Preparing for Self Advocacy

Transitioning from high school to college means more independence for students in all areas of their lives.  For students with documented learning disabilities and/or ADHD, it is essential that they be prepared to serve as their own self-advocates.

Although many parents are responsible for paying the college tuition bills, disability services are not permitted to talk to parents, unless the student signs a waiver as directed by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).  At the college level, students must request help for themselves.  Current documentation gives the student access to receive accommodations and services at college under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

This is different from the law that governs secondary schools, the Individuals Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which entitles the student to receive accommodations and services.

Here are some tips for students to get started on the road to self-advocacy and independence.

  1. Attend your IEP or 504 planning meetings, and actively participate in the decisions concerning your education. Read through your evaluation and know what it says. Clarify any questions you might have. By the time you are a senior, you should know what your disability is and be able to talk about it to the service provider at college.
  2. Evaluate your learning style, and be able to express how you learn best.  Do you like large lectures or small classes that require participation? Do you do better on multiple choice or essay tests?  Sometimes disability services can even guide you on which professors will best fit your personal learning style.
  3. Make a list of accommodations you have received in the past and will be requesting at college. This will help you explain your needs when you meet with disability services. The following are common accommodations and services used by college students: extended time for testing, a distraction-reduced environment, use of a tape recorder, and a note-taker.
  4. Evaluate your morning routine. Do you wake yourself up, or does a family member get you up in the morning? Now is the time to develop the habit of waking yourself up in the morning.
  5. Evaluate your organizational skills.  Being organized is fundamental  for college success.  While using the calendar on your phone can work well, make sure you back it up with a written journal or computer back up.  Phones get lost. You do not want to lose your entire schedule if you misplace your phone.
  6. Have your support network in place before the semester begins. Each college has its own procedures on administering accommodations.  Take charge!  Call disability services, and ask what steps need to be taken before beginning your first semester of college.  Here is a link to a great article that outlines what is available to you in college.  


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