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Show 36 __ Transition from High School to College - Part 2

This episode contains the second half of this interview. To hear the first half, listen to Show 35.

Jean Ashmore, Director of Disability Support Services, is interviewed by Jac Brennan about issues surrounding the transition from high school to college for students with disabilities. Included in this discussion are the differences between the laws that cover students with disabilities in high school and college, the responsibilities of students with disabilities in post secondary education, the differences between accommodations available in college and modifications that are not available, on-campus living arrangements for students with disabilities, service animals on college campuses, personal care services, adaptive technology, tips for a successful transition, and resources for students, parents, and high school transition personnel.

Links mentioned in this episode:

Students with Disabilities Preparing for Postsecondary Education: Know Your Rights and Responsibilities

100 Things Every College Student With a Disability Ought to Know

Going to College

Association on Higher Education and Disability

Landmark College

You're listening to the Disability Law Lowdown, show number 36.

Beth Case: Hello. This is Beth Case, the editor and producer of the Disability Law Lowdown podcasts. I'm just popping in to remind you that today's episode is the second half of an interview that Jacquie Brennan did with Jean Ashmore from Rice University on the transition for students with disabilities from high school to college. If you've not listened to show 35, I strongly recommend that you go back and listen to the first half of this interview and then come here and listen to this episode. But of course, it's up to you! Enjoy!

Jean Ashmore: You know, one other thing that comes to my mind when I think about living is services animals. You know, a trained service animal is an animal that provides direct assistance to a student with a disability. When you think of that, the most common example, of course, is a guide dog for a student or individual who is blind. Well, trained service animals are definitely entitled to all places on a college campus, including the dorms, of course. At our school we definitely do have, and have had, students with trained service animals here on campus.

But some students have pets at home that help them feel secure or calm, and I guess werefer to them as comfort or therapy animals. We may be asked if those animals are also ok on college campuses. And my response to that is "Hmm, I'm not sure".

Jacquie Brennan:

Jean: That is the hot topic! Many colleges don't permit comfort animals to accompany students on campus. But it's best to explore that with the college itself.

You had mentioned personal care attendants and rightfully said that they are aides or nurses who provide help perhaps with bathing, toileting, dressing, maybe even eating. And in high school, the school will be providing that. But in college that's not the case. The students need to make his or her own arrangements.

Jacquie: Sometimes students need specialized or adaptive technology because of their disability. I know in the high school environment, that technology can sometimes be in short supply. What kinds of technology does Rice University have and what would be common at most colleges and how does a student get that kind of equipent on campus?

Jean: Well, we are very fortunate to have some excellent adaptive technology and I think most colleges and universities will, also. And I'm happy to share information with you what we have and how usually this is used by our students. I honestly think sometimes that colleges and universities have a wider array of resources than high schools. One example where I think there can be a real expansion or opportunity and resources for students is in the are of alternate format books. And what I mean by that is sometimes Freshmen with reading disabilities can really benefit from using audio books, or we use the term a lot, electronic format. And if you think about it, say someone reads slow and laboriously. If they listen to what they're tracking visually, oh my god! They can be much more efficient learners and often understand it much better by being able to hear it at the same time they're looking at it. And at college and university, you really do provide these resources to students and train them on the equipment that's needed to use the books, and really take a lot of pride in students achieving well with those resources.

And in addition to things like audio books, most colleges will have a dedicated computer lab or location, maybe it's even in the disability services office, where students with disabilities can use software, maybe they need to have enlarged screen images, maybe they need a close circuit TV to enlarge images, maybe they use software to asist with the organization of ideas, or maybe they use software to dictate rather than type, or perhaps somebody doesn't have good dexterity to do traditional typing, maybe they can dictate. So that's another type of specialized software that we have and quite a few other school will have.

Another kind of technology support is, sometimes students with hearing loss will benefit from what we call an assitive listening device. And that help boost their ability to hear what the professor is saying. Any student who is deaf and uses sign language, interpreters, those should be provided, too.

Here at Rice, our adaptive computer lab is located in the library. We like that location because it's open 24/7 so students can get into the lab, once you're trained and know what you're doing. We have our students here who are blind and who are Braille users, we have embossers and equipment to convert information into Braille and tactile format.

One other thing I'd say about adaptive tehnology is that often some type of modified equipment, or modifying equipment may be needed when people take tests. The test isn't modified, but maybe they're going to listen to the test or look at the test in a large form or mark it differently because of physical limitations. And so to accomplish that, often the test itself is administered through a disability testing center, so students will be taking their test over in the disability or testing office.

I think that covers adaptive technology.

Jacquie: We talked earlier about some of the differences between high school and college that a student with a disability needs to know to make that transition successful to the next level. I know that you have some ideas about how all students, especially students with disabilities, can prepare well for their new world of adventures in college. can you tell me what you think, or maybe a half dozen tips on making that new transition?

Jean: Ok, well, first off I'd say that going to college is scarey for all students. Students with disabilities have some extra challenges and with that can be some extra worries. Questions they might have: Am I going to get my books on time, my audio books, so I can keep up? Classrooms are so big -- how am I going to really see the board? Maybe I've worked with the same interpreter for years in high school. How am I going to work with a new group? What are my friends going to think of me if I take my exams in a seperate place? uestions like that can go on and on.

