Resources for Family Members

Disability & Accessibility Services (DAS) consider parents, guardians, and advocates as partners in the work of making higher education accessible to students with disabilities and supporting those students through college.

Differences Between High School & College for Students with Disabilities

There are major differences in the laws and requirements that stipulate how high schools and colleges serve students with disabilities. In college, students are required to disclose their disabilities and request accommodations. Parents, guardians, and advocates can longer do this on students’ behalf. Parents and guardians should encourage their student to disclose their disability to Disability & Accessibility Services (DAS) as soon as possible. This will help DAS ensure students receive appropriate accommodations and resources for academic coursework, the Labor Program, Residence Life, and all other activities and programs as needed.

The chart below highlights other major differences between high school and college for students with disabilities.

High SchoolCollege
LawIndividuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); Section 504, 1973 Rehabilitation Act
Intentto provide a free, appropriate education in the least restrictive environmentto ensure that no otherwise qualified person with a disability is denied access or is subject to discrimination in any program or activity
EligibilityAll children, ages 0-21 or until graduated from high school, who have a disability, and require special education serviceAll qualified individuals with disabilities who meet admissions requirements and can document the existence of a disability as defined by the ADA
ResponsibilitySchool districts are responsible for identifying students with disabilities and for providing trained personnel to assess a studentStudents must initiate services every semester and are expected to provide documentation that meets the institution's guidelines.
ServicesSchools may provide special instruction, individualized education plans, and/or accommodations to help each student reach his or her potential. School may modify a curriculum to ensure the success of a student.Accommodations are based on individual impairments and situational barriers and will not alter or compromise the integrity of essential components or technical standards of a program. Colleges focus on equal access for all students.
AdvocacyParents, guardians, or advocates have the right to participate in meetings and be a member of any group that makes decisions about the student.Students must be able to describe their ability, identify their strengths and weaknesses, and ask for accommodations. Students are expected to be their own advocate.
PrivacyParents, guardians, or advocates receive written notifications to be informed, as fully as possible, about any actions the school is proposing to take. Every teacher gets informed of accommodations by school administrators.Institutions are required to protect the privacy of the student under FERPA and communicates with the student directly. Disability information is kept in secure files with limited access, is shared only on a limited basis within the institutional community, and not shared with 3rd parties without the student’s written consent.

Links to Useful Websites

Open Letter to Parents of Students with Disabilities About to Enter College
Jane Jarrow, a parent of a college student with a disability, has written an open letter to parents sending their students with disabilities to college.

Adjusting to College: A Guide for Parents of Students with Disabilities
A PDF guide for parents of students with disabilities by the American Psychological Association (APA) that discusses students’ transition from high school to college and what to expect during the first semester of college.

Dear Parent Letter regarding Students’ Transition from High School to College
The U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has prepared a Dear Parent Letter that shares information about these rights and responsibilities related to students’ transitions from high school to college.

Postsecondary Educational Opportunities for Students with Autism
This resource is part of the Family Transition Tool Kit by Autism Speaks.

Grown & Flown – Off to College
A website, written by moms of college kids, with all kinds of useful information about parenting college kids.