I believe too many IEP teams still believe the local community college and district summer work programs are our only options. This is far from the truth. I believe it is the lack of awareness of what is available that limits success for some students. Personally, if I didn’t go away for a summer program and then on to a college with comprehensive support and campus life, I wouldn’t have achieved as much as I did academically and socially.
For example when I applied to summer programs for students with Learning Disabilities, my IEP team was unaware that these types of programs existed. Thankfully, my parents were knowledgeable of outside programs and that our summer district program wasn’t appropriate for me as I needed better opportunities for social and academic growth. My parents knew about Eagle Hill which I attended and this turned out to be the best decision. For the first time I was surrounded by other academic and socially engaged individuals like me who had a Learning Disability and I experienced so much personal growth. In fact, upon my return my resource room teacher even commented about how this helped me be the Eileen she had heard about and told me to always be thankful for having parents who were so knowledgeable.
My college planning fell on my parents and the school counselor at Eagle Hill as our district had very limited knowledge about what was out there for post-secondary options for students with NVLD and similar disabilities. Thankfully my father was a school counselor and the districts he worked at required him to know post-secondary options for all types of students and the programs our district offered wouldn’t have given me the social, academic, and personal growth I needed. After doing some thorough research early, I applied and was accepted to NYIT and Dean College. I ended up choosing Dean and then continued on to Curry College and saw success at both. These are two fantastic schools for students with learning disabilities and more IEP teams should be aware of them and others like them. At Dean and Curry, I made great friends and got involved in campus life while also receiving the academic support I needed to be successful. Due to this, I believe it’s so important to stay current about all the post-secondary options with great support programs as in my experience it leads to great success.
The wonderful academic and social support I received at Dean college led me to become a more confident person. The support started the first day of classes as I received individual personal learning services twice a week and went to a math support group once per week. The learning specialist either had a master’s or PH.D in Special Education so they knew how to support students accurately. Furthermore our first year seminar class was for Arch Program students (the LD Program) so we developed an even greater support system. In addition to the academic support we received in our first semester, we also had a variety of weekly social support programs offered. If I had attended the local community college I wouldn’t have received this level of support and therefore wouldn’t have been as successful.
I also believe that the lack of awareness of these types of programs greatly impacts students who demonstrate fewer academic needs. What I mean by this is that many students with this profile are guided to four year state and private schools that don’t have the structured support programs that these students need and as a result they can fall through the cracks. Instead they should be attending a school like Syracuse or Boston University where inclusion is valued and support is given in all areas which allows students to become successful in all ways. Yes, while these schools come with a higher cost they do provide wonderful support and a great campus life.
I agree with the current research that shows students with an NVLD or another disability greatly benefit from attending summer programs at colleges or LD boarding schools. Students achieved more academically and socially from being with other students like them in such a supportive environment. The research further concluded that the reason college graduation is still low for students with learning disabilities, is that they are guided to colleges that do not provide enough support. This needs to change for students with all types of abilities. As discussed, schools like Dean and Syracuse have impressive graduation rates. Most importantly being aware of summer programs and colleges with comprehensive support programs for all types of intelligence levels leads to success stories like mine being more of a common thing.
Eileen is a Project Social Ambassador and blogger for The NVLD Project. She loves helping others understand they can achieve their goals and dreams through hard work and dedication.Share your own story