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Accessing Learning Disability Services in College

Blog Type:  College Prep Date Posted:  Friday, December 15, 2017

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By Grace Daley

When you make the transition from high school to college, many parts of life will change. Maybe you’ll go to school in a new county, province, state, or country. Certainly, your schedule will be different than anything you've experienced. You’ll make new friends. Your teachers will be called “Professor.” You’ll likely have more homework.

Despite these changes, you, the student, will still be you. If you had a hard time waking up in high school, the same will be true in college. If you loved to read before bed, you will want to do the same as a freshman at university. And if you have a language-based learning disability (LBLD) and academic accommodations helped you in high school, they will certainly help you in college as your disability will remain with you. The difference is, in college, your disability becomes solely your responsibility.

Accommodations Offered at the College Level

You should ask yourself: What accommodations are available and how do I access them? All schools have slightly different accommodations; those available for students with LBLD often include the following:

  • Extended time on exams
  • A distraction-reduced environment for exams
  • A notetaker
  • Permission to audio-record lectures
  • Texts in audio format
  • Executive functioning coaching

All colleges have slightly different processes for requesting accommodations, but they all require students to provide documentation of their disability. As you’re thinking about beginning your college career, there are some proactive steps you can take to make sure you receive the help you need as soon as you start class.

Have updated documentation. The disability services office at a college or university must base its determination of accommodations on recent documentation of a significant need from a licensed professional. Many colleges won’t accept an IEP or 504 plan alone as documentation of a disability. Neuropsychological or psycho educational testing within three years is acceptable, but testing in a student's senior year of high school is best. Check with the colleges or universities you are applying to about their preference.

Familiarize yourself with your school’s process. The college or university's disability website is a great place to start. Send them an email or give them a call if you’re still unsure of the steps. Ask how soon you can begin receiving accommodations once you start.

Know what has worked in the past. Maybe using flashcards really helped you learn new vocabulary terms. Or perhaps it helped to make margin notes on your readings, tests, and quizzes in order to process the information. You have been given a whole toolkit of strategies that have helped you get the most out of your education. The ability to apply these strategies and advocate for help acquiring similar accommodations can make this challenging transition smoother.

Meet the people who can help you. When you arrive on campus for accepted students’ day or orientation, visit the disability services office. This can be a scary step for some, and sometimes it is easier if you go with your parents or a friend. Just remember, this office exists to support your learning needs and they want to help. Lots of aspects of your life will change in college, but you will be the constant. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Use strategies that you’ve learned and don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself. Grace Daley is the Student Services Coordinator at Boston University's Office of Disability Services.

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Tags:  Accommodations college accommodations language-based learning disability self-advocacy

Overcoming Anxiety in the Classroom

Blog Type:  Social and Emotional Issues Date Posted:  Friday, November 16, 2018

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This is the third post in a five-part series about students, stress, and anxiety. The first article is an overview of anxiety, the second looks at a relaxation program for elementary and middle school students, the fourth explores how mindfulness can reduce anxiety. and the fifth covers the relationship between language-based learning disabilities and anxiety.

By Via Valenti

Being a student with anxiety, adjusting to new classrooms, a new environment, and delving into a social life isn’t always easy. Before my acceptance into Landmark for my sophomore year of high school, I attended eight schools with the hope that one would be the right fit for me and my learning style and a suitable place to help keep my anxiety under control. None of them were. Fortunately, Landmark came into the picture and became my academic home. The school altered the course of my future and taught me how to be an advocate inside and outside the classroom not only for myself but also for others struggling with anxiety. 

As a sophomore at Bryant University, I wish I could say that I’ve mastered how to deal with classroom nerves and social anxiety. However, that’s not completely true. I still struggle with anxiety, years after making strides toward overcoming its dominant presence in my life. But my time at Landmark allowed me to make significant progress from where I was. Landmark taught me how to utilize my resources, be an advocate for myself, and to persevere even if it feels impossible.

