This article, written by Meredith G. Warshaw, was first printed in the July 2006 2e Newsletter and discusses how parents can help 2e students prepare for college life, including advocating for themselves.
Sending a child off to college is nerve-wracking for most parents. How much more so, then, for parents of 2e children?! Although this is what we have worked for, there are so many worries about how our children will fare away from home.
There are some things we can do to help make the transition easier and safer. Starting early, in high school if possible, is best. The excellent book Ask and Tell: Self-Advocacy and Disclosure for People on the Autism Spectrum, edited by Stephen M. Shore, provides some excellent advice, especially in these two chapters:
- "Help Me Help Myself: Teaching and Learning,” by Kassiane Sibley
- “Using the IEP to Build Skills in Self-Advocacy and Disclosure,” by Stephen M. Shore.
It’s worth buying this book just for them. Most of the advice in these chapters is applicable to all our kids, not just those on the autism spectrum.
Starting as early as possible, it’s important to model advocacy for our kids and then encourage them to do as much as is reasonably possible for themselves. If there’s a problem with a teacher that is not so severe as to need parental intervention, encourage your child to approach the teacher and rehearse with her beforehand. When a situation requires parental intervention, discuss it with your child. If you write a letter to the school, show it to your child. Except in rare cases, you want him to be aware of how you are handling things so he can learn to do it himself later. High school teachers expect kids to start taking responsibility for solving problems, and it’s best for your child to practice while still living at home so she can learn the skills she’ll need in order to advocate for herself at college.
Most colleges have information on their websites concerning disability services. It’s important to check this out for any college where your child is considering applying. When looking at colleges, be sure to visit the disabilities office so that you can get a sense of how friendly and accommodating they are. Make sure that your child brings her 504 plan or IEP to the disabilities office; that will make it easier to get a continuation of services. Be sure that the most recent testing and plan are no more than three years old.
Although it’s important for college kids to learn to use the resources available to them, many are loathe to go for the help they need. Encourage them to do the following:
- Find out right away exactly what services the school offers.
- Emphasize the importance of getting help early in the semester, since it’s much easier to prevent problems than to solve them once they’ve occurred.
- Find out the last date that it’s possible to drop courses. If your child has trouble keeping track of time (as most do), make sure to remind him or her to assess how each class is going a week or so before the drop date. That way your child can drop a course if necessary.
Useful Resources for 2e Kids and their Parents
Interested readers can find more information at the following websites and in the following books.
- The article "Section 504 and Postsecondary Education" at the PACER (Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights) Center site has useful information on the legal protections available to college students with special needs.
- Check out this area of the LD Online website, which deals with post-secondary education.
- Learning a Living: A Guide to Planning Your Career and Finding a Job for People with Learning Disabilities, Attention Deficit Disorder, and Dyslexia, by Dale S. Brown
- Learning Outside the Lines: Two Ivy League Students With Learning Disabilities and ADHD Give You the Tools for Academic Success and Educational Revolution, by Jonathan Mooney & David Cole
- Pretending to be Normal: Living with Asperger's Syndrome, by Liane Holliday Willey (This book has a good appendix on adjusting to college.)
- Survival Guide for College Students with ADHD or LD, by Kathleen G. Nadeau, Ph.D.
- Unlocking Potential: College and Other Choices for People With LD and AD/HD, by Juliana M. Taymans (Editor), Lynda L. West (Editor), Madeline Sullivan (Contributor)
Meredith Warshaw, M.S.S., M.A., is a special needs educational advisor, writer, lecturer, and contributing editor for 2e: Twice-Exceptional Newsletter.