Supporting Students with LD and ASD during their Transition to Postsecondary Education

 

MODULE GOAL(S): This module assists DR/S providers and university staff/faculty to understand supports and accommodations that benefit students with LD and ASD in college.

OBJECTIVES:

  1. Provide the “legal landscape” of transition and postsecondary laws that pertain to students with disabilities.
  2. Highlight effective transition practices for college-bound students with LD and ASD.
  3. Present a review of the research literature focusing on the first year experience of students with LD and ASD.
  4. Provide an overview of the social and cultural paradigms that have emerged in disability literature and how they impact transitioning and postsecondary students.

Introduction:

A student's transition and their first year of postsecondary education is a crucial time that plays a major role in determining a students’ postsecondary success and retention (Tinto, 2004; Kuh et al., 2008). This is especially true for students with learning disabilities and autism spectrum disorder (ASD), two populations of students with disabilities who are pursuing postsecondary education at increasing rates these students are pursuing education at increasing rates (Sanford, 2011). Students with LD and ASD now comprise nearly one-third of all students with disabilities on our postsecondary campuses nationwide (Raue & Lewis, 2011). The purpose of this module is to outline how universities can best support these students during their transitions postsecondary education.

KEY QUESTIONS:

  1. What laws determine the supports are required for postsecondary students with LD and ASD in postsecondary education?
  2. What are effective transition practices for college-bound students with LD and ASD?
  3. According to the literature, what are the first-year experiences of students with LD and ASD?
  4. How can postsecondary educational institutions best support students with ASD and LD during their first year?
  5. What cultural and social paradigms currently impact the transition of students with ASD and LD?
  6. What resources are available to help guide administrators, faculty and other personnel at institutions of higher education to support students with LD and ASD?

What laws determine what supports are required for postsecondary students with LD and ASD in postsecondary education?

It is the legal right for student with disabilities who meet the admissions requirements of a particular postsecondary institution to have access to that institution’s academic and extracurricular offerings (Katsyannis, Zhang, Landmark & Reber, 2009). In essence, the rights of postsecondary students with LD and ASD are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA, 2008) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (amended as Title IV of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) of 1998) (Katsyannis, Zhang, Landmark & Reber, 2009). It is also important to review the key elements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, 2004) that impact the transition of students with disabilities to postsecondary education.

A.  How does Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (reauthorized as Title IV of WIA) support students with LD and ASD in postsecondary education?

Originally passed as part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 504 is the first major piece of federal protection for postsecondary students with disabilities (Katsyannis, et al., 2009). Specifically, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (reauthorized as Title IV of the WIA in 1998) provides access and support to students with LD and ASD in any public or private K-12 and postsecondary educational institution that receives federal funds who meet the law’s definition of disability. Key components of the law include:

  • “Students with a Disability” refers to students who meet the federal definition of disability. The federal definition states that an individual qualifies as having a disability if he or she:

a. Has a physical or mental impairment that limits major life activities: “any physiological disorder or any mental” or “psychological disorder, such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities.” Major life activities include, but are not limited to: caring for one’s self, performing manual tasks, walking seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working.

b. Has a record of such impairment: “Has a history of” or has been classified as “having a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more life activities.”

c. Is regarded as having such an impairment: A person who has a physical or mental impairment that does not substantially limit major life activities but that is treated by a recipient as constituting such a limitation; has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits major life activities only as a result of the attitudes of others toward such impairment; or has none of the impairments but is treated by a recipient as having such an impairment.

  • Support is generally given through “academic adjustments” that allow the student with a disability to access the academic curriculum. The regulations of the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) of the United States Department of Education give additional guidance on “academic adjustments” in postsecondary education (34 C.F.R. Part 104, 104.44). The regulations state that adjustments should:

a. Ensure that a postsecondary institution’s academic requirements do not discriminate against a qualified individual with a disability.

b. Ensure that auxiliary aids that meet the student’s needs are available. Auxiliary aids directly involve any piece of assistive technology that helps the student access the general curriculum (Subpart E of 34 CFR 104).

c. It is not specified by the law for students to receive social support if it is not part of the academic curriculum.

  • Section 504 prohibits discrimination against students with disabilities based on their disability (OCR, 2011). For example, a student with ASD or LD cannot be denied admission based on his or her disability. 
  • The law states that “Qualified Students” are students who meet the admissions requirements of the postsecondary educational institution (OCR, 2011).
  • Please note that services should be provided on a case-by-case basis. If a student meets a particular disability requirement, then the student and the DR/S provider should work together to determine services. It is up to the student to self-disclose his or her disability.
  • The documentation that is required to verify a student’s disability varies across postsecondary educational institutions because institutions set their own documentation and identification requirements (Dukes & Shaw, 2004). 

B. How does the Americans with Disabilities Act support students with LD and ASD in postsecondary education?

The other major piece of legislation that supports students with LD and ASD in postsecondary educational institutions is the Americans with Disabilities Act (as amended 2008). The ADA, originally authorized in 1990, and its amendments (ADAAA), authorized in 2008, support individuals with disabilities at private and public postsecondary educational institutions. The ADAAA does not explicitly reference the discrimination of students with disabilities in institutions of higher education. However, institutions that receive federal funding fall under the Act’s Title II provisions, which directly mandates that all state or local “public entities” may not discriminate on the basis of disability against individuals with disabilities (ADA, II-1.2000). Additionally, Title III of the Act provides protection to students with disabilities enrolled in private institutions.  Key elements of the law include:

  • The definition of “disability” is the same as the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
  • Mandates that public institutions must make appropriate academic adjustments and provide auxiliary aids by stating that these entities “shall furnish appropriate auxiliary aids and services where necessary to afford an individual with a disability an equal opportunity to participate in, and enjoy the benefits of, a service, program, or activity” (OCR, 1998). Postsecondary institutions may not be required to provide auxiliary aids, accommodations, and/or modifications. Reasons include, but are not limited to:
  1. If they create “undue” financial hardship for the university,
  2. Require a fundamental alteration to the program, violate accreditation requirements, or3)
  3. Require the waiver of essential program or licensing requirements within an academic course of study (Burke, et al.,2010; General Counsel, 2010; OCR, 1998).

