I 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!
I have made a very interesting discovery about one of my friends. She has been visiting from England and staying with our family here in New England. We had not seen each other for a length of time for many, many years – since we were teenagers. Then we used to spend most of our weekends together, staying at each other’s houses, and going away together to summer camp. Our mothers were good friends and we happened to become very good friends as well. But, when I left home for university, and my friend left home to pursue a career, our ways parted. Since then, we’ve seen each other only on occasions, such as weddings and funerals. Having families and working kept us busy and leading separate lives, but it never took away our close friendship.
With this visit, we picked up from where we left off as teenagers, but my friend revealed a fact about herself that I didn’t know – she was dyslexic. The words I’m dyslexic popped out of her mouth within a few minutes of her arriving at our house. I was astounded. All those years – the weekends and the summers – spent together and I never knew this about her. I suppose, if we had gone to the same school then it might have been different. I knew her spelling wasn’t that great but she was and still is smart, creative and resourceful. Lots of people don’t spell very well and so it had never occurred to me that she could be dyslexic. But now that she had revealed this fact, we were able to share our experiences with dyslexic – me with two dyslexic children and she with her own experience and that of her daughter. We had much in common in our teenage years and now we shared even more.
My friend’s daughter is at university in England, training to be a doctor. A fantastic achievement for someone with dyslexia! Her daughter is getting support in college for her dyslexia. This of course, with my daughter heading off to college in the Fall, is of great interest to me. When my friend left, to continue her travels in Peru before heading back to England, she agreed to send me more information about these supports once she arrived home. So, I am waiting in anticipation…
We’ve started on the journey of looking at colleges for my daughter with dyslexia.
This summer she is enrolled in a pre-college summer studios program at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. This is providing her with an opportunity to experience art school and explore different art and design options through electives.
It did not occur to me, or my daughter, that this pre-college art program would involve a lot of reading and writing! My daughter’s comment to me tonight was that had she known this, she would have thought twice about enrolling. If I had known this, I would have enquired about how the program accommodated her disability.
If my daughter is to pursue an undergraduate fine arts degree, then this will include liberal arts studies and consequently include s a considerable amount of reading and writing. Therefore, in our college search, we need to look at the resources offered by each college to help her succeed.
As my daughter begins her senior year at high school this fall, we are entering a new phase in her education. As a student with dyslexia, the road we’ve taken so far has been fairly well mapped out with specialists, educators and other parents explaining the landscape. We’re been able to find our way. But now, we are entering new territory. The territory of colleges is perhaps even more unfamiliar to our family as my husband and I both completed our secondary and higher education in British schools and universities, respectively. Our daughter is also the eldest of our three children and the first to enter the college scene. But, I understand that even for American parents the college landscape can be a journey of new discoveries as they travel it with their children.
So, I will be relating over the coming months our experience as we travel down this road of helping our daughter find a college. Please add comments if you have helpful advice to give to others and me. My next few blog posts will state where we have got to so far in this process. We’ve started on the journey. It will be a steep learning curve, or to use the analogy so far, the road rises steeply ahead of us but I am positive that we are going to enjoy the view from the top and we’ll be coasting from there.