Levels of Support
Students with special needs, whether they are academic, emotional or a combination, need to work with professionals who understand their unique situation and who know where these students may find a comfortable and supportive learning environment. Colleges are not required (as public schools are) to provide accommodations or modifications to students with certain disabilities. The threshold for what they must provide is a great deal lower than with public education. Therefore, it’s necessary that as professionals we know where to send our students.
There are roughly three levels of support at the college level: comprehensive support, limited support, or a special school or program dedicated to students with learning differences. There are a number of colleges, both public and private, across the country, that offer total support for students. These learning services almost always have an additional fee (besides the tuition); in some cases students apply and may or may not be accepted. Criteria for acceptance varies by school.
Schools that provide “limited support” usually offer a writing center and a disability support center. These schools do NOT have a separate program, may or may not offer subject tutoring, and there is no acceptance into a “program.” Students may take advantage of what the school offers as the student sees fit. There are a small but growing number of colleges who are devoted exclusively to students with learning disabilities. There is no distinction at these schools between students who may or may not use services.
There are some cases when the student is not able or not ready to attend a mainstream college with support. For this group of students there has been a recent development in transitional college programs. These are private, residential programs which provide a bridge into a full-time college program. Students live together and are tutored in academic skills and mentored in all the other skills that one needs to be successful in a college setting.