The ADAAA preserved the original Congressional intent of the law and implemented clarifications that benefit students with disabilities, including students with LD and ASD. Specifically, the amendments to the ADA, passed in 2008, retracted several court decisions known as the “Sutton Trilogy” that narrowed the law and made it more difficult for individuals to meet the law’s definition of disability and receive appropriate supports (Grossman, 2009). Specifically, the following clarifications within the amendments provide greater protection for students with disabilities:

  1. The regulations establish that an impairment may be “substantially limiting” even if its impact is only episodic, as might occur for example with epilepsy or certain mental health issues.
  2. The ADAAA expand the list of major life activities to include: “… seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, … learning, reading, concentrating, thinking and communicating” and a list of “major bodily functions” such as of the “immune system … digestive, bowel, bladder … brain … and circulatory functions.”
  3. The ADAAA also expand who is “perceived as disabled.” Individuals are now considered to be “perceived as disabled” if the individual is treated adversely, whether or not the impairment actually limits a major life activity.
  4. The legislation clarify that most mitigating measures, except for eyeglasses, cannot be taken into consideration for determining whether a student qualifies as having a disability. For example, prior to the passage of the ADAAA, an individual who took medication for mental health issues, could be denied protection under the ADA or Section 504. Now, such mitigating measures cannot be taken into consideration (ADA Amendment Regulations).
 

C. What aspects of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, 2004) should personnel at postsecondary educational institutions be aware of?

Although the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, 2004) provides special education services to all K-12 students with disabilities who qualify under the law, university administrators should be aware of its provisions for transition. Key transition elements include:

  • Transition services are defined as “a coordinated set of activities for a child with a disability,” which are “designed to be within a results-oriented process, that is focused on improving the academic and functional achievement of the child with a disability to facilitate the child's movement from school to post-school activities, including post-secondary education, vocational education, integrated employment (including supported employment), continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living, or community participation.”
  • Transition services are required to be “based on the individual child's needs, taking into account the child's strengths, preferences, and interests” and include “instruction, related services, community experiences, the development of employment and other post-school adult living objectives, and, when appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills and functional vocational evaluation” (IDEA; 2004, Sec. 602 (34)).
  • The law mandates that transition services begin no later than the student’s sixteenth birthday, and that they are updated annually thereafter and have a transition plan in place, which outlines their specific transition goals, activities to support their goals, including those pertaining to postsecondary education (OSEP, 2011).
  • Schools must prepare a Summary of Performance (SOP) during the student’s last year of high school. The SOP provides documentation of the student’s disability, a summary of the student’s “academic achievement and functional performance,” and lists recommendations on how to assist the student to meet his or her postsecondary goals (IDEA; 2004, Sec 614; Kochhar-Bryant, et al., 2009; OSEP, 2011).
  • IDEA 2004 stipulated that schools have to report on 20 indicators, including indicator 13. Indicator 13 mandates that schools identify and report on the:

Percent of youth with IEPs aged 16 and above with an IEP that includes appropriate measurable postsecondary goals that are annually updated and based upon an age appropriate transition assessment, transition services, including courses of study, that will reasonably enable the student to meet those postsecondary goals, and annual IEP goals related to the student's transition services needs. There also must be evidence that the student was invited to the IEP Team meeting where transition services are to be discussed and evidence that, if appropriate, a representative of any participating agency was invited to the IEP Team meeting with the prior consent of the parent or student who has reached the age of majority. (20 U.S.C. 1416(a)(3)(B))

What are effective transition practices for college-bound students with LD and ASD?
 
This module is focused on providing information and resources that focus on delivering services to students in the postsecondary education setting. However, it is important to DR/S service providers to understand what is required of states and schools in delivering transition services at the secondary level.

As mentioned, high school students with disabilities are entitled to special education services, including transition services. Transition models have developed to provide effective transition practices for college-bound students with disabilities, including students with LD and ASD. There has been several transition models for developing effective transition services have been in the research literature. In this module, Paula Kohler’s, Taxonomy for Transition Programing, and the National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability, Guideposts for Success, models will be highlighted in delivering effective transition practices.

In 1996, Paula Kohler developed a model called, The Taxonomy for Transition Programming. The model highlighted the following, as essential components, in transition programming for youth with disabilities (Kohler, 1996):

  • Family Involvement
  • Program Structure
  • Interagency Collaboration
  • Student Development
  • Student-Focused Planning

Kohler (1996) highly encouraged school systems/districts to consider family members as essential partners in the transition process from high school to postsecondary settings. Family involvement by included providing family training, family involvement activities, and family empowerment. Kohler (1996) highlighted that transition service program structure within the high school and school district should provide careful planning and thought in how school systems deliver transition services to youth with disabilities. Kohler (1996) stated that following are essential components in forming a strong foundation in the program structure: program philosophy, program policy, strategic planning, program evaluation, resource allocation, and human resource development. The next component is interagency collaboration, which includes incorporating a collaborative framework and collaborative service delivery to youth with disabilities as they transition form high school to postsecondary settings (Kohler, 1996). Student development assists youth with disabilities in identifying their interests, skills, and preferences in and outside the classroom environment through life skills instruction, career & vocational curriculum, structured work experience, assessment, and support services (Kohler, 1996). Lastly, transition service delivery should focus on student-focused planning in which youth with disabilities drive their transition planning from high school to postsecondary settings. Kohler (1996) recommended that student-focused planning include IEP development, student participation, and planning strategies.

