Students who have the same disability may not necessarily require the same academic adjustment. Section 504 and Title II require that institutions of postsecondary education make individualized determinations regarding appropriate academic adjustments for each individual student. If the student’s disability and need for an academic adjustment are obvious, less documentation may be necessary.
By the time most students with disabilities are accepted into a postsecondary institution, they are likely to have a transition plan and-or to be receiving transition services, which may include evaluations and services provided by the state VR agency. High school personnel can help a student with disabilities to identify and address the specific documentation requirements of the postsecondary institution that the student will be attending. This may include assisting the student to identify existing documentation in her or his education records that would satisfy the institution’s criteria, such as evaluation reports and the summary of the student’s academic achievement and functional performance. School personnel should be aware that institutions of postsecondary education typically do not accept brief conclusory statements for which no supporting evidence is offered as sufficient documentation of a disability and the need for an academic adjustment. School personnel should also be aware that some colleges may delay or deny services if the diagnosis or the documentation is unclear.
The attitude and self-advocacy skills of students with disabilities may be two of the most important factors in determining their success or failure in postsecondary education. Students with disabilities need to be prepared to work collaboratively with the institution’s disability coordinator to enable them to have an equal opportunity to participate in an institution’s programs and activities. To ensure that students with disabilities possess the desired levels of self-advocacy to succeed in postsecondary education, high schooleducators may want to encourage the students to:
Understand their disabilities. Students with disabilities need to know the functional limitations that result from their disabilities and understand their strengths and weaknesses. They should be able to explain their disabilities to an institution’s disability coordinators or other appropriate staff. As part of this process, students should be able to explain where they have had difficulty in the past, as well as what has helped them overcome such problems and what specific adjustments might work in specific situations. To assist students in this area, high school educators can encourage high school students to be active participants in their IEP or Section 504 meetings. High school personnel also can suggest that students practice explaining their disabilities, as well as why they need certain services, to appropriate secondary staff or through role-playing exercises to prepare them to engage in such conversations with confidence in a postsecondary setting.
A high school counselor, a special education teacher or a VR counselor may meet with high school students with disabilities to provide services or monitor their progress under their education plans on a periodic basis. The role of the disability coordinator at an institution of postsecondary education is very different. At many institutions, there may be only one or two staff members to address the needs of all students with disabilities attending the institution. The disability coordinator evaluates documentation, works with students to determine appropriate services, assists students in arranging services or testing modifications, and deals with problems as they arise. A disability coordinator may have contact with a student with a disability only two or three times a semester. Disability coordinators usually will not directly provide educational services, tutoring or counseling, or help students plan or manage their time or schedules. Students with disabilities are, in general, expected to be responsible for their own academic programs and progress in the same ways that nondisabled students are responsible for them.
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Not everything, of course, is apparent to the eye. The psyche has its hidden life and so do the streets. Midtown, the subway gratings puff out their hot breath, testament to a busy subterranean life; but you could not guess that millions of books are housed under Bryant Park, and that beneath the ground runs a system of train tracks, like toys for a studious giant. Activated by a scholar’s desire or whim, the volumes career on rails, in red wagons, toward the readers of the New York Public Library. Ignorant pedestrians jink and swerve, while below them the earth stirs. We are oblivious of information until we are ready for it. One day, we feel a resonance, from the soles of the feet to the cranium. Without mediation, without apology, we read ourselves, and know what we know.
Many post-secondary schools and training programs provide auxiliary aids, accommodations, and support services that enhance the educational experience of students with autism and other disabilities. As stated earlier, it is essential that students take ownership for their accommodation needs and understand their educational responsibilities. When speaking with the office or department that organizes support services, it is important to understand what services and supports are routinely offered. It is also important to realize that post-secondary institutions are just beginning to meet the needs of people with autism spectrum disorders. Therefore, it is also crucial to understand and communicate your needed supports for attending post-secondary education.
Finances may be a factor when choosing a post-secondary experience. Over the years, colleges and universities have continued to get more and more expensive. If the financial piece of your post-secondary puzzle is important to consider, you may want to think about attending a vocational school or a 2- year college. These options tend to be less expensive. As a student, you do not need to worry about costs for room and board. Typically, on-campus housing is not an option for 2-year and vocational schools. In addition, 2 year and vocational schools do not have those hidden costs that are associated with keeping up the campus and the athletic department.
The size and location of the campus you are going to attend should be decided. What is right for you? Choosing the size of the school that you wish to attend is an individual choice. A size that is good for one person is not necessarily going to work for another. Some people prefer very small schools where it is possible to know everyone who attends. Other people like the variety that a large school offers. Some people who are shy and have difficulty making social connections may favor smaller post-secondary experiences. Questions to answer about the size of a school include the following:
Life after high school is a major transition for all individuals. For the person with an autism spectrum disorder, this change can seem even more complex and demanding. Gathering information and preparing ahead can ease the anxiety and stress of planning and preparing for a post-secondary educational program. With careful planning and the proper supports, people with autism can avoid some of the struggles and enjoy a successful and meaningful post- secondary experience.