Conducting a college search is stressful for many reasons. You have additional considerations when your child has a disability or mental health issues.
Your child is graduating from high school next year, and you’re wondering, “How can we prepare for his/her transition?” My daughter graduated at 18 because she had a 504 Plan instead of an IEP. The question was, she still needs some support, but where do we start?
Here are some tips and websites to help you through this daunting process. It’s never too early to start gathering information.
Tips for Your College Search
- According to www.understood.org, ask your child during their college search where they see themselves. What are their strengths and interests? Answering these questions can help get the ball rolling.
- Location, location, location! How far do you want your child to be from home? My daughter attended a school in our home state, about 1.5 hours away. It was far enough for her to feel away but close enough should we need to get to her for some reason. As a parent, weigh the options of flying vs. driving to campus, at least for their first year away from home.
- What types of accommodations and services does the school offer? All schools provide some kind of student support services. However, some offer more than others. According to www.parentingspecialneeds.org, Think College (www.thinkcollege.net) college search program is the only directory with programs in the US for students with intellectual disabilities. It’s worth checking out.
- Consider during your college search for schools for students who may be on the autism spectrum, ADHD, and other learning disabilities. These are schools for kids who think differently. That list can be found here College Programs for Kids With Learning Disabilities and ADHD | Universities With Academic Support Services | Understood. For example, my daughter attended Mitchell College. It was a good fit for her at the time, offering a ton of support. She also received a hefty grant towards tuition, which of course, helps!
- Schedule a time to visit the college and speak with their disability services when you’re there. It’s one thing to talk over the phone. It’s another to see it in person. Size of the school: how far your child will have to walk for support services, classes, dorms, etc., is all a must-see in person. Also, find out what support services come with tuition and what is an additional cost. You’ll want to know upfront, so there are no surprises.
- Lastly, the JED Foundation (https://jedfoundation.org/), a non-profit mental health organization, is very visible on campuses around the country. Transitioning to college is a big step for all kids, never mind those with learning differences, disabilities, or mental health issues. Check out their college link here, JED Campuses.
- NAMI also published a Mental Health College Guide here: https://collegeguide.nami.org. I highly recommend checking it out during your college search.
Transitioning from high school to college is stressful for both students and parents. However, being prepared ahead of time is half the battle. I hope these suggestions help you find the best program for your child to get the ball rolling, and I wish you the best of luck with your college search!