabilities face the same challenges as every college bound young adult plus the challenges related to their disability. However, their role still remains to successfully transition into a successful adult.
Shalishah Russell, Coordinator, Tutoring Center and Disability Services
Office of Disability Services
Logan Hall 119
Material modified, with permission, from Office of Access and Learning Accommodation, Baylor University.