Getting Your Special Need’s Child Ready For College

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“Mom, do I have to make my bed, forever?”  “No, Coleman, when you are in college you don’t ever have to make your bed.”

“Mom, I want to be a crossing guard when I grow up.” “That is a perfect job for you when you’re in college.”

“Why can’t you just wake me up, every morning?” “Because, when you’re in college, I might not be around, every morning.”

Expectations, the act of expecting something to happen.  The thought processes that drives one to try, and then accomplish a task.  If we do not expect our kids to excel, then they will not push themselves toward an ideation of improvement.

Those who strive to reach a star, may someday, land on the moon.”  The mantra of one of Mel’s favorite therapists.  I have also heard her tell the mom of a brilliant 3-year-old with Autism, “Someday he may want to be a neurosurgeon.  If he does, he will need two, good hands.”

It is true that all kids may not be meant for or have the ability to go to college; however, many kids with disabilities can obtain an education post high school.  How is that going to happen if their parent’s, teacher’s and therapist’s are not planting that expectation and striving to teach them the skills necessary to reach that goal at an early age?

As the child enters middle school and then high school, the child needs examples and role models of those in similar circumstances, that have achieved.  Jeff was a thirty something, married, fully employed, young man from church.  He just happened to have a spinal cord injury.  When Mel was thirteen, he let her sit in his car and play with the hand controls.  He made the time to get to know her and allowed her to get to know him.  She knew he was married, had kids and worked.   Role models are so important.  Our kids needs to see others with disabilities living a life of accomplishment.

A few years ago, I was working with a twelve-year-old with Down Syndrome.  The blue-eyed, bundle of energy was bouncing in her seat, reading a book, as her parents told me about the families trip to the zoo.  Dad reported, at the zoo, they noticed an older man, with a star wars,  lunch box boarding the bus.  The young man had Down Syndrome.  The dad remarked he hoped, someday, Samantha would be able to go to the zoo to each lunch.   The dad was totally taken aback when I mentioned that young man worked at the zoo and was probably headed home.  Samantha had the skills to be a great employee, someday.  This was only going to be attained if those around her believed in this expectation.

I recalled Samantha, and her father, as I read the disability web page for North Texas University.  It has a great article, full of suggestions  to help parents prepare a child for college.     Here is the web link:

https://disability.unt.edu/parents-faculty-staff/information-parents

The following are recommendations from UNT and other disability web sites:

  1. You must plant the idea that college is important; that you expect your child to go to college – Not all kids need college but if higher education is a possibility, start planting that seed early.
  2. Ask the high school staff for their suggestion on which postsecondary option (e.g., technical school, community college, 4-year college or university) would be best for your child.  Your child’s teacher know your child and are familiar with their learning strengths and weaknesses.  Be open to their suggestions.
  3. Ask your child’s educational staff what skills your child needs to develop to be successful after age 18.  Start asking this question in Middle School.
  4. Contact several different colleges/schools.  You never know what services are provided until you ask.
  5. Contact your local DARS office at age 16.  They might help you develop a plan.
  6. Testing accommodations for SAT and ACT need to be documented in your child’s IEP.  If your child is getting accommodations not documented in their educational paperwork. Ask the school to start the documentation processes.
  7. College is about more than education. It is about problem solving, communicating, scheduling, and self advocacy.  Prompt these skills throughout your child’s educational career.

Any other recommendations?  Feel free to leave them as comments.

Aggie bag from Google Images

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One thought on “Getting Your Special Need’s Child Ready For College

  1. It’s so true that we need to raise expectations about individuals with disabilities getting a job and going to college. If college seems a bit much at first, there are lots of ways to acclimate oneself to campus before taking classes. See my blog at http://www.smartsteps4me.com for a list of activities, as well as ways to develop other independent living skills.

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