As a student with a disability, moving from high school to college can be an exciting time, but it can also involve anxiety and confusion. Your experience in college will be very different than what you have grown accustomed to at the secondary level. As a student with a disability it is important that you know and understand what your rights and responsibilities are as well as what responsibilities the college has toward you. Being well informed will maximize your experience at the college as well as reduce confusion and delay in getting your needs met.
The transition from high school to college is not only daunting for the student, but it is an eye-opening experience for parents as well. It can often be difficult to learn that the mandated services provided under IDEA no longer apply as a student moves into the post-secondary and adult service delivery systems. Educating yourself on the differences in civil rights laws, college rights and responsibilities, and adult services will help make your child's transition into adulthood smoother.
To facilitate the transition process, it is crucial that you begin to teach and allow your son/daughter to start doing for themselves what others have done for so many years. In college it will be the student's responsibility to advocate for themselves and seek out the services needed, so now is the time to assist him/her in building the skills needed for life-long self-advocacy. Often, students are not aware of how much has been done for him or her and they may not even understand what their disability is and how it relates to the services they need.
Jane Jarrow, a professional who has been working in the field of disability services in higher education for over 30 years, put together an Open Letter to Parents. The letter speaks from a parent perspective, as Jane is also a parent of a daughter who has disabilities. She offers helpful insight, suggestions, and hope to parents who are navigating the transition process from high school to college.
The following chart can be helpful in explaining the differences between laws at the K-12 level vs. post-secondary institutions. In addition, the U.S. Department of Education publishes informative transition information detailing the differences between high school and college.
If you would like more information on the process of transition, or how things will be different in college, please contact the DSS office at (815) 921-2371.
This handbook was developed by the agencies of Intersect for Ability-Rockford, a collaborative group of organizations serving people with developmental disabilities in the Rockford, Illinois region. Funding for this resource guide was realized through a grant award from the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois.