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College Admissions: Strategies for ADD/ADHD and LD Students

Monday, February 27, 2012

 

If your teen has ADD/ADHD or learning disabilities, be smart about their college process.

For students with learning disabilities (LDs), finding the right college can be a difficult task. Most estimates put the attrition rate for LD and ADD/ADHD students in college at about 50%. It’s a staggering statistic that too many parents discover after the failure has occurred. The most important factor in success for LD students is early diagnosis and intervention. Then, you can be prepared to seek out the resources in high school and college that will help him/her succeed.

Don’t Ignore The Warning Signs

If a student is getting low grades, get tested sooner rather than later. If you see your child struggling for hours with homework, falling apart in exams, or easily distracted, don’t wait until next year. Put your request

for testing in writing to the head of school and guidance office, then schedule a meeting. If your request is denied, consider private testing which may be covered by your health insurance.

Forget the Stigma

Get over the idea that there is a stigma with LDs. Many parents avoid getting their child help because they feel that the student will be labeled. They are living in the 1950s. Today, anyone involved in education knows that most LD kids are incredibly smart. That’s why many of them are able to hide it until high school.  Today, lots of top achieving students receive services at school or extended time on testing. Keeping an LD in the closet hurts everyone in the long run and benefits no one.

Formalize a Resource Pan

It is important to get an IEP or 504 Plan in place once you have a diagnosis. This will allow your child to receive services and qualify for extended time on tests. The ACT and SAT have become increasingly stringent in the last few years about granting extended time, and a 2-3 year track record of receiving services and allowances in school is key to getting your request approved. If standardized tests are still a stumbling block, look at SAT optional colleges www.fairtest.org.

Review College Services

There are basically two types of LD programs at colleges, proactive and self-directed programs. Proactive are the hardest to find and usually come with high price tag, but they increase the likelihood of success for moderate and severe LD learners. Self-directed programs suffice for most LD students who can ask for help. When looking at colleges, visit the Academic Support Center, ask how many full time staff they have and what type of services they provide. If the student would benefit from books in audio format or dictation equipment to write papers, make sure that the center has them. Students with ADD/ADHD issues may not need technology, but instead a structured program with a mentor to track coursework, grades and tutoring.

Disclose or Not Disclose?

You don’t need to disclose your LD when applying to colleges, unless a specific program requires it. In my practice, I have found that many colleges will reject high achieving students with a non-verbal learning disability diagnosis, severe dyslexia, a low IQ or very slow processing times. So, holding your cards close during application time can sometimes be the right move. But once accepted, you should provide your testing report to the appropriate academic or disability support office and request services before you arrive on campus. On your first day, make sure to follow-up and get comfortable with the staff and facilities that you will be utilizing. Self-advocacy is the best tool for managing an LD in high school and in college.

Cristiana Quinn, M.Ed. is the founder of College Admission Advisors, LLC which provides strategic college counseling, SAT prep and athletic recruiting services www.collegeadvisorsonline.com.

 

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