Six Tips for Parents of Students with Disabilities

Students with disabilities should follow the same steps for choosing and applying to colleges as any other student. What they should do differently is evaluate schools based on the college’s ability to accommodate any special needs. For students with learning disabilities there are support services at many colleges. These vary in quality and extent from school to school.

Steps for students with learning disabilities and their parents:

1. Meet with the Individual Education Plan (IEP) team or your college advisor. The meeting is to help you understand the disability and its effect on college choices.

2.  Get the answers to the following questions.

How does the disability affect learning?
What are the student’s academic strengths?
How does he/she learn best?
What strategies are needed to help him/her learn?
What facilities are needed for the student?
What environmental conditions are best for the student? For example, if a wheelchair is used, the best college may not be on a northern rural campus where snow will be an issue.
What careers are of interest?   On this issue, parents and students need to stay realistic.  Learning or physical needs may influence career choices.

3.  Begin building a college list. After narrowing down the college choices, either the parent or student should contact the disability services office of each school to determine if the college has the services and accommodations that can support the student’s needs and meet any specific requirements. Programs, policies, procedures, and facilities must meet the needs of each specific situation.

4.  Talk with a current student.  Ask the disability services office if you could meet, or have a phone call, with one or two current students with disabilities who are enrolled in the school and receive support services. Students are often the best resource for practical information.  Ask about the strengths and weaknesses of the school and programs.

5.  Help your student be a strong candidate for admissions. Give your student encouragement and support! Your student needs to succeed to the best of his or her abilities.

6.  Know the facts.  A school cannot deny admission because of a disability if a student meets the basic requirements for admission.  In fact, it’s not even necessary to tell a school a student has a disability on the application, unless you’re looking for an academic adjustment or to explain something. For example, if a student had a language waiver, a cover letter is needed to explain this to the admissions office, or they might attribute the lack of language courses to laziness.

For detailed information on the rights and responsibilities of students with disabilities who are preparing to attend postsecondary schools, see this website page, provided by the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in the U. S. Department of Education.  The page explains the obligations of a postsecondary school to provide academic adjustments, including auxiliary aids and services.

For more information on helping a student with a disability choose a school and navigate the college admissions process, contact International College Counselors at 954 414-9986.


This year, college advisors at International College Counselors helped more than 200 students find, apply to and gain acceptance into the college of their dreams.  The expert college counselors at International College Counselors are dedicated to helping students and their families successfully navigate the college application process.

For more information on International College Counselors or to contact an expert college counselor, please visit http://www.internationalcollegecounselors.com.