Transition to University: Tips for Students With Learning Disabilities and Their Parents

Today, many high school students with learning disabilities are recognizing that they can and should be considering university as a means of furthering their education and preparing them for adulthood. The following list of activities is offered as a reminder of the helpful skills and necessary steps to take as a student with a learning disability prepares to move from high school to university.

  1. Make sure psychological testing is current. Most universities recommend (and some require) that an updated assessment be provided (grade 10 or higher; or, as a mature student, within 3 years of registering at a University). Universities do not always have the facilities or personnel to conduct such testing, and useful supports regarding programming and accommodations will be most useful when it is current.
  2. Obtain all special testing records before high school graduation. Some school systems destroy these records upon the student’s graduation. Universities, as well as vocational rehabilitation offices, request these records to assist in providing support services to students. Students whose learning disabilities were mild and did not qualify them for special programming or assistance in high school may be eligible for support services in university, but documentation of the disability must be provided. A record of services received in high school will be in the student’s OSR file in the last school they attended. A copy of the learning disabilities assessment conducted by, or supplied to a school will be kept in the Psychology Department at the School Board office.
  3. Consider a vocational assessment as a way to amplify present and future goals.
  4. Make sure the student’s knowledge of study skills is adequate. In addition to high school assistance, consider special study skills classes / programs offered at community universities, private agencies, or individual tutoring.
  5. Consult with the high school to get a good understanding of how much support or special help the student is receiving. It is important to determine realistically whether minimal LD support services or an extensive LD program at the university level will be needed. Programs exist in universities across the country with widely varying levels of support. Making a good match of student needs to available services is more important than looking for a “good program” – the program is only good if it is right for the student.
  6. Help students to increase their independent living skills. Help them learn to manage their own checking accounts, do their own laundry, cleaning, some cooking, and so forth.
  7. Encourage part-time jobs or volunteer positions. These are helpful to improve socialization skills as well as give a better understanding of work situations and expectations.
  8. Make sure students have a good understanding of their particular learning disability. They should know and be able to articulate their strengths and weaknesses as well as what compensating techniques and accommodations work best for them.
  9. Help students understand how their disability is connected to social expectations with peers, families, and employers. A visual or auditory discrimination deficit and / or attention deficit disorder frequently lead to missed cues and inappropriate timing in conversation.
  10. Encourage students to advocate for themselves. A good first step is to encourage them to discuss their learning disability and needed accommodations, if any, with their regular high school instructors. Make sure they understand Human Rights legislation in Ontario to know what their rights and responsibilities are.

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