It is the student who has to "declare" that they have a disability and they are the ones who have to request services. This "declaration" requires current documentation. For ages 21 and under, an assessment must have taken place within the last 3 years; for those over 21 years, the limit is 5 years. Now, I've seen some colleges accept the evaluations I've done for students in the 10th grade, but do you really want to arrive at the university doorstep and find you need an assessment? Oh yes, we can talk about how many "emergency" evaluations I've done during Thanksgiving and winter breaks! You just don't want to do it that way...go to their website, call them, get the facts before you hit the road.
You may NOT require an evaluation if your condition is primarily medical in nature. You are likely to be asked to get documentation from your physician and provide other medical records that outline the condition and the required accommodations. Clearly, you don't need educational testing if you are confined to a wheel chair and your needs center around mobility. If stamina is an issue, your physician can address those needs.
On the other hand, even though Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is medical/neurological in nature, an assessment may be required to determine how the disorder impacts your ability to function academically. You need to provide evidence to support the accommodations you require. Just because you have ADHD, does not mean that you automatically qualify for accommodations.
Before we get into the specifics, understand the differences between public school responsibilities and those at a college level. Public schools and federally/state-funded colleges, universities and vocational programs are required to offer accommodations for those with disabilities, but that's where the similarities end.
Some programs are devoted to providing every possible service and accommodations and other programs are "in name only". It's up to you to figure out if the college program is "devoted" or not. College counselors may help with this process. Also, check out the program's website. You should get a fairly good sense of their commitment if they are well-staffed, seem organized and extensively outline their services. If they aren't committed, it is likely to show in their website.
Other important "factoids" include:
- You will NOT be treated differently during the application process. You don't get "credit" for being "special".
- The course content will not be modified for you.
- Accommodations are intended to provide you with equal access to the educational process and they cannot discriminate against you because of any type of disability.
- You must be competent enough to meet the academic requirements. They will not lower the standards to meet your skill set.
- The request for accommodations do not impose an "undue hardship" to the college.
- Your IEP does not follow you to college.
- Just because you receive accommodations does not mean you will be successful. Being successful is your job.
Accommodations apply to all handicapping conditions and there is no specific list of these conditions.
A person is considered to be "handicapped" if s/he:
- has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities;
- has a record of such an impairment, or
- is regarded as having such an impairment.
Major life activities include walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, working, caring for oneself and performing manual tasks.
If the data I have collected supports them, I choose from the following list of accommodations that have proven to be effective over the years.
- Teacher- or peer-generated notes and outlines.
- Access to computers to take notes or complete in-class assignments.
- Preferential seating close to the point of instruction.
- Additional time to complete assignments.
- Teacher will record important points on the board.
- Instructions repeated/rephrased and broken down and/or written as needed.
- Student will participate fully in group projects, but be graded on their own individual component.
- Test taking in a separate room with time and a half/double time/triple time and should include reasonable breaks.
- Allow student to write on the test or the test booklet or allow an instructor or assistant to transfer the answers to an answer sheet.
- No more than two tests per day. Others are to be rescheduled.
- Use a blank card as cover to make visual fields manageable and to help student track more effectively.
- One day advance notice of "pop quizzes" so that student can be prepared.
- Use a word processor with the functions disabled for tests or in-class assignments.
- Test directions to be rephrased, repeated, broken down or written down.
- Priority registration (this accommodation is important in terms of needing extra time to finish tests).
- No contact-sports in physical education (for my students with seizure disorders, history of concussion or injury, etc.).
- Allow student to listen to music on an iPod or other device while they work through tests.
- Final exams, especially if they are cumulative, should be limited to one each day and should include reasonable, proctored breaks.
- If there are oral exams, student should have a copy of the questions that may be presented verbally.
- Test questions should be rephrased and clarified without cueing or changing the content as necessary when student asks for clarification.
- Do not require that the student take any tests online or on the computer. Student needs a paper and pencil format.
- When there is an exceptionally poor test grade, allow students an opportunity to re-take the test, drop the lowest grade or work through relevant extra credit assignments to make up the grade.
- Don't call on the student unless his/her hand is raised.
- Allow student to study his/her notes before a test so that the impact of memory difficulties will not negatively impact his/her performance.
- Provide an alternative to test taking such as creating a project or giving a presentation.
- Provider a reader on those tests and activities that are not designed to measure reading comprehension. Allow student to follow along as the reader reads.
- Allow student additional time to copy from the board.
- Allow student to use a spelling device (Franklin Speller) and a template that outlines the correct use of the conventions of written expression.
- Give student spelling "amnesty" whereby his/her spelling is corrected, but not counted "off".
- Use of a calculator.
Each of the accommodations needs to have a rationale based on the collected data to justify making the recommendation.
When making requests for therapy dogs, quiet dorms, single rooms or highly specialized accommodations, make certain you are prepared with the reasons for those requests. You are likely to need documentation from supporting professionals.
Currently, my assessment plan for college-bound students with learning disabilities and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (not psychiatric disorders) consists of the following tests and procedures (not all tests are administered to each student):
- Cognitive Functioning
Leiter International Performance Scale-3rd Edition
Stanford-Binet Scales of Intelligence-5th Edition
- Achievement Functioning
Standard and Extended batteries for reading, math and written language
Nelson-Denny Reading Test
Gray Silent Reading Tests (if I want to contrasted untimed silent reading versus
the strictly timed Nelson-Denny Reading Test)
Test of Written Language-4th Edition (if I want to follow up on observations
regarding foundational writing skills)
Listening Comprehension Test 2/Adolescent
Rey Complex Figure and Recognition Trial
Conners ADHD Rating Scales
Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Functioning/Adult
Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Achievement-4th Edition Fluency subtests
- Social-Emotional Functioning
- Additional Data
Review of records
Teacher feedback forms (if available)
Overall, you've absolutely positively gotta see your "case manager" or advocate or whatever they are called at your particular school even if you have a "whiff" of a problem. See them immediately about problems with professors, roommates, teaching assistants, anything and everything if it impacts your academic performance. They know all of the resources and how to access them. The college curriculum moves fast and you're life will come off the rails before you know it.
Don't even think you know what you are doing. The consequences of making a mistake in judgment is not something you can live with. Being asked to leave school is a life-altering experience.
I realize that it's hard to accept, but perhaps, just perhaps, the folks at the learning support office know a few things about the "personality" of their school that can help you. Don't fight them! The school is likely to offer seminars/workshops, etc. on organization, time management, whatever. If they offer tutoring, get in there at the first sign of struggle with the concepts. GET IN THERE!!!
I view college as being the "elementary school" of adulthood. Students are in a semi-supervised setting (at least for the first two years until they move off campus), they are living with a wide variety of peers, have a chance to develop judgment based on their successes and failures, interact with a wide array of adults and have to problem-solve their self-care in ways they have not done so previously (Got the flu? Know where the health center is and when they are open?). It's excellent training for the "adult-to-be".
Oh, this is going to be fun! TTFN!