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For Parents

You are probably beginning to think about college for your son or daughter or you wouldn't have found your way to this site. As a parent of a student with a disability, you may have been the primary advocate for services for your son or daughter. You attended their IEP meetings and worked closely with teachers to assure his or her success. Now, graduation is near (or here!) and you need to learn more about how to access programs and services at the college/university level.

You need to know that once your son or daughter graduates from high school, THE RULES ALL CHANGE!

Students with disabilities that have been accommodated in high school will experience changes in the way they receive those accommodations in college. The parent, who most likely was the student’s advocate in high school, finds that college confidentiality rules dictate that the student is now in control and responsible for his/her own accommodations. In high school, the student may have worked with a team including the parent, the teacher and other support personnel who determined the accommodations the student would receive. The school then took the responsibility to implement the accommodations and directed the student to take full advantage of the accommodations provided, with little or no prompting from the student.

Parents often expect the college will play the same role as the high school to get the student to comply with what has been determined is needed for his/her success. That is not the case. The Office of Disability Services provides the support needed, but the college student is now expected to take responsibility for his/her own success. On the college level, the student, as an adult, must be his/her own self advocate.   An awareness of and ability to communicate about his/her disability is essential.

The student is also responsible for providing acceptable documentation (See Eligibility link on the right).  At Messiah College, the student will be expected to meet with the Director of Disability Services to discuss the types of accommodations suggested by the documentation and what the student prefers to receive. Based on a signed agreement, the Office of Disability Services will provide the student with a letter that the student can show to his instructors as s/he prefers. The student must ask the instructor in a timely manner to provide the appropriate accommodations.

The office offers accommodations and supports to assist the student with a disability. Other campus offices help with tutoring, math, and writing assistance. However, it is up to the student to take advantage of these accommodations and supports. The office may encourage the student to set an appointment, but the student will make the final decision to schedule and attend.

How can I ensure my child can make it on his/her own?

Parents of students with learning disabilities, ADHD or other disabilities may have taken a very big role in their academic success to this point. They took responsibility to organize the student, making sure they were in the right place at the right time, setting up an appropriate place and time for the student to study, and assisting with homework. Obviously, the parent’s role changes dramatically when a student moves into a college dormitory away from home. While this most likely will be cause for some relief to the parent, it is also cause for some anxiety. How can the parent be sure that the student continues good study habits? While the student most likely will experiment with his/her boundaries during this transition time, here is a list of suggestions for parents to help the student succeed in college.

  • Make sure the student has a supply of any medication the student will need. Remind the student of the importance of taking the medicine as prescribed.
  • Provide the student with a plan book that is a size that can easily be carried with them everywhere or a PDA/Pocket PC. Sit down with him/her before leaving home to enter classes and/or work schedule in the planner.
  • Communicate often. Ask about classes, upcoming projects, attendance, study spaces, etc. Avoid nagging, but demonstrate interest in his/her success. Encourage him or her, and affirm good decisions. Talk about relationships, and be alert for signs of depression or potential problems that would sidetrack them from their studies. Ask about sleep, exercise, and eating habits.

You will find good information about transition to post-secondary education at the following links:
Going to

Feel free to contact the Office of Disability Services about any questions/concerns you have for your son or daughter.  See contact information at the link on the right of the page.