What are the current evidenced-based transition practices using Kohler’s taxonomy?
 
Test et al. (2009) reviewed the literature (e.g., group experimental design, single subject design, and literature review and meta-analyses) to determine the quality of practices (e.g., strong, moderate, and potential) in the field in developing evidence-based practices in transition. The National Secondary Transition Technical Assistance Center (NSTTAC) has defined evidence-based practices as being:
  • Based on rigorous research designs
  • Demonstrated record of success for improving student outcomes
  • Completed a systematic review process using quality indicators to evaluate level of evidence (NSTTAC, n.d.)

The researchers categorized the practices based on Kohler’s transition taxonomy (e.g., family involvement, program structure, interagency collaboration, student development, and student-focused planning). Test et al. (2009) identified 32 practices in the literature as evidence-based transition practices. Of the 32 evidence-based practices identified, 2 were identified as strong, 28 as moderate, and 2 as potential (Test et al., 2009). Most of the studies were found to have evidence-based transition practices in student development (e.g. life skills, self-advocacy, self-determination). There was limited amount of studies in the literature in the areas of student-focused planning (e.g., self-directed IEP planning), family involvement (e.g., informing parents about the transition process), program structure (e.g., community-based instruction), and interagency collaboration (e.g., none were found).

To learn about how evidenced-based practices are defined in research: http://www.nsttac.org/content/evidence-based-practices

To learn more about current evidenced-based transition practices: http://www.nsttac.org/content/evidence-based-practices-secondary-transition

What is another transition model that delivers evidenced-based transition practices? 

The National Collaborative on Workforce and Development (NCWD) developed the Guideposts for Success, based on research in the literature, to help states and local education agencies deliver effective transition services to youth with disabilities at the secondary level. Similar to Kohler’s Taxonomy, the Guideposts have five essential components that school systems should embrace in developing an effective transition program to deliver best practices (NCWD, n.d.):

  • School Preparation
  • Career Preparation and Work-Based Learning Experiences
  • Youth Development and Leadership
  • Connecting Activities
  • Family Involvement and Supports

School preparation means providing high academic standards, provide career/technical education programs, and supports to assist youth with disabilities in transitioning into the postsecondary environment (NCWD, n.d.). Career preparation and work-based Learning experiences means conducting career exploration opportunities, job shadowing, internships, and/or apprenticeship opportunities for youth with disabilities to assist them in narrowing their interests and preferences (NCWD, n.d.). Assessment (e.g., career interest inventories) is highly encouraged through out the career exploration and work-based learning experience to document as well as provide opportunities for students to learn their interests, skills, and preferences for a career (NCWD, n.d.). Youth development and leadership focuses self-determination, self-advocacy, disability disclosure, and how their disability can impact them now and in the future (NCWD, n.d.). In addition, youth learn about the leaders in the disability community as well as the qualities that make a leader. Connecting activities, closely resembles Kohler’s interagency collaboration, concentrates on youth with disabilities connecting to adult service agencies that will assist them with transportation, housing, health services (NCWD, n.d.). Last but not least, schools are highly encouraged to support family involvement in the transition process for youth with disabilities as they transition into the postsecondary environment (NCWD, n.d.).

For more information and details on the Guideposts for Success, please go to: http://www.ncwd-youth.info/guideposts

Currently, two states have incorporated the Guideposts for Success in demonstration projects: Maryland and South Carolina. The Maryland Seamless Transition Collaborative (MSTC) is a partnership with the Maryland Department of Education’s Division of Rehabilitation Services (DORS) and TransCen, Inc (NCWD, n.d.). The preliminary findings indicate that 11 counties have implemented components from the Guideposts for Success with 400 students who have participated in one or more components. As far as post school outcomes, initial data from seven sites found former students to be employed and/or enrolled at a postsecondary institution (NWCD, n.d.). The South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation Department (SCVRD) implemented a transition demonstration project, Youth Employment Services (YES), throughout the state incorporating the five components from the Guideposts for Success. According to the participants, the project has increased interagency collaboration between the schools and Rehabilitation Services. In addition, the state developed a data tracking and accountability system formed around the five components of the guideposts. Students with disabilities who participated in the YES program were found to have increase outcomes in graduating from high school, securing employment, and enrollment postsecondary education settings (Alewine, 2012).

For more information and details about the MSTC, please go to: http://www.ncwd-youth.info/innovative-strategies/state-perspectives/maryland

For more information and details about the SCVRD, please go to: http://www.ncwd-youth.info/innovative-strategies/state-perspectives/south-carolina

According to the literature, what are the first-year experiences of students with LD and ASD?

Despite the limited research on the first-year experiences of students with LD and ASD, the general literature notes that the first-year transition can be difficult for all students, particularly students with disabilities (Tinto, 2004; NCES, 2002; Kuh et al.,2008)The current literature reveals that students with LD and ASD may need additional academic and/or social supports to help ease their transition to postsecondary education.
 
