Parents often ask, “What are the best colleges for students with learning disabilities or ADD?” And they are disappointed when I answer, “Your son or daughter needs to find a college that is a good fit. Learning disabilities support is only part of that good fit.”
What if a student is interested in graphic design and she applies to a college that has the correct level of learning disabilities support but has few courses in graphic design? Or what happens if a student is a soccer player, wants to play soccer in college, and he enrolls in a college with the right level of learning disabilities support support services but no soccer team?
For students with learning disabilities, the college planning process works on 2 parallel tracks:
Track 1 includes the usual factors: level of academics, competitiveness, majors available, size of student body, distance from home, activities on campus, and cost.
Track 2 includes the availability of student support services for students with learning disabilities and ADD and the extent of that support.
Both tracks must be taken into consideration for a college to be a good fit for the student. Considering only one track is a disservice to the student and may not work out well.
Colleges may have 3 levels of academic support services. Most colleges have tutoring available to all students in a learning center, writing center, or academic support center. For students with any type of disability, all colleges offer at least basic services, such as extra time on exams. Colleges with more support for students with disabilities, including students with learning disabilities and ADD have coordinated support services. These services may include provision of academic accommodations such as additional time or tests, a separate place to take exams, some tutoring by peers or professionals, and a designated staff person in an office at the college who coordinates academic support servies for these students. Colleges with comprehensive services for students with learning disabilities and ADD offer the most support. There is usually a special office called ‘Office of student support services for students with disabilities” or some other name. A full-time professional heads this office and often there are other professional staff members to assist the students. Students may meet with the support services staff weekly or even multiple times per week. Often, but not always, there is an additional fee for students enrolled in comprehensive support services. The student must also submit an additional application to apply to the comprehensive support services.
Students and parents must consider the usual college admission factors as well as the level of support services for students with learning disabilities to find a college that is the best fit for that student.