Raising and educating kids with dyslexia

Posts tagged ‘accommodations’

College accommodations for dyslexia

TestsIn order to receive academic support and accommodations in college for a learning disability, such as dyslexia, a student has to formally declare their disability to the academic support office of the college by providing appropriate documentation about that disability. Usually this is a neuropsychological evaluation and should be completed within three years or less of the college application.

We began this process in the summer prior to my daughter’s last year of high school. We were careful to choose an evaluator to complete the neuropsychological testing who specialized in the transition from school to college. This included the adult version of the Wechsler intelligence test (Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale–Fourth Edition), as this is what the colleges want to see, as well as the Wechsler Individual Achievement Test–Third Edition (WIAT), Gray Oral Reading Tests (GORT), Test of Word Reading Efficiency (TOWRE), Wide Range Assessment of Memory and Learning (WRAML), and others. The report we received following the testing was clear and concise, and included recommendations appropriate for college. Unfortunately, in the past, not all evaluators have provided easy-to-read reports, nor have their recommendations been appropriate for the child or circumstances.

Along with the report being used as formal documentation of my daughter’s disability, we also used it as a guide when asking the support office for accommodations. Looking through the report, there were a number of recommended accommodations for college: additional time (i.e., time and a half) on tests and exams, use of note takers, a computer/laptop, audio books, and technology such as Dragon Naturally Speaking or Co-writer, and a reduced course load.

According to her college web site, the most common accommodations requested are: extended time for in-class examinations (up to double time); extended deadlines for major/term projects up to 24 hours; quiet, distraction free environment to take examinations; rest breaks, as needed, during examinations; permission to leave the studio, without penalty for brief periods of time; frequent meetings with the instructor to discuss course content or pending assignments; access to student note takers; access to e-text and books in alternative formats provided by the resource department; undergraduate course load adjustment.

My daughter requests a few of these and has been provided with note taking services; class notes, textbooks and other materials provided in alternative formats using e-text; extended time for class assignments with lengthy reading and writing comprehension; permission to record lectures; required reading available days in advance; professor assistance with clarification of material or assignments. However, even a few weeks into the semester, some of these accommodations are not panning out as easily as we thought.

In a school setting it is okay for the parents, a specialist such as the external psychologist, or an advocate to sit in a meeting an ensure the appropriate accommodations are written into a child’s educational plan. In college, apart from initially going through the report with my daughter and advising her on the accommodations to request, as an adult she is on her own, advocating for her own accommodations. So, when she was provided an accommodation for using a laptop for exams, there was no one else to suggest that this accommodation should include being able to use her laptop for taking notes in lectures, as well! Nor was she prepared for one lecturer telling her it was against school rules to record lectures. Or, when she arranged, through the college library, for one textbook to be provided in e-format, it did not include audio. So, although accommodations in principle are a good idea, the reality of accommodations that are beneficial is proving much more difficult.

The transition to college

laptopI was wide wake the other morning at 3:30am, unable to get back to sleep. The culprit partly responsible for my insomnia was jetlag (I have just returned from the UK so 3:30am EST was really 8:30am!), but I was also tossing and turning because my daughter has started college this week. She has transitioned from a high school that specializes in students with language-based learning disabilities and boasts of one-to-one tutorials everyday, an average academic class size of 4-8 students, and classes designed to provide individualized, remedial instruction. Now she is in a different academic world. At 18, and as an adult, she must self-identify her disability if she wants to receive any accommodations for it. Her first class is a fast-paced course on the history of Western Art consisting of lectures with 399 other students. No wonder I couldn’t get back to sleep!

With some encouragement and her own determination, my daughter sought out the Academic Resource department between the end of her orientation and the beginning of her academic classes. By providing the appropriate documentation, she was determined to be eligible for accommodations under Federal ADAAA guidelines (more about this in another blog post), but the letter outlining her accommodations that needs to be given to her lecturers will not be ready for a few days. In the meantime, she has had her first class! Having been taught in high school to take notes on her laptop (she finds this particularly beneficial because it helps with her spelling) she came armed with this tool to the auditorium packed with students. I received a text message as she waited for the lecture to begin: “do you think I’m aloud to us my laptop to take notes everyone here has a notepad.” That surprised me. Having completed a masters degrees a few years ago, non-laptop note-takers were in the minority. But, as the lecturer explained in his opening comments, there would be no laptop use unless it was an approved accommodation. So, the laptop was put away. Not only does my daughter need that official accommodation letter to get her accommodations started, but now she needs to get it modified to allows use of a laptop for note-taking. Tomorrow, will require another visit to the Academic Resource department!