Although the research on students with ASD transitioning into postsecondary education is scarce, it is slowly growing and adding insight to the field. In particular, the findings have highlighted the desire of students with ASD to attend college and the importance of comprehensive on-campus resources and the need to support the students socially. Findings include:
 
  • Camarena and Sarigianai’s (2009) study examined the transition aspirations of students with High Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger’s Syndrome (AS). The researchers interviewed 21 adolescents with HFA and AS and the adolescents’ parents about each adolescent’s higher education goals. This study explored the feelings that the students with AS held about social situations and academics in college. The results indicated that a majority of the adolescents and their parents viewed higher education as their primary postsecondary goal and that the adolescents positively anticipated the opportunity to pursue their academic interests.
  • Krell (2011) employed a three-round Delphi methodology to survey 19 ASD transition “experts” on their perception of appropriatetransition skills for students with ASD, high school preparation, and creating a supportive postsecondary environment for students with ASD (Krell, 2011). The results identified 54 college readiness characteristics for students with ASD, listing student knowledge of his or her disability and the individual having knowledge of on-campus resources as the two most important (Krell, 2011). Regarding creating a supportive environment for students, with ASD, the participants identified several strategies, including collaboration and communication between DR/S offices and other campus entities as most important (Krell, 2011). 
  • Shook Torres (in press) conducted a case study of four students who attended a private, selective, four-year college. The study found that while only one of the students struggled considerably academically, all of the students had social difficulties transitioning to college. For instance, three of the students indicated that they had difficulty making friends at least one point during first semester and the fourth student had issues with her roommate. While three out of the four students sought out and found their academic services to met their needs, all of the students would have benefitted from an added social support structure, such as a social skills group for students with ASD. In fact, one student transferred from the university to seek out a postsecondary educational institution with structured group social support for students with ASD.
 
The research literature is sparse regarding first-year experiences of students with LD. Similar to the research of students with ASD, this is a growing area of research that is designed to assist students with LD seamlessly transition into postsecondary education. Based on limited research, the transition to postsecondary education for student with LD is not “seamless” or “easy”. The literature does show that students with LD need academic, social, and personal supports to succeed in the postsecondary environment during their first year (Connor, 2012; Hadley & Satterfield, 2013). In fact, the study by Connor (2012) includes a student with a dual diagnosis of ASD and LD and therefore gleans more insight on the first-year experiences of students with ASD. The participants of the following studies shared their experiences about their first year and supports needed:
 
  • Connor (2012) conducted a qualitative study to determine student’s internal self-knowledge, strategies, and supports needed throughout their first year of college using narrative inquiry and disability studies so that the students’ voices were heard. All three participants were diagnosed with LD, LD/ADD, LD/ADHD, with one participant receiving an additional diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome his freshman year of college. All students were registered with DSS. Conner (2012) interviewed the students three times about their first-year experiences in college and how it impacted them and found that all three participants were impacted in varying degrees academically, socially, and emotionally/personally due to their background, perspectives, and feelings about their disability. Connor (2012) discovered through his interviews from the students that they developed similar and different “self-strategies” throughout their first of year of college to help them academically, socially, and emotionally/personally. Examples of the findings include:
  • Amber: She is a 19-year-old student with an East Indian background (Connor, 2012). She is diagnosed as having LD and ADD. She has always struggled with “recalling information” and “numbers & dates” (Connor, 2012, p. 1013). Amber implemented the following “self-strategies” through out her first year:

§ Academically—independent; established and maintained organizational details (dates, times, assignments); registered with DSS; extended time as an accommodation as needed; developed a relationship with professors; applied self-talk techniques (e.g., self-encouragement); and regulated her prescription medicine on a as needed basis (Connor, 2012, p. 1026).

§ Socially—regulated prescription medicine on an as needed basis (e.g., medication side effects impacted her ability to connect with friends); joined an environmental club; and maintained a small group of friends for support and friendship (Connor, 2012, p. 1026).

§ Emotionally and personally—acknowledges her disability; develops a serious relationship with her boyfriend; and relies on her boyfriend for support in school (Connor, 2012, p. 1026).

  • David: He is a 19-year-old student with a diagnosis of LD and ADHD (Connor, 2012). During his freshman year of college, he was diagnosed as having Asperger’s syndrome (Connor, 2012). David employed “self-strategies” to navigate areas in organization, concentration, and social situations (Connor, 2012).

§ Academically—hyper-focused on his academics; enlisted family and friends to assist with time management; developed professional relationships with professors; utilized visual cues (e.g., posted his A+ papers on the wall); registered with DSS; regulated his prescription medicine on a as needed basis (Connor, 2012, p. 1026).

§ Socially—developed self-reflection and self-monitoring; self-awareness in social inequality for people with disabilities; joined a campus group to bring awareness of his disability to administration; and maintained a small group of friends for support and friendship (Connor, 2012, p. 1026).

§ Emotionally and personally—accepted and embraced his disability; respected his ability to survive his first year (e.g., lack of acceptance by peers); and relied on his supportive network of family and friends (Connor, 2012, p. 1026).

Each participant’s self-strategies were highly individualized based on their academic, social, and personal experiences. A strategy that works for one student may not work for all students. For these two students, they acquired some of these strategies as they experienced new situations and circumstances. These “self-strategies” might assist DSS coordinators in thinking about how to support students with LD and Asperger’s syndrome in a variety of contexts (e.g., academically, socially, and personally/emotionally). Students with disabilities are more likely to persist to graduation if they have some level of engagement academically and socially on campus (Mamiseishvili & Koch, 2010).

