Developing an Appropriate Individualized Educational Program (IEP)
A critical element of an effective high school program is determination of which curricula and courses will be taken by students with leaning disabilities. Too often, these students are counseled into a general studies curriculum that will disqualify them from admission to most 4-year colleges. In addition, many students with learning disabilities receive course waivers--often for foreign language or mathematics--which can significantly limit college options. Course waivers may be necessary and appropriate, but they should be provided only when based on valid diagnostic data. Furthermore, all parties should be made aware of the implications of waivers for postsecondary education.
The individualized educational program or transition plan for a student with learning disabilities should provide for an early determination of postsecondary goals agreeable to all concerned and specification of the curriculum, courses, time sequence, and support program appropriate for realization of those long-term goals. The goals will require continual monitoring and adjustment throughout the high school program as the student's postsecondary and career choices become refined.
Special Skills for College-Bound Students
The postsecondary environment is much less structured than most high school settings, requiring a great deal of responsibility on the part of students to determine what to learn as well as how and when to learn. Students with specific learning disabilities are often left confused unless they are specifically instructed in skills such as evaluating courses, planning long-range study time, and interacting with faculty. The high school setting does not typically provide the opportunity to practice such skills. Special educators, in collaboration with content teachers and counselors, must provide their students with simulated college experiences that incorporate these skills.
Potential Areas of Interpersonal Problems
Students with learning disabilities often have serious interpersonal problems in the dormitories and negative interactions with professors as they seek help or ask for accommodations. In the college setting, where students are expected to be independent and function as self-advocates, these problems soon become apparent.
Many students with learning disabilities are unable to perceive intuitively the verbal and nonverbal cues that identify appropriate behavior in various social situations. Families and teachers of these students often shelter them from potentially stressful or threatening social situations and thereby prevent them from developing the social skills they need to function successfully in the outside world. The frequent inability of these students to maintain healthy and cordial relations with their friends and with adults reflects their poor social skills development.
This is an excerpt from a digest created by ERIC, the Educational Resources Information Center, entitled "College Planning for Students with Learning Disabilities."