Office of Disability Services
It is important that parents, as well as students, know the difference between Special Education in High School and Disability Services at the College level. The following website provides helpful information on transitioning from high school to college or university. http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/transitionguide.html
Typical First Semester Issues:
For many students, the workload is much heavier at the university level. Students should expect to complete many hours of independent reading and note taking, group meetings, writing short papers and research - typically 1-2 hours per course each day. Students with disabilities may need to double this time.
Time management is often a problem for first-year students. At the university, students may have large blocks of time between classes. Residence halls may not settle down until after midnight. The above two examples, in addition to the extra workload, catch many students off guard. Students should develop a weekly schedule of when classes meet and assign times to work on each class during the off times and stick to it. This is especially important for students who need structure in organizational skills and/or focus.
Grade expectations can be unrealistic. Students with disabilities who had excellent grades in high school may find their grades not as high during the first semester of college. It takes times to figure out the most effective and efficient means to maintain grades and still balance living in a dorm, participating in activities, etc. St. Andrews offers demi-courses and online tutorials for incoming freshmen. Also, freshmen are often pre-scheduled to attend the orientation class “How to Get Good Grades”.
At the high school level, students with disabilities have many automatically provided supports due to the Individual Education Plan process however, at the university level automated support decreases and the student works more independently. It is very important that students learn skills in self-advocacy.
Poor Mid-Semester Grades. Mid-term grades serve as a warning sign that things might not be going well so merits attention. Students should seek help at this point. Waiting past mid-terms could be too late.
Students are used to having parents seek out help for them. At the university, unless a student gives the Office of Disability Services permission to talk to parents, it will be the responsibility of the student to advocate for their own needs. In order for persons from the Office of Disability Services to talk to parents, students must sign a Release of Information form before any type of conversation can occur. Making this adjustment can be difficult for the student and also for the parent. In high school the parent normally advocates for the student at the university level the student must learn how to self advocate.
Read the Disability Services Handbook. On the Office of Disability Services webpage, a handbook provides several resources that will be helpful to both the student and the parent. Take time to read the booklet as it will answer a lot of questions and provide additional resources for specific issues.