  • Hadley & Satterfield (2013) conducted a qualitative study that included 7 students with LD at a private four-year college in the Midwest. As part of the study, all students had to be registered with DSS and to have a diagnosis of LD. The researchers conducted interviews and also focus groups that met twice during the 2nd semester of freshmen year and 1st semester of sophomore year. The study revealed findings in the following categories:

§ Developing competence—students stated that the level of academic work required was higher than expected and were challenged in the assignments that were heavily focused reading and writing

§ Managing emotions—students reflected the challenges in working with their professors, “…adjusting to their college professors’ teaching styles, academic expectations, and schedules” (Hadley & Satterfield, 2013, p. 118). Students remarked how professors did not seem to understand what it meant for a student to be diagnosed with LD and how to assist them. In addition, students were used to the easy access of their high school teachers and found the limited amount of office hours that professors kept challenging.

§ Moving through autonomy toward independence—overall, students reported that they expected and wanted to receive the same level of services that are offered at high school in college (Hadley & Satterfield, 2013). For example, students who received tutorial services expected to have adults with degrees tutoring them as opposed to peers in college (Hadley & Satterfield, 2013). Students received the following accommodations from DSS: tutoring, test proctoring, books on tape, extended time on tests, and notes for classes (Hadley & Satterfield, 2013).

How can postsecondary educational institutions best support students with ASD and LD during their first year?
 
Currently, 11% of students with disabilities are enrolled in postsecondary education institutions (NCES, 2012). During the 2008-2009 academic year, students with LD consisted 31% of the enrollment population of individuals with disabilities (Raue & Lewis, 2011). The percentage is an average reported by public, private, and for-profit higher education institutions that reported having students with LD enrolled at their respective institution (Raue & Lewis, 2011). Newman et al. (2011) reported that students with learning disabilities enroll in a postsecondary education institution within six months of graduating from high school. Of students with ASD, 46.6% enroll in a postsecondary education program within six years of transitioning from high school (Sanford et al., 2011). Currently, postsecondary educational programs considered in the study include two-year community colleges, business, technical and vocational schools, and four-year postsecondary educational institutions (Sanford et al., 2011). In fact, in 2008-2009, students with ASD and LD comprised approximately one-third of students with disabilities in postsecondary education (Raue & Lewis, 2011).
 
What are the academic supports for students with LD and ASD?
 
Depending on an individual student’s academic needs, students with ASD and LD might qualify for and benefit from individualized academic supports. According to Section 504, students with disabilities qualify for “auxiliary aids and services” that allow the students to access the general education curriculum (34 C.F.R. Part 104, 104.44). The services, which are often referred to as “accommodations,” that are offered across postsecondary educational institutions vary widely (Dukes & Shaw, 2004). The structure of institutional supports can vary from a single-staffed, “minimally compliant” DR/S office with personnel who have limited expertise in rendering services and offer no comprehensive direct academic services, to large offices with a number of well-trained service providers who offer comprehensive direct services to students (Dukes & Shaw, 2004; Wilson et al., 2000). In fact, while some institutions provide students with a menu or services, other institutions have developed well-structured student learning and support centers (Stodden, et al., 2001). Additionally, the literature reveals that four-year institutions often provide less comprehensive, student-focused services than two-year institutions (NCSPES, 2000). Thus, a student’s ability to obtain appropriate services and accommodations largely depends on the particular institution in which they are enrolled. However, no matter what the resources are at a particular institution, the services should always be tailored to each individual student’s need and DR/S providers should analyze a student’s self-disclosure documents and if possible, meet with each student to determine his or her academic needs.

Students with ASD and LD could benefit from similar academic accommodations if those accommodations meet a particular student’s individual need.

 Common accommodations include:
  • Extended time on exams
  • Testing in a separate/ quiet location
  • Use of a computer, or other assistive technology devices
  • Preferred registration for courses
  • Note-taking assistance
  • Recording lectures
  • Books on tape (or other accessible texts)

 (Hadley & Satterfield, 2013; Hughes, 2009)

       Auxiliary services include:
  • Academic tutoring
  • Advising
  • Frequent sessions with DR/S that focus on organization
  • College mentoring program for students
  • Personal counseling sessions
  • Career counseling services, or referrals to other service providers
  • Self-determination and self-advocacy opportunities
  • Social Skills Groups (these groups are particularly helpful for students with ASD who might experience social issues. However, they can benefit all students with disabilities)
  • Referrals to other service providers (ie. Counseling)
  • Rec: Senior-freshman mentorship programs between students with LD, which could also prove to be beneficial for students with ASD
  • Rec: Minority and/or disability forums and panels
  • Rec: College-produced booklets about LD, including stories by people with LD, which could also apply to students with ASD
  • Rec: Informative newsletters from DR/S
  • Rec: Cultural events such as disability-themed film festivals
  • Rec: Guest speakers with LD, ADD, or Asperger’s

                    (Connor, 2012; Farrell, 2004; Hadley & Satterfield, 2013; Hughes, 2009; Palmer, 2003)

Additionally, it is particularly important to note that students with ASD could experience issues with assignments that are abstract in nature (Hughes, 2009). Therefore, efforts should be made to break down these assignments for students and provide additional support. These efforts have the potential to benefit students with LD as well. In the research literature, it has been encouraged that faculty and staff think beyond “typical accommodations” and deliver “accommodations for all”, such as universal design for learning (Orr & Hammig, 2009; Quinlan, Bates, & Angell, 2012). Quinlan, Bates, & Angell (2012) interviewed students with LD registered full-time with the university and with DSS. Students have been attending the university for four years. The researchers discovered that students received the following accommodations in their classes, depending on their professor: no accommodations, formal accommodations (e.g., required by law), and accommodations for all (e.g., above and beyond the intent of the law) (Quinlan, Bates, & Angell, 2012). Students preferred to be in a class setting with a professor that provided “accommodations for all” (Quinlan, Bates, & Angell, 2012).

