When a student with learning challenges graduates from high school parents may wipe their brow with a sigh of relief. All those years of IEP or 504 plan meetings along with continuous involvement with those teachers who are less than cooperative when it comes to classroom accommodations. The hours of helping with homework: organizing projects, reviewing for spelling tests, listening to and encouraging your child as they share their stories about a difficult day. Yes, our hearts go out to them and it is in fact very rewarding to see that final day in the local public school system!
Many parents are so proud of their child that they have finally achieved that huge milestone. Some students have lost their spark for learning which has been extinguished by the one size fits all approach to education.
However, there are many young gents and ladies that are determined to continue their education and choose to proceed on to college. Hmmm … now a new journey begins with unchartered waters for the student who suddenly has to self-advocate and at the same time wants to fit in with the other students. We, as parents, start to feel the sweat on our brow once again as we pray that our college student has finally found his/her way to the Office of Student Services to disclose their disability, provide documentation, and complete the required forms for accommodations to share with the professors. There are no more progress reports or guidance counselors to call. Yes, they are thrown out there on a college campus to be independent young adults.
Meanwhile, many parents have continued to read books dealing with the transitioning process from high school to college We learn all the tricks for success, but why won’t our children read these wonderful resources?!
I recently read Learning Outside the Lines written by a Brown University alumni. This easy to read book written by a student with learning challenges shares quick and easy strategies to survive college. It truly is an inspiration the book starts with the challenges encountered in the early years which to many of us it seems like we have written these tales of struggle and heartbreak. Nevertheless, knowing and loving our children we support them and encourage them to preserve.
Another helpful hint is using the college Web site to study your child’s selected major requirements. Using a self-designed form, breaking it down by semesters, which will provide a guide that is less overwhelming than trying to figure out when classes should be taken and which ones may require pre-requisites. Of course it is best for him/her to meet with the advisor to discuss any concerns. Time is a factor and a semester moves along at a fast pace, so it is extremely helpful to have an informed parent that can “coach” when needed. Rate My Professor.com has been a terrific means of determining which instructor best meets your college student’s needs.
As a mom of a young college student and also a veteran special educator, I can certainly say that constant vigilance and of course words of encouragement are all the necessary ingredients for a smooth transition and college success! Enjoy the journey!