Does my disabled homeschooler have any options when it comes to college?
A lot of homeschool families worry about getting their scholars into a good college once they’ve graduated from high school. But navigating the murky waters of tests, applications, and interviews for school is especially challenging if you have a disabled teen. Can these kids go to university? Of course they can!
Most colleges have at least some accommodations for a wide range of disabilities and special needs.
For instance, a teen with high-functioning autism who has a thorough transcript, a solid personal essay, and a good SAT score should have no problem getting into even a prestigious school and he can reasonably expect that school to help him succeed. Temple Grandin, the famous autistic cattle rancher and Colorado State University professor who’s life was portrayed in an Oscar winning movie, went to college where she began to develop her now widely-used humane method of slaughter. She changed the entire meat industry in the US for the better.
Parents of kids in wheelchairs will no doubt already know that by law all public schools must make dorms, classrooms, labs, and common areas accessible to students in wheelchairs.
Most newly constructed buildings are automatically compliant with this rule. But if your school isn’t, then by law they have to make reasonable accommodations for your student.
High school juniors and seniors should research schools carefully to ascertain what, if any, accommodations their chosen school will provide for their particular needs. Kids with autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dysgraphia and similar learning disabilities should seek out schools that will be helpful.
As far as the SAT’s and ACT’s go, special accommodations can and should be made for students who need them.
My 16 year old, Arrow, will be taking the SAT’s next year as part of his graduation requirements for his online public school. Thanks to his 504 plan (a list of accommodations that meet his needs and give him some extra padding in school), he will be able to take it in a small group setting, with breaks, and with unlimited time. Your child may qualify for something similar, according to the Home School Legal Defense Association. Guidelines are posted here.
But what if your scholar is intellectually challenged?
There are programs for him as well. According to the site Think College! (thinkcollege.net), there are 46 states with at least one program that accepts teens and adults with Down Syndrome and other intellectual disabilities. These programs are exciting and progressive in nature. I found 4 schools in my home state of Colorado including one at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, one at Colorado State University, and one at my favorite CO school, Arapahoe Community College which offers affordable learning and a fun environment.
I also found a culinary arts school in New York (D’Avolia Culinary Institute) and even a program at UCLA in California. This is just the tip of the iceberg. By now I hope I’ve captured your sense of adventure and peaked your curiosity about these intriguing programs.
If you are homeschooling during the high school years, all families should do six things, according to the site My College Guide (mycollegeguide.org):
- Prepare well for the SATs or ACTs if your child is not intellectually challenged and can reasonably expect to score ok on one of these tests. Note—test scores are not necessary if your student plans to go to a community college or trade school, which is the route I took when I was fresh out of high school. If your kid is anxious about taking one of these tests, bypass it all together by utilizing this wonderful resource.
- Get recommendations from other people besides the scholar’s parents and grandparents. Pastors, neighbors, employers, and family friends are all good choices.
- Research college homeschool policies. Because homeschooling has become so popular, colleges are rapidly adapting to meet the needs of homeschooled applicants. Most schools will accept a homeschool transcript these days, though you may need other criteria as well such as a good test score, volunteer hours, and a wide range of subjects studied.
- Utilize the personal essay. My autistic 16-year-old is a wonderful writer who routinely scores A pluses on writing assignments. Learning disabilities shouldn’t hold your scholar back from writing a great essay. You can help by making suggestions, teaching her how to outline, and editing the rough draft.
- Attend college fairs and campus interviews. There is a stigma in academia about homeschoolers when it comes to “socialization.” Prove to potential schools that your scholar is social, friendly, enthusiastic, and, ready to tackle this challenge.
- Keep accurate records and have a detailed transcript. You may or may not have a grading system in your homeschool, but universities like to see what your student has been studying. It shows the college how well rounded your student is and that he has a broad knowledge base.
Have you successfully launched a disabled student into the college stratosphere? Do you have any great tips of your own that you can share with us? Please leave a comment down below. Let’s help each other over this tall yet completely surmountable obstacle!
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