Taking Advantage of Resources in College

My freshman year, I lived in Bryant’s wellness housing, a substance-free dorm that fit my lifestyle and allowed for a more quiet living space that made me feel at home. For my academics, I have weekly appointments with disability services, a resource on campus for students who struggle with academic challenges like dyslexia or anxiety. I meet one- on-one with a learning specialist to talk about my classes, and we spend time adjusting my in-classroom accommodations, such as extra time for assignments and exams and a separate testing area to alleviate nerves.

Everything I learned at Landmark still holds true today: I advocate for myself by meeting with my professors, I get involved and meet new people, and I’m certainly not afraid to be different.

Via’s Strategies and Tips to Control Anxiety

  • Find an activity that calms you. I really, really enjoy yoga classes.
  • Stay involved on campus. Being social and talking to people can help alleviate a lot of anxiety because it keeps you distracted and absorbed in your commitments, so you don't have time to worry!   
  • Music is really helpful when you get bad thoughts or start to overthink;  it can help distract you. Verbalizing the lyrics out loud can change your brain’s thinking to focus on the lyrics rather than the thoughts you’re having.
  • I always take an hour out of every day for "me" time. Life is really overwhelming, and if you don't stop and take a few minutes to yourself, you will go crazy with your thoughts.

There are some days when your anxiety will be worse than others, and there are other days your anxiety won’t get you down at all. I’ve learned that my success in college is not limited to just my good days. The bad days don’t keep me from pursuing my passions and involvement on campus, and they push me to face my anxiety, use my resources, and confront what’s out of my control. My anxiety is my biggest strength for teaching me about myself, and a weakness I have not let hold me back.


About the Author

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Via Valenti graduated from Landmark High School in 2017. She's majoring in politics and law with a double minor in business administration and communications. She's active in several groups on campus.

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Tags:  anxiety college accommodations self-advocacy

Tips to Help You Make Your Final College Decision

Blog Type:  College Prep Date Posted:  Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Read more posts about Navigating the College Admissions Process for Students with Learning Disabilities

college decision making lists

You've been accepted to several schools. The next step is deciding which to attend. Use these tips and suggestions to help you make the final decision. Download this worksheet to keep track of the main features of the schools you are considering.

Compare Support Programs

Download the College Comparison worksheet.
  • Make a list of the supports and accommodations that are essential for your success. Decide which school provides you with the best set of services.
  • Contact the support faculty at your top two or three schools. Evaluate your ability to develop a positive working relationship with the support staff.
  • Talk to students at the schools who currently access the support.

Compare Financial Aid Packages

  • Examine the award packages that you were given from each school.
  • Talk to your parents to discuss which is the best package for your family.

Tap into Alumni

  • Contact alumni you know who have attended schools on your list and ask about their transition.
  • If you need help contacting alumni, ask your Guidance Office to facilitate this process for you.

Attend Accepted Student Days

  • Select your top two or three school and attend accepted students events.
  • Visit classes and talk with students.
  • Try to explore the school “off the beaten path.”
  • Pay attention to the life of the campus…read posters and announcements, go to sporting events, visit on a weekend to get a sense of campus life.
  • Stay overnight and visit classes if at all possible.

Examine Major and Requirements

  • Spend some time getting a detailed look at the requirements for your intended major.
  • Is there a need to seek a foreign language waiver or substitution? Begin that discussion now. (This may not be possible for all majors so find that out prior to enrolling!)
  • Compare courses and opportunities for internships.
  • Compare career placement statistics.

Consider Family and Extra-Curricular Options

  • Think about how frequently you will be able to travel home.
  • Compare the ease of travel to each of the various campus (how close to airports, train stations, etc.).
  • Compare the extra-curricular opportunities at each school.

Seek Input from Teachers

  • While teachers and parents can’t make the decision for you, it is wise to sit with them to seek their opinion.
  • Your academic advisers, guidance counselor, and other teachers can give you some good points to consider as you evaluate your options.

Trust Your Gut

  • If you visit a school and “something” does not feel right…trust that instinct.

Make a Pro/Con List

  • It helps to put your thoughts in writing.
  • Your guidance counselor will help you with this process as well.

