Can I Go To College if I'm Disabled?

Can I Go To College if I'm Disabled?

It’s that time of year where you have completed high school and are looking to have a similar

experience that friends might be having, heading off to college, but the decision may not be so

easy if you have ASD, or other learning challenges. If you are in this position, you might want

to consider the following:


According to the 2010 Census, 10% of students who were identified with a disability before they

graduated from high school are attending college. This includes learning disabilities, mental

health, autism, intellectual disabilities, and other such as vision or hearing impairments. While

students with disabilities go to a range of post-secondary institutions, data reflected that most

commonly, disabled students are under 23 years old, go to two-year institutions, are part-time,

live off campus, and are financially dependent on parents.

Data from the Center for Disease Control in 2008 reflect a rise in autism from 1 in 150 to 1 in 88.

These students are in K-12 education but will reach college campuses at a rapidly-increasing

rate, almost doubling by 2018.


The Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 contained a number of provisions to improve

access to postsecondary education for students with intellectual disabilities. Students can qualify

for Pell grants and other financial aid.  Over 200 postsecondary institutions with programs for

students with intellectual disabilities have registered with Think College, the National

Coordinating Center for 24 federally-funded projects. The center also serves as a resource for

families, researchers, and postsecondary institutions.


As student’s progress through middle school and high school, IEP teams are required to discuss

goals for life after high school and to formulate a transition plan that addresses these goals. Talk

to your IEP team to be sure that classes and activities are preparing your young adult for

college if that is your young adult’s dream, and that appropriate activities are documented on the

IEP transition plan.

Keep in mind, colleges welcome students with a disability or learning difficulty, and will work

with you in a confidential manner. Most colleges have study supports or technology rooms

dedicated to the use of students registered with their disability support services, giving you

greater access to computers, software, and other needs without having to go through the standard

routine, and typically they offer quieter places to study.

Oftentimes a young person will hesitate to disclose to the college or professor about their

disability, it is to your advantage to have this discussion. Not disclosing could end up being very

stressful if later on you encounter difficulties on the course.

Do your research in advance, use your time now to gather information on the supports available

on the college website and be sure to look at their disability support services. Register straight

away with the disability support service department as soon as you have made the decision to

attend and have registered with the college. They will talk to you about your support needs and

arrange things like assistive technology, note-taking services, learning support and much more.

Further, make sure to become informed about your chosen courses and get an idea of what it will

involve, how much reading, note-taking, quizzes, doing so will enable you to plan ahead for


College can and should be an exciting new chapter in your life. Get involved – it’s not only

about your courses, but also about a rich opportunity to make new friends, get involved in

campus clubs and much more.