Working with Counselors for Gaining Applicants with Learning Disabilities

Just because a student has a learning disability does not mean they won’t excel and bring pride to your school as well as any other person.  High schools get the opportunity to give students coping strategies and an insight into their individual learning processes.  This gives them the skills to be as successful as any other student not classified as learning disabled.

Individual Education Programs

High school counselors do the same guidance as all the students in the school, but with the addition of transition plans and IEP – Individual Education Programs.  Colleges will gain students that can become lawyers, don’t underestimate their success.  It depends on each student, but with dual enrollment and academies at schools, and other such new innovations students can now get a better understanding of their abilities as well as their interests.

There are actually several programs to help.  The main thing that occurs is the counselors need to work with each child to understand their disability.  Is it a neurological or learning issue?  Brain injury or birth defect?  Just the chance to develop different learning or testing abilities?  High school counselors need to start early in their high school career by asking them what they want to do.  Initially it may be pie in the sky as many people dream of a certain career.  But the counselors can help guide them to where their strengths truly are and how far they are capable of achieving them.  They need to guide them to realistic goals.  If they want to be a doctor, but are poor in math, can they be successful doing administrative work in a doctor’s office, testing, or drawing blood.  If they wish to be a veterinarian, but have a low GPA, what jobs are out there for them to consider instead.  Dual enrollment, college credit ahead of time, vocational schools as preparatory work can all help qualify a student for advanced degrees.

Transition Plans

When students are ready to graduate, the counselor should do a phone call to the college to let them know that their incoming student needs help in this area.  It helps the transition and can be a stepping stone for the student to advocate for themselves as this is a key message for them going forth in life.

Support via counselors with IEP and transition plans is important and they need to also point out additional tools.  Vocational Rehabilitation by the government provides college books, support, and help with writing essays.  Also, if a tablet would help a specific student they can help provide this.

Counselors work on the IEP, goals, transition plan, and testing.  All this testing and front-end work in high school makes them ready for college.  Testing may mean they skip the SAT, but take the ASVAB instead.  ASVAB is a great test to show proficiency in certain areas and can be very helpful even if they are not going into the military.  There is an Accu-placer testing program at high school graduation that is supplied to each student and they can supply the college with these test results.  These two tests can indicate strengths.  Thus, they may find a strength in an area that can lead them to becoming successful architect, but they may have never thought of that otherwise.

Public education does not include college.  Once they graduate, both students and parents need to accept that they are on their own now.  Hopefully, their IEP programs, Vocational Rehab, and other testing programs have prepared them.  If they have moved off of support, they are well on their way.  If they need some help, then they now have to learn and take the step of being independent and being an advocate for themselves.  This is a key point.  They need to take the knowledge of what they have learned and what they have identified as a need to work with the college counselors and staff.  They will work with you, but you have to speak up.  They should always admit to having had a learning disability.  Whether they have moved off of support or need a coping method, they are required to be truthful on all enrollment documents.

Some kids may have a visual disorder that is corrected by receiving notes or taking tests on colored paper.  Recording of courses, so they can be listened to again.  They may need a dictionary or a computer screen instead of paper.  Sometimes they just need extra time to take a test.  Or just the need to take the test in an office outside of the classroom with no clock.  People learn differently and the transition plans that counselors provide to the students should give them the guidance of how and what they should advocate for themselves to succeed.  Sometimes all they need is extra tutoring and to know what kind of support system they can personally have in college.  Some colleges have programs and some do not, but researching this pays off.

College Experience

If students want to understand the college experience, have specific needs, or need to more personal directed help there are some additional options for them to consider.  Kennesaw State University has a program for lower functioning to experience the college atmosphere.  Downs Syndrome kids have easier classes and can find out what it’s like to be away from home.  There are colleges that cater specifically to those on the autism spectrum disorder.  Students who underperform and minorities can be accepted by colleges that focus more on character evaluation, than scholarship potential.  Spellman, Morehouse, and Fort Valley University in Georgia excel in this area.  Andrew College, Community College of Allegheny County, University of Denver are all colleges that specialize in students with a learning disability or have programs specifically to work with learning disabilities.  There are options for all students to continue learning after high school.  In addition, a key strategy for many students is to attend a 2-year based college program before moving on to a 4-year college or university program.

Thus, colleges with these programs or specializations should reach out to high school counselors as well as the traditional colleges.  Inform them of your programs and desire to work with students.  Students with learning disabilities have successfully become lawyers, aircraft engineers, military officers, and more.  Some may not be able to become a doctor or nurse, but their desire to work with people and the medical community can lead to quite successful careers as a phlebotomist (trained to draw blood from a patient), construction, or any other meaningful employment.  Opportunities out there if everyone learns to cope accordingly.

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