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Transitions in education for students with disabilities

By Tara Bryant and Cody Kuiper

In the years leading up to their graduation, most high school students will go down a basic checklist of things they want to see in their prospective universities. This list may include things like class size, campus aesthetics or maybe the night-life the town has to offer.

But for the 6.4 million high school students with disabilities, that list becomes much longer and more complicated. These students have to consider the specific accommodations they acquire at school, whether they be for a physical disability or a learning disability, as well as a more difficult transition into a bigger learning environment.

The transitions these students face can include many challenges, as they learn to deal with their disabilities outside the confines of their high schools. Most importantly, they will be asked to do much more difficult work without the same type of learning assistance they received in high school.

High school students with disabilities usually have Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) that their teachers and coordinators make to accommodate their specific disabilities, which may entail extra time to take tests or receiving homework that does not include as much writing. Once they are in college, it is up to the students, rather than their teachers, to ask for this assistance.

This can be an issue, as only 25 percent of students with disabilities who received assistance in high school seek out that same help once they get to college.

We sat down with three students at Lawrence High School with disabilities to get their thoughts on their upcoming transition into college and how they were preparing for it, if they were at all.

We also spoke with workers at the University of Kansas and Lawrence High School, who say students with disabilities need to begin looking into their post-high school options as early as their freshman year. They say they need to begin seeking out accommodations at universities they wish to attend, but they need to start preparing to advocate for their disabilities on their own as well.

According to these workers, the resources to succeed are available, but it’s entirely up to the student to reach out and take advantage of them.

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