Is Your Learning Disabled Student Ready to Self Advocate? College Entry Coaching Provides Help for Students Seeking Accommodations

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Learning disabled students often need accommodations to succeed academically, but they arrive at college unprepared to explain their needs to school administrators and professors. Self advocacy coaching can empower these students and help them prepare for these important discussions.

Almost one-third of all students entering college have a learning disability like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or dyslexia. In high school, these students are entitled to a variety of supports mandated by federal law. Their schools must identify them and prepare Individualized Education Plans containing the accommodations the school will provide. They can enlist the help of teachers and parents to help them make academic decisions and manage their schedules.

This scenario radically changes in college. Federal law prohibits colleges from discriminating against qualified learning disabled students who meet admissions requirements. But, these students must self-identify, i.e., they must seek out the disability services office at their school, document their disability, explain how it affects their ability to learn, and describe the academic supports they need. The college must provide a "reasonable" accommodation, but this may differ from the accommodation the student requests. Then, the student's ability to listen, negotiate and compromise comes into play. In college, self advocacy also involves problem solving, making decisions and communicating clearly with others. How can students learn to navigate this unfamiliar academic territory when familiar support systems are no longer available?

Self advocacy coaching can empower these students to better manage their transition to college. The student designs the coaching agenda, and commits to reaching his stated goals. The coach holds the student accountable and provides organization, feedback and encouragement. The coach builds on the student's strengths, and asks powerful questions that empower the student to take steady, concrete steps to develop an advocacy action plan. Coaching sessions may entail broad discussions about life skills and organizational skills, as well as actual self advocacy practice. As an added benefit, the coach is "portable," and can be reached by phone for regular meetings as well as at stressful times.

The benefits? The student gains a better understanding of his rights and responsibilities. Self-sufficiency and executive-level thinking skills increase. Self- awareness and self-confidence grow. Better grades and efficiency can follow. Over time, the student builds self-management skills that will be useful throughout his entire life.

College Entry Coaching in Somerset, New Jersey provides college admission counseling and interview and essay preparation coaching for high school students. Dale Callender, JD, founder of College Entry Coaching, draws on her experience coaching students with learning challenges, and her work evaluating accommodation requests, to create an individualized self advocacy plan for each student. Dale can be reached at (888) 835-0895, (732) 398-9824 or dale(at)collegeentrycoaching(dot)com. Please visit collegeentrycoaching.com for more information.

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