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Exceptional Learners, College Ready: Preparing Special Education Students to Transition to College
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Exceptional Learners, College Ready: Preparing Special Education Students to Transition to College


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Educational options for students with disabilities have come a long way in the last 30 years, and there are a great range of services available for students with disabilities at both the K-12 and …

Educational options for students with disabilities have come a long way in the last 30 years, and there are a great range of services available for students with disabilities at both the K-12 and postsecondary levels. However, HOW students go about getting those services is vastly different from high school to college. At the college level, receiving the accommodations and services a student deserves requires a lot more self-advocacy on the part of the student. This presentation gives a quick rundown of the differences between high school and college for exceptional learners, and steps they can take to support their success.

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  • 1. Exceptional Learners, College Ready Preparing Special Education Students for Post-Secondary Education Benjamin J. Howard Williams, MAEd Last Updated: Nov. 7, 2013
  • 2. One: Are Special Education Students Even Going to College?
  • 3. Yes. As of 2011, 55% of students with disabilities* had attended at least some college within 6 years of High School, vs. 62% of their general education peers. *This includes students with ALL types of disabilities. (Shah, 2011)
  • 4. “We’ve had now 30 years of access for students with disabilities to go to school, and they’re coming out of that system with a different expectation...” Eric Latham, Exec. Director of Pathway @ UCLA
  • 5. Success Story: Laura Lee Student with Down Syndrome Graduate of Mason LIFE program (Learning Into Future Environments) @ George Mason University Lives independently & works 2 days a week at the World Bank in Washington D.C. (Shah, 2011)
  • 6. Success Story: Donald Bailey Jr. Pervasive Developmental Disorder (On the Autism Spectrum, Not Otherwise Specified) Graduate of the CarolinaLIFE program @ University of South Carolina Lives independently, works full-time for Charleston, SC Parks & Recreation and volunteers at the local elementary school. (Shah, 2011)
  • 7. Two: There are no IEPs in College
  • 8. “When students are covered by IDEA, they can be relatively passive recipients of federally mandated services...all of that changes when high school ends…” Prof. Stan Shaw, University of Connecticut in Storrs (Samuels, 2009)
  • 9. Colleges & Universities function under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) & Sec 504 of the Rehabilitation Act rather than IDEA. These are Civil Rights Acts, ensuring access ONLY IF the student is “otherwise qualified” to attend college. (Dell, n.d.)
  • 10. Accomodations & Services “level the playing field”, they cannot alter the nature or requirements the educational program. (US Dept of Education: Office of Civil Rights, 2011)
  • 11. Colleges cannot discriminate based on disability status in admissions, housing, transportation, program offerings, etc. Colleges can set their own standards for testing and documentation required for accommodation/services. Students must self-identify to receive accommodations. Reasonable accommodations are required by law, but the student’s desired accommodations are not. Accommodations are NEVER retroactive. (US Dept of Education: Office of Civil Rights, 2011)
  • 12. Three: Making the transition to College
  • 13. Full Inclusion Programs in the senior year of high school have a dramatically positive impact on student success rates in college. They encourage self-advocacy and lower expectations of “hand-holding”. (Fogg, 2009)
  • 14. Disclosure & Advocacy All IEPs must include plans for after high school, but only 12 states require a “Summary of Performance” that lists student strengths, weaknesses, and recommended post- secondary accommodations (Samuels, 2009). The 1st question most Access Services Offices Ask: “What’s worked for you in the past?” Students MUST be articulate about their disability and the assistance they need to be successful.
  • 15. “Colleges don’t want to hear from Mommy.” Prof. Stan Shaw, University of Connecticut in Storrs Normal Student Privacy Laws and Policies (FERPA) apply for all students, regardless of their disability status unless a student is legally incompetent. Colleges often CANNOT discuss a student’s education with a parent without explicit permission.
  • 16. HIPAA vs. FERPA Student Privacy & Disability Records Documentation of a disability falls under HIPAA privacy laws and so is not part of the academic record covered by FERPA. Faculty will not know about a student’s disability unless it is obvious such as paraplegia. The student must choose to disclose it. (Leuchovius, n.d.)
  • 17. Research Early While all colleges must provide accommodations, the level and nature of those accommodations can vary widely. Example: Providing a note-taker or a tape-recorder are considered variations on the SAME ACCOMMODATION. One YEAR before enrollment, check with colleges about: ● What accommodations & services are available? ● What documentation is required? Early disclosure gives colleges time to provide the best assistance they can. (Lechouvis, n.d.)
