For Exceptional Students, Changes in College Planning are Guaranteed
For special education students, the beginning of the semester is crucial. These young adults have a new lifestyle, which makes for a very exciting time, but it can also be very stressful if unforeseen circumstances arise. Policies, degree programs, accommodations and placement tests are just a few of the challenges these students will face over the course of earning a degree.
Ready to be independent
Whether your child attends a two or four-year college, the expectation is that in order to be successful, these college bound teenagers must take on the independence and responsibility of a seasoned adult. While this may be easy for some, special education students might not be able to navigate the system independently. That being said, they should do all they can on their own. However, parents might want to stay close.
One way parents can help with any confusion is for the student to sign a FERPA. This is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act form. It allows administrative staff to discuss your child’s education records and finances with you. Without it, parents will get nothing. Period! Yes, I know, I didn’t want to get involved either. When my student went to college, I wanted him to use all the tools I taught him while in high school. Being able to sit in on the college planning meetings will help parents understand the process within the disability department. We can’t help if we don’t know what our children are supposed to be doing. College is too costly to sit back and guess. Unfortunately, the red-tape is overwhelming, so unless you plan to send your child to college using the “cross my fingers” method, it is a good idea to ensure a signed FERPA is on file. You may only need it once or twice, but better safe than sorry.
Set the degree program
Given the fact that there are many degree programs and even certificate programs available, students will need to “test the waters.” Once a student is involved in a class and gets a feel for the area he or she has chosen, there is a good chance it will not be a good fit for one reason or another. Or, he or she simply doesn’t like that field after all. This could happen to anyone, so thank goodness there are plenty of classes from which to choose.
Accommodations vs. Accessibility
The idea that our student will have the same or even remotely similar accommodations will send students and parents for a loop once they figure out this is not the case. Colleges only have to provide the access to the curriculum, not modify it. So, a student may take a class thinking he or she might be successful and then realize that without the modifications, it will be a failure. Hence, drop a class and add a new one.
Keep in mind that before a student can register for a class, he or she must take a placement test. A student may have passed Algebra 2 in high school, but may place very low at the college level. (Some colleges will allow students to take the placement test more than once.) Students are placed into leveled classes based on the Math or Language Arts range. If a student scores into the Math 050 range and then suddenly realizes he or she will need to pass Math 060, 070, 080, and 090 before they can start to earn credit, it might just change the attitude about school altogether. This is where changing the degree program and having that FERPA form will come in handy.
They made it
The most significant factor is that our teens made the decision to attend college in the first place — and they’re there! If we can get them that far, we must be doing something right. Students can’t dispute that a college degree or certificate is a positive step for their financial future.
As parents, sometimes we forget about the oppositions these young adults face. A friend recently commented to me that her kidlet was on the “6 year college plan.” While this extended plan is costly, in the end, their safety and well being are first priority.
As for me, I will do all I can to support my children through each of their minors, majors and anything in-between. After all, it doesn’t matter how they start, it’s how they finish.
C.C. Malloy lives in Greensboro and is a steadfast supporter of children with a disability. Any information here should not be considered legal advice and counsel should be sought for personal educational guidance. For additional support, please visit her website, Bizigal's Exceptional Blooms.