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:
STATISTICS INDICATE THAT A SIGNIFICANT NUMBER OF STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES ARE ATTENDING COLLEGE.
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.
SUPPORT FOR COLLEGE PARTICIPATION
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.