  • 18. Four: SPED Realities in Higher Ed Access Services at JCCC (Johnson County Community College)
  • 19. The incidence of disability among 1st time freshmen at Community Colleges is 3 to 4 times that at 4-year public and private institutions. Up to 20% of Community College Students may have some form of disability. (Fogg, 2009)
  • 20. Johnson County Community College: Public, 2 Year institution in a large suburb of Kansas City, KS with annual enrollment of approx. 22,000 students On avg. 500-600 students seek Access Services assistance each term. (approx. 2% of Total Enrollment) (Willnauer, 2013)
  • 21. Most Common Accommodation: Extended Test Time / Alt. Test Environment True of most Colleges/ Universities (Fogg, 2009) Other Accommodations: Note Takers Audio Books Assistive Technology (screen readers, braille devices, etc.) ASL Interpreters (40) Access Tutors (35)
  • 22. CLEAR Program: (College Learning Experiences, Activities, & Resources) Provides non-credit classes for adults with mild developmental and/or cognitive disabilities. Focused on independent living skills, socialization, and cultural enrichment. ● TIPS Program: (Transition Into PostSecondary Education) Program offered in collaboration with the Blue Valley and Gardner-Edgerton Public Schools and the KS School for the Deaf . Allows high functioning special needs High School students to pursue a dual enrollment program at the college to prepare them for life after high school. ● Charlotte Walker, TIPS Coordinator -
  • 23. “CLEAR's goal is to provide educationally sound experiences in classrooms on the JCCC campus...the social integration of the CLEAR students and other JCCC students will continue to provide a valuable learning experience for everyone...” with weekday and weekend classes. (Entrance Criteria for CLEAR students, n.d.)
  • 24. CLEAR teaches basic skills, physical conditioning, arts and crafts, practical life skills, and personal enrichment courses based on student interests, needs, and input. Past Classes: Light & Easy Cooking Handbells An Elvis Celebration First Aid Reptiles & Amphibians Math Skills Success in the Work Place The Fee for Most Classes is $5.00 per Class (does not include lunch)
  • 25. CLEAR Students must be… ● 18+ years old ● Independently mobile ● Free of Physical, Verbal, or Sexual Aggression ● Able to transport and take own medications ● Able to communicate verbally, via sign language, or through a device. ● Able to sit through a 60min class without assistance. ● Able to maintain personal self-care & hygiene. For full entrance criteria:
  • 26. Five: Resources & More Info:
  • 27. Heath Resource Center @ George Washington University Online Clearinghouse on Postsecondary Education for Individuals with Disabilities: Think College College Options for People with Intellectual Disabilities: The PACER Center (Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights) ADA Q & A: Section 504 & Postsecondary Education: US Dept of Ed: Office for Civil Rights Transition of Students with Disabilities to Postsecondary Education - A Guide for High School Educators: College Transition Connection (of South Carolina) Non-Profit that works to create and fund post-secondary programs for students with intellectual disabilities:
  • 28. Works Cited Dell, A. (n.d.). Transition: There are no IEP's in college. Retrieved from Entrance criteria for CLEAR students. (n.d.). Retrieved from Fogg, N. E. (2009). From paternalism to self-advocacy. New England Journal Of Higher Education, 24(2), 12-16. Retrieved from http://search. Leuchovius, D. (n.d.). ADA q & a: Section 504 & postsecondary education. PACER Center. Retrieved from http://www.pacer. org/publications/adaqa/504.asp Samuels, C. A. (2009, March 18). Charting a course after high school. Education Week, 28(25), 18. Retrieved from Shah, N. (2011, December 14). More students with disabilities heading to college: Postsecondary options expanding. Education Week, 31(14), 1. Retrieved from US Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights. (2011). Transition of students with disabilities to postsecondary education: A guide for high school educators. Retrieved from website: Willnauer, J. (2013, September 30). Interview by B Howard-Williams [Personal Interview]. Access services at Johnson County Community College. Image Credits
  • 29. About the author Benjamin is an educator, student services professional, and academic coach living in the suburbs of Kansas City. Benjamin is a member of the Kansas Association of Collegiate Registrars & Admissions Officers (KACRAO), the Kansas Association of Colleges and Employers (KACE), and the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA). In 2012, he was awarded the Johnson County Community College Rookie of the Year award and nominated for the NASPA Region IV New Professionals Rising Star award. Beyond his professional role, Benjamin also guest presents and teaches workshops around the Kansas City area on a variety of subjects including College Financial Aid basics and the value of a Liberal Arts education in a 21st century job market. For more information, visit: