“A GradNation report recently released by Civic Enterprises and the Everyone Graduates Center at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education shamefully found that “… students with disabilities graduate at a rate nearly 20 points lower than the average [high school] graduation rate for all students.” – Stephanie Knight, Beacon College
A MAJORITY OF STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES IN COLLEGE DO NOT INFORM THEIR SCHOOL
“Only about 1/3 of students with disabilities informed their school, according to research by the NCES or National Center for Education Statistics, although not disclosing put these students at increased risk of not completing their programs and graduating. Reasons for this may vary – but freshman students frequently underestimate the increased difficulty of college work, the quantity of reading and writing required, and the impact of college life (dorm and general college socializing) on studying, homework, and studying for tests.
Most students who disclose to their colleges will receive supports like tutoring, help at writing centers, study groups, and assistive technology.
Students who may have had strong supports in school from parents and teachers, may struggle greatly in a new school, far from home, in large classes where they have little routine contact with their professor.
In the US, many colleges and universities do not test or screen for dyslexia although unrecognized dyslexia may place these students at increased risk for failure and dropping out without supports and accommodations in place.
The United Kingdom has more free dyslexia assessments and financial support for higher education students In the UK, free dyslexia screening and designated dyslexia specialists are much more common in higher education.
In addition, students identified with dyslexia are given a DSA or Disabled Students Allowance – money that can be used toward a new computer with specialized software like text-to-speech, spellcheck and grammar check, scanning pens, or dyslexia coaches and tutoring. If you are buying a new computer, you will have to pay the first £200. Students are eligible for DSA support whether they are full-time or part-time.
Students are eligible for DSA support whether they are full-time or part-time.
DYSLEXIA TESTING MAY BE DIFFICULT TO OBTAIN FOR HIGHER ED STUDENTS
This past week, Brock and I attended the AHEAD (Association of Higher Education and Disability) Annual Convention. We spoke with many college and university disability support specialists who told us they had limited resources for identifying dyslexic students and often no psychologists on staff. With the cost of comprehensive dyslexia testing by a psychologist ranging from $3000-$5000+, few students could afford testing if they hadn’t had it before in their K-12 years. Some rural schools didn’t have local psychologists who were available to test adults, and some counselors even admitted that even if a student got tested, the report wouldn’t provide sufficient detail to tell the school or student what was needed.
One of the reasons why Brock and I and Nils Lahr formed a social purpose corporation and the low-cost Neurolearning dyslexia screener was to make dyslexia identification more cost-effective and accessible to individuals who could not afford testing for thousands of dollars.
I spoke with one disability director at a state university in New York, and he said he had a stack of students who would benefit by using Bookshare, but he had no way to give them access because of insufficient documentation.
HOW MUCH DOCUMENTATION IS NECESSARY?
The US Department of Justice (Civil Rights Division) published this letter that clarified issues regarding the documentation presented to qualify for accommodations.
Tests include high school entrance exams (for example IEEE), college entrance (SAT, ACT), graduate school exams (MCAT, LSAT, GRE), and trade exams (like cosmetology). The letter states “proof of past testing accommodations in similar test settings is generally sufficient to support a request for the same testing accommodations for a current standardized exam or other high-stakes test.”
The letter then proceeds to give examples of students with prior accommodation in middle school being granted accommodations later in high-stakes tests, evidence of prior IEP or 504 in public school (but the letter also states that having an IEP or 504 previously is not required), and the fact that testing services should defer to documentation by a qualified professional who has done an individual assessment with the student. These are guidelines set by the Department of Education and the recent Department of Justice settlement with the Educational Testing Service. The Department of Justice recognized that “ensuring that private entities offering such examinations do not discriminateon the basis of disability is an issue of general public importance.”
For those who have been denied accommodations or are concerned that their documentation is insufficient, we would recommend reading the entire document. The DOJ statement has made a strong settlement. This does not mean that individual students will not encounter problems – it does mean that there will be stronger recourse on appeal.