Jacuie: Right.

Jean: I really think there are ways that students can sort of reduce anxietes and be mentally prepared to deal with this. So I'm going to put these recommendations as if I'm talking right to the person who has a disablity and facing transition, if that's ok.

I guess I'd say, first off, learn to self-advocate. What does that mean? Well, really being able to discuss your circumstances and needs with people you don't know. That can be teachers, people in your dorm, or administrator or any person on campus. To do that, you really have to be able to give a short hand description of your disability, in your words, and how it impacts you. An example of that might be, I have a reading disability which means I read much slower than most people, but once I've gotten the information, my understanding is great. So have your "elevator moment" conversation on how to describe who you are relative to that disability.

I'd say if you're thinking to yourself, "Gosh, most college students take five or so classes, I'm wondering if this is really going to work for myself", give yourself permission to entertain doing it differently. Maybe you want to take a lighter course load that first semester.

Another thing I'd say is find some key people on campus that you can talk to, that you're comfortable with, that you can talk to about key issues, whether it's disability or not. Get to know them and get to know them early. You don't want to have scramble if some crisis develops.

Another piece of advice is to remember every new student is going to be nervous and uncertain. Give yourself credit. Another tip might be, get involved with some activities at your college. Maybe you're unable to play sports, but you can be a great fan. To give a example of this, I don't mean to digress, but tomorrow, I'm actually going to meet a former Rice student at a college baseball game. This guy is the most ardent baseball fan, knows everything about it, has season tickets, the whole nine yards. The punch line of this story is that he's blind. It's not prevented him one iota from being an ardent Rice baseball fan. So follow your passions, your interests -- get involved. Don't let limitations hold you back.

Another thing that comes to mind, sometimes students arrive at college or university and they have medications, their parents have taken care of all of that, they've seen the same doctor for years, and everything has run smoothly. But suddenly they are new in town or those resources are farther away in their home town, so I think it's really important, especially for people who take medication and need to have a medical followup or a psychological followup, have those things lined up before you get to college. Make sure your insurance works. Sadly, I've known some young university students who have gotten into some real crises because these things weren't in place. I feel that's important for all students.

One thing I always say is, let your academic interest lead you in your college decisions. Don't give yourself some self-imposed definition about what you should be and have that disability-linked. If you're keen on a certain area, let's say it's engineering and you're blind -- and by the way, we have a student who's an engineering major and she is blind -- do it. Figure it out. And there are good people at colleges and universities to help you come up with solutions. Just name a team core.

Well, I'm sorry if that sounds like a little bit more than half a dozen!


Jean: But I have one more thing to add and that's learn to do your laundry! Everybody needs to know how to do their laundry in the dorm. So that's it.

Jacquie: So, you mean, you're recommending laundry doesn't go home to the parents?

Jean: You got it!

Jacquie: That's a really good tip for students who have disabilities and students who don't! To wrap up our conversatin today about high school students with disabilities transitioning to college, are there any resources you can recommend to students and parents and maybe even the high school transition personnel, that they can turn to as they prepare for this important move.

Jean: Sure, there are some really good things and I'll just mention a few. The Department of Education has a nifty brochure called "Students with Disabilities Preparing for Postsecondary Education: Know Your Rights and Responsibilities" You can get that electronically at www.ed.gov and just put in that title -- "Students with Disabilities Preparing for Postsecondary Education" -- and you can get that. There are hard copies available around in various places, too, but you can look at it online.

And then there's a great book entitled "100 Things Every College Student with a Disability Ought to Know" and that's by Kendra Johnson and Trudy Hines and that book is available from cambridge-stratford.studyskillsinstitute.

I also want to mention there's a great on-line tool called "Going to College" and it's a site specifically for teens with disabilities and the address for that is www.going-to-school.org.

You know, we'd be incomplete if we didn't mention that every state has an office of vocational rehabilitation to assist adults with disabilities -- and by the way, once a student finishes high school, even though they may not be 21, they are treated as an adult -- the state vocational rehabilitation office can help with college costs and equipment. So in Texas, that is called the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services, but every state has its own special name. That's an important resource.

And I would say lastly, there are advocacy organizations, professional organizations, that provide lots of information. The professional organization I belong to is called AHEAD, and that stands for the Association on Higher Education and Disability and we do have resources that are specific for parents and transitioning students. The web site for AHEAD is www.ahead.org.

And, I think.. Oh, one more resource I might mention is that there are some sort of specialized transition programs across the country. Some of them are kind of pricey. One of them that comes to mind is Landmark College. So you might check out some of those as possible transition-dedicated program to consider after completion of high school.

So I think that sort of wraps it up!

Jacquie: Ok, well, I really appreciate you taking the time to do this, Jean, it was really a great help and I know a lot of people will be able to get this information and it will really help them plan as they get ready for this sometimes difficult and important next step that people take between high school and college. So thank you again for agreeing to this phone call and to our audience for tuning in.

Jean: Thank you very much, I've enjoyed it.

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