IEPs and College

From Inside Schools:

Q: My son is graduating from high school this coming year. He has anIEP. Will this IEP automatically follow him through college and is there such a thing as special education in college? Are there any programs you know of that can assist him, and are there any majors for special education students?

A: The fact that your son has an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) indicates that you have been an advocate for him! But this plan will not follow him to college — IEPs, as guaranteed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), apply only to elementary and secondary schools. It is possible for students with disabilities, including learning disabilities, to receive special services in publicly-funded colleges; this is covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1973. But to obtain these services, you and your son will have to be proactive and ask for them — the colleges will not know he needs services unless he discloses this fact. So save your IEP and any supporting documents in order to request services. Colleges and universities vary in the accommodations they offer and the evidence they require in order to grant these services. And bear in mind that some schools offer more help than others. You will simply have to check with each school’s disability services or student services office.

In terms of which colleges your son might consider, that depends largely on his individual interests and abilities. Does he want to stay close to home? Does he want a commuter college or does he want to live in a dorm? Are finances an issue? All of these questions should be taken into consideration.

There are a few schools that offer programs especially aimed at students with disabilities. Landmark College in Vermont was specifically established to help students with dyslexia, ADHD, and other learning disabilities. The SALT program at the University of Arizona offers a similar program. You can obtain further assistance by consulting the National Center for Learning Disabilities (this organization offers a scholarship as well). You can also read and download a government brochure titled “Students with Disabilities Preparing for Postsecondary Education”. In addition, there is an excellent website, LD online, which outlines resources about college for students with learning disabilities.

The law protects the rights of students with disabilities to obtain the services they need to help them succeed, but the law does not guarantee admission. To avoid disappointment, plan realistically. Start by discussing with your son his hopes and dreams. Then discuss with his school counselor which schools might offer the best possibilities. Without knowing the nature of his IEP or his interests, it is difficult to recommend specific schools. However, the schedule flexibility of the community college system, along with its moderate cost, might be a good way for your son to start his post-secondary studies.

Last updated 1/06/09

Copyright 2009 Inside Schools


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