Quinlan, Bates, and Angell (2012) shared the students’ ideas and suggestions on how faculty and staff can provide accommodations for all in their courses:
  • Discovering students’ interests to help choose appropriate examples and topics;
  • Consistently showing the relevance and applicability of theory to everyday life through direct connections;
  • Repeating material, both visually and orally;
  • Creating accessible resources, such as audio recordings and slide projections, and uploading them to course web pages;
  • Clearly identifying testable material and providing a review sheet before examinations;
  • Naming course and individual lecture learning objectives and providing students with outline of these objectives; and,
  • Holding more extensive office hours (Quinlan, Bates, & Angell, 2012, p. 231)
What cultural and social paradigms currently impact the transition of students with ASD and LD?
 
The social model of disability and the nuerodiversity movement are two paradigms that are commonly addressed in the literature and have the possibility of impacting the transition of students with ASD and LD into postsecondary education. Oliver’s social model of disability attributes any difficulty or limitations encountered by individuals with disabilities to societal barriers (Oliver, 1990; Oliver, 1996).  According to Oliver (1996), the social model of disability “does not deny the problem of disability but locates it squarely within society…. It is society’s failure to provide appropriate services and adequately ensure the needs of disabled people are fully taken into account in its social organization” (p. 32). Hence, rather than attributing difficulties encountered by individuals with disabilities in a particular setting or situation to the individual’s neurological or physical functioning, as the individual or medical model of disability often does, the social model of disability ascribes that “disability” is a consequence of social oppression. In essence, this model views society, including university personnel, as the entity that must alter its way of viewing disability, not the individual with the disability (Oliver, 1996).
 
For students with ASD, it is particularly important for DR/S providers to be aware of the neurodiveristy movement. A key feature of the neurodiversity theory is its focus on an individual’s perception of his or her own disability and the possibility to perceive disability as a positive difference (Ortega, 2009; Singer, 1999). This theory purports that conditions that the general population may refer to as “disabilities” or “disorders” are natural ways of existing, and can, in fact, be positive (Jaarsma & Welin, 2011). The neurodiversity theory is held by students with autism in the postsecondary educational community and supported by a variety of ASD advocacy groups (Bumiler, 2008).

What resources are available to help guide administrators, faculty and other personnel at institutions of higher education to support students with LD and ASD?

  • Association for Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD):

The Association for Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD) is a professional organization of professionals that serves individuals with disabilities in higher education institutions. The AHEAD website has resources for students and parents regarding the transition from high school to postsecondary settings. To obtain these resources, please go to: http://www.ahead.org/students-parents.  

  • CAST Universal Design for Learning: 

CAST is an organization that focuses on educating individuals on Universal Design for Learning (UDL). CAST provides professional development opportunities on UDL for educators and individuals who work in institutes of higher education. In addition, CAST provides information, resources, and strategies for faculty and staff on how to provide UDL in the classroom. For more information on this website and resources, go to: http://www.udlcenter.org/implementation/examples. 

  • HEATH Resource Center at the National Youth Transitions Center:

The HEATH Resource Center at the National Youth Transitions Center is a web-based clearinghouse that serves as an information exchange of educational resources, support services and opportunities. The HEATH Resource Center gathers, develops and disseminates information in the form of resource papers, fact sheets, website directories, newsletters, and resource materials. Below is list of HEATH NYTC student transition modules that DSS staff can inform potential college students:

  • National Center on Learning Disabilities:

The National Center on Learning Disabilities in online resource for educators, parents/families, and individuals with learning disabilities (LD). The website highlights a section focused on adults with LD that focuses on the following topics: Do I have LD?, In the Workplace, Tips for Daily Living, Post High School Options, and Rights & Accommodations. Recently, the Center released a report on The State of Learning Disabilities. It is free to download here: http://www.ncld.org/types-learning-disabilities/what-is-ld/state-of-learning-disabilities.

  • NCWD/YOUTH Transition Guideposts for Success:

The National Collaborative on Workforce and Development (NCWD) developed the Guideposts for Success, based on research in the literature, to help states and local education agencies deliver effective transition services to youth with disabilities at the secondary level.  The Guideposts has five essential components that school systems should embrace in developing an effective transition program to deliver best practices (NCWD, n.d.): School Preparation; Career Preparation and Work-Based Learning Experiences; Youth Development and Leadership; Connecting Activities; and Family Involvement and Supports. http://www.ncwd-youth.info/guideposts

  • Office for Civil Rights Transition Guide:

Provides easy to access legal guidance on transitioning students with disabilities to postsecondary education. It is helpful resource to handout to secondary staff development trainings for educators and administrators. In addition, it is a useful resource for DSS staff to know and have on hand as a resource! http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/transitionguide.html

  • The Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN):

The Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN) is an organization that is operated by people with autism. ASAN is an advocacy organization that promotes the rights of people with autism and embraces neurodiversity. ASAN has developed a website and publication called Navigating College that provides real life stories of individuals with autism in college. For information on this resource, please go to: http://navigatingcollege.org.

  • The Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) Guide for Wisconsin Technical Colleges (WTCS):

The purpose of the guide is to provide university faculty and staff the tools and strategies for the increasing number of students on the autism spectrum on our campuses. The guide was developed and composed through a two-year effort by a workgroup consisting of disability representatives from technical colleges, the Autism Society of Wisconsin, and the WTCS office. The staff from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction provided expertise and assistance towards the development of the guide. The document is a guide, not state policy or procedures. The individual postsecondary institutions are responsible for establishing and implementing their disability services, accommodations, and instructional strategies for persons with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). WTCS staff has given permission for individuals to share, make copies, and utilize all or part of the guide to assist serving students with ASD. The Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) Guide for WTCS Staff (2009) has the following sections: Introduction on ASD, Transition Planning and Admissions, Accommodations and Strategies for Students with ASD, Transition to Employment, and Community. To obtain this resource, please go to: http://mywtcs.wtcsystem.edu/instruction-student-services/student-support-services/disability-services.