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Questions to Ask Students Who Access College Support Services

Blog Type:  College Prep Date Posted:  Friday, July 13, 2018

Read more posts about Navigating the College Admissions Process for Students with Learning Disabilities

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Many colleges offer students with learning disabilities accommodations and services through the Disability Services Office. When you visit colleges, it's important to meet with a representative from the office. It's also very helpful to talk to students who receive services from the office. Ask the Disability Services Office if you can meet with one of these students, or make conversation with a student who's in the office during your visit.

Bring this list of questions to the college visit.

  • Can you compare the types of support you received in high school to the services you have now?
  • Is the disability office responsive to your needs?
  • How supportive and open have professors been to your requests for accommodations?
  • Have you faced any challenges in securing the accommodations?
  • Have you used tutorial support? How effective has it been?
  • What advice would you give to new freshmen starting college?

Learn more about the range of post-secondary options.

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Tags:  college accommodations college advice college interview learning disabilities student services

The College Visit: Questions to Ask the Disability Support Services Office

Blog Type:  College Prep Date Posted:  Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Read more posts about Navigating the College Admissions Process for Students with Learning Disabilities

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Most colleges have a support service office to help students with learning disabilities access the resources they need to succeed. Students with learning disabilities should make an appointment to meet with a representative from the support service office during their college visits.

Questions to Ask When Meeting with the Support Services Office

thumbnail of college support services comparison worksheet
Download our College Support Services Comparison form.
  • How many professionals are providing services for students with disabilities? What is their background and experience?
  • How many students with disabilities do you serve?
  • Do you have a specific program for students with learning disabilities? Is there a unique application process for the program?
  • If there is a program, please describe the types of support that are built into the program.
  • Is there a fee for the program?
  • Would you please comment on the following accommodations and talk about the process for securing each? Select those that are appropriate for you or your child.Priority registration
    • Reduced course load
    • Extended time on tests
    • Assistive technology
    • Foreign language waiver or substitution
    • Note takers
  • Is tutoring available? How is it scheduled? Is tutoring one-on-one or small group? Who conducts tutorials (peers, professionals, learning disabilities specialist)? How often can a student see a tutor?
  • What is the school retention rate for students with learning disabilities?

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Academic Support Services at the College Level for Students with Learning Disabilities

Blog Type:  College Prep Date Posted:  Friday, June 29, 2018

Read more posts about Navigating the College Admissions Process for Students with Learning Disabilities

college-services student teacher

Most colleges have a support service office to help students with learning disabilities access the resources they need to succeed. The services are outlined below.

Level of Support


Basic Accommodations and Services

  • Provides accommodations as required under ADA and Section 504.
  • Students must disclose and provide documentation.
  • Accommodations may include:
    • Extended time on tests
    • Note takers
    • Priority registration
    • Assistive technology
    • Reduced course load
  • Access to writing center provided for all students.

Coordinated Services

  • Provides all accommodations as required by law.
  • Students must disclose and provide documentation.
  • Specialized instruction in study skills and organizational skills may be available.
  • Might offer some content tutorial support with a upperclassman or graduate student.
  • Often have a learning center with professional with specific experience teaching students with LD.

Intensive Support Services and Support Programs

  • Students must apply to specific support program as well as to the college (coordinated admissions).
  • Specific support sessions are built into the student’s schedule.
  • May have an summer program to facilitate the transition to college.
  • Students pay tuition for classes and for participate in the program.
  • Program has specific staff specializing in LBLD.

Check out Landmark School’s Transition and Guidance page to learn more about the transition to college and other post-secondary options.

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Navigating the College Admissions Process for Students with Learning Disabilities

Blog Type:  College Prep Date Posted:  Friday, June 22, 2018

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Applying to college can be a stressful, time-consuming journey for students and their families that requires travel, hours of research and essay writing, gathering transcripts, recommendations, and other documentation, and filling out forms and applications—lots of them. Students with learning disabilities (LD) face the added challenge of finding a school that accommodates their needs with appropriate services and supports and fulfills other criteria, such as location, academic programs, and size.

This series offers information on what services are available on campuses for students with LD and how to access them, tips on writing the college essay and interviewing, printable worksheets to organize the schools students are considering, and information about testing.

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Tags:  college college accommodations college admissions college advice college essay learning disabilities learning disability transition to college
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