  • University of Washington Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, Technology (DO-IT)

DO-IT is an online resource that highlights information and resources that benefit faculty & staff that teach students in higher education settings. The faculty room is a webpage that highlights information in creating accessible classroom environments for all learners, including students with disabilities. The faculty room includes resources on the following topics: accommodations & universal design; rights & responsibilities; faculty resources; faculty presentations; and resources for trainers, staff, & administrators. To obtain these resources, please go to: http://www.washington.edu/doit/Faculty/.

 
REVIEW OF TOPICS:
  1. College students with disabilities are protected by the ADAAA and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (as amended as Title IV of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) of 1998).
  2. Effective transition practices for college-bound students with LD and ASD include: career preparation and work-based learning experiences, interagency collaboration, self-determination and self-advocacy, and family involvement.
  3. First year transition can be difficult for all students, particularly students with disabilities (Tinto, 2004; NCES, 2002; Kuh et al., 2008). Students with ASD and LD can struggle to navigate the academic and social environments of college. Students come to expect the same level of services in college as they received in high school.
  4. Students with ASD and LD can benefit from accommodations and auxiliary services from DR/S providers. Accommodations and services should be individualized to the students’ needs. Students encourage faculty and staff to think about providing “accommodations for all”, such as universal design for learning in their classrooms (Orr & Hammig, 2009; Quinlan, Bates, & Angell, 2012).
  5. The social model of disability and the neurodiversity movement are two paradigms that DR/S providers can reflect on while working with students with disabilities as well as faculty & staff in changing society’s view of disability.
 
ASSESSMENT AND EVALUATION:
  1. What are the main laws that set the provisions for providing services to postsecondary students with disabilities? Why is it important for DR/S providers to also understand the laws that guide the transition of students with ASD and LD to postsecondary education?
  2. How can DR/S providers utilize transition models to guide their practice?
  3. Why might the transitions of students with ASD and LD be more complex than the other college students?
  4. What are common accommodations that might help students with ASD and LD?
  5. How can universities utilize the social model of disability and neurodiveristy movement to inform their practice?
 
WRAP UP:
 
As stated earlier, a student’s transition and their first year of postsecondary education is a crucial time that plays a major role in determining a students’ postsecondary success and retention (Tinto, 2004; Kuh et al., 2008). Students with LD and ASD represent a growing population of students enrolling in the postsecondary education programs (Sanford, 2011). A student’s success in the postsecondary setting, with self-supports and DSS services, depends on how they navigate their academic, social, and personal experiences (Connor, 2012). Higher education professionals can support students with LD and ASD by embracing who they are as individuals, encouraging their academic and social engagement, and providing programs/services tailored to the students’ needs. DR/S providers and administrative officials have an opportunity to educate faculty, staff, and college students about disability awareness from individuals in the college community.
 
Elizabeth Shook Torres is a doctoral student in the Education and Neuroscience Selective Excellence program at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Ms. Shook Torres focuses her doctoral research on postsecondary transition issues for students with disabilities and is a contributor to the HEATH Resource Center in Washington, D.C. Prior to pursuing her doctorate, Ms. Shook Torres served as a special education and transition coordinator for the District of Columbia Public School System. She holds an M.A. in Transition Special Education from The George Washington University and a B.A. from Vassar College.
 
Jessica Queener is the Project Director Research Associate of the HEATH Resource Center at the National Youth Transitions Center in Washington, D.C. Ms. Queener is a doctoral candidate in the Education and Neuroscience Excellence program at The George Washington University. Ms. Queener concentrates her research in the area of transition related to postsecondary education for students with disabilities. Ms. Queener began her career as the self-determination coordinator at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, T.N. She has earned a M.A. in Transition Special Education from the George Washington University and a B.A. from the University of Tennessee.
 
REFERENCES:
 
Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq. (Amended 2008).

Bumiller, K. (2008). Quirky citizens: Autism, gender, and reimagining disability. Signs, 33(4), 967-991. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/528848

Burke, L. A., Friedl, J., & Rigler, M. (2010). The 2008 amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act: Implications for student affairs practitioners, 47, 63- 77.

Camarena, P. M. & Sarigiana, P. A. (2009). Postsecondary educational aspirations of high-functioning adolescents with autism spectrum disorders and their parents. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 24(2), 115-128.

Connor, D.J. (2012). Actively navigating the transition into college: Narratives of student with learning disabilities. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 25(8), 1005-1036. doi: 10.1080/09518398.2011.590158

Dukes, L. L., & Shaw, S. (2004). Perceived personnel development needs of postsecondary disabilities services professionals. Teacher Education and Special Education, 27(2),134-146. doi: 10.1177/088840640402700205

Farrell, E. (2004). Asperger’s confounds colleagues. Retrieved from http://autismexpertshore.com/Asperger'sConfoundsColleges.pdf

General Counsel at The University of Wisconsin (2010). Overview of title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act: Students. Retrieved from http://www.uwsa.edu/gc-off/deskbook/ada2.htm

Grossman, P. D. (2009). Forward with a challenge: Leading our campuses away from the perfect storm. 

Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability , 22 (1), 4-9.

Hadley, W.M., & Satterfield, J.W. (2013). Are university students with learning disabilities getting the help they need? Journal of The First-Year Experience & Students in Transition, 25(1), 113-124

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEIA), 20 U.S.C § 1401 et seq.

Jaarsma, P., & Welin, S. (2011). Autism as a natural human variation: Reflections on the claims of the neurodiversity movement. Health Care Analysis, 20(1), 20-30. doi: 10.1007/s10728-011-0169-9

Katsiyannnis, A., Zhang, D., Landmark, L., & Reber, A. (2009). Postsecondary education for individuals with disabilities. Journal of Disability Policy Studies, 20(1), 35-45. doi:10.1177/1044207308324896

Kochhar-Bryant, C. A., Shaw, S., & Izzo, M. (2009) Transition and IDEA 2004: what every teacher should know about. Upper Saddle River: Pearson. 

Kohler, P.D. (1996).  Taxonomy for transition programming. Champaign: University of Illnois. Retrieved from http://www.tbaisd.k12.mi.us/departments/docs_spec/%20Transition/Taxonomy.pdf

Krell, M. M. (2011). Defining college readiness for students with Autism Spectrum Disorders: A delphi study to guide school counselors. University of Connecticut. Unpublished Dissertation.

Kuh, G. D., Cruce, T. M., Shoup, R., & Kinzie, J. (2008). Unmasking the effects of student engagement on first-year college grades and persistence. The Journal of Higher Education, 79(5), 540-563. doi: 10.1353/jhe.0.0019

Mamiseishvili, K., & Koch, L.C. (2012). Students with disabilities at 2-year institutions in the United States: Factors related to success. Community College Review, 40(4), 320-339. doi: 10.1177/0091552112456281

National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). (2012) Digest of education statistics, 2012. Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=60

National Collaborative on Workforce and Development (NCWD). (n.d.). Guideposts for success. Retrieved from http://www.ncwd-youth.info/guideposts

National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). (2002). Short-term enrollment in postsecondary education: Student background and institutional differences in reasons for early departures. 1996-1998. United States Department of Education.

NCSPES (2000). National Survey of Educational Support Provision to Students with Disabilities in Postsecondary Education Settings. Honolulu, HI, University of

Hawai'i at Manoa. Retrieved from http://www.ncwd-youth.info/sites/default/files/page/2009/02/guideposts_0.pdf

Newman, L., Wagner, M., Knokey, A.-M., Marder, C., Nagle, K., Shaver, D.,…Schwarting, M. (2011). The Post-High School Outcomes of Young Adults With Disabilities up to 8 Years After High School. A Report From the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2) (NCSER 2011-3005). Menlo Park, CA: SRI International. Available at www.nlts2.org/reports/

Office for Civil Rights (OCR). (1998). Auxilary aids and services for postsecondary students with disabilities. Retrieved from http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list /ocr/docs/auxaids.html

Office for Civil Rights (OCR) (2011). Students with disabilities preparing for postsecondary education:Know your rights and responsibilities. Retrieved from http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/transition.html.

Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). (2011). Questions and answers on secondary transition. Retrieved from http://idea.ed.gov/explore/view/p/,root,dynamic,QaCorner,10

Oliver, M. (1990). The individual and social models of disability. Paper Presented at Joint Workshop of the Living Options Group and the Research Unit of the Royal College Physicians. Retrieved from http://www.leeds.ac.uk/disability-studies/archiveuk/Oliver/in%20soc%20dis.pdf  

Oliver, M. (1996). Understanding disability: From theory to practice. New York: Palgrave.

Orr, A.C., & Hammig, S.B. (2009). Inclusive postsecondary strategies for teaching students with Learning disabilities: A review of the literature. Learning Disability Quarterly, 32(3),181-196

Ortega, F. (2009). The cerebral subject and the challenge of neurodiversity. Biosocieties, 4, 425-445. doi:10.1017/S1745855209990287

Quinlan, M.M., Bates, B.R., & Angell, M. E. (2012). ‘What can I do to help?’: Postsecondary students with learning disabilities’ perceptions of instructors’ classroom accommodations. Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs, 12(4), 224-233. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-3802.2011.01225.x

Palmer, A. (2003). Realizing the college dream with Autism or Asperger Syndrome: A parent’s guide to student success. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Raue, K., & Lewis, L. (2011). Students with disabilities at degree-granting postsecondary institutions. National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

Sanford, C., Newman, L., Wagner, M., Cameto, R., Knokey, A. M., & Shaver, D. (2011) . The Post-High School Outcomes of Youth with Disabilities up to 6 Years After High School. Key findings from the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2) (NCSER 2019-3004). Menlo Park, CA: SRI International.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 794.

Shook Torres, E. (in press). Students with autism Spectrum disorders (ASD): The first year postsecondary educational experience. The George Washington University.

Singer, J. (1999) Why can’t you be normal for once in your life?: From a “problem with no name” to the emergence of a new category of difference: the autistic spectrum. In M. Corker (ed) Disability Discourse, Buckingham: The Open University Press.

Stodden, R., Jones, M., & Chang, K. (2002). Services, supports and accommodations for individuals with disabilities: An analysis across secondary education, postsecondary education and employment (White Paper). Retrieved from http://www.ncset.hawaii.edu/publications/pdf/services_supports.pdf.

Test, D., Fowler, C., Richter, S., White, J., Mazzoti, V., Walker, A., …. Kortering, L. (2009). Evidence-based practices in secondary transition. Career Development For Exceptional Individuals, 32(2),115-128. doi: 10.1177/0885728809336859

Tinto, V. (2004). Student retention and graduation: Facing the truth, living with the consequence. The Pell Institute: Washington, DC.

Wilson, K., Getzel, E., & Brown, T. (2000). Enhancing the post-secondary campus climate for students with disabilities. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 14, 37-50. Retrieved from http://iospress.metapress.com/content/b2hlfrd4pdatj8yv/