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Information for Parents & Families

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The transition from high school to college is often a challenging time for students. For students with disabilities, this transition can be even more difficult. In addition to the typical concerns about academic success, campus safety, roommate issues, and social adjustment, there may also be concerns about disability-related issues.

Prior to college, parents have often played a major role in advocating for their children's disability needs. Teachers, guidance counselors, and tutors may also have been involved and provided support. With these familiar support networks no longer in place, your son or daughter will need to find new resources in college. You can help them prepare for this transition during the senior year of high school by having them gradually assume more responsibility for their disability-related needs.

As the parent of an AU student, you may have questions about your child’s successful transition to college. The Academic Support and Access Center (ASAC) has compiled a list of FAQs to help clarify our procedures and services for students with disabilities.

We look forward to working with your child. If you have information you would like to share with us, or have questions after reading the FAQs, we welcome your contact.

Frequently Asked Questions

In the K-12 setting, students are primarily protected by the federal special education statute, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The IDEA establishes specific minimal standards and procedural safeguards for educating children with disabilities, with the legal and financial burden falling on the school system. 

Once students enter the postsecondary setting, their legal rights fall under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). Section 504 and the ADA are often seen as civil rights laws that “level the playing field” by removing obstacles that prevent access by individuals with disabilities from participating in a program or activity.

A very big difference of post secondary education is that it is not the university’s responsibility to identify and provide services to students with disabilities. Rather, the responsibility is to provide appropriate accommodations to ensure equal access when requested to do so. Accommodations are adjustments to the learning environment to ensure an equal opportunity for participation, e.g., extended time to complete an exam or the use of a computer. Accommodations cannot fundamentally alter the essential requirements of a course or curriculum.

Students may enter the university with or without identifying their disability. If a student plans to request accommodations however, they must register with the ASAC. For information about the three-step registration process, go to documentation and eligibility.

The ASAC realizes that once a student has been diagnosed with a learning disability or ADHD, the diagnosis generally remains with the student. However, the impact that diagnosis has on academic functioning may change as the individual gets older and gains experience. Therefore, documentation may need to reflect the "current" status of the student’s functional limitations and should explain why a student needs the accommodations requested. The Disability Access Advisor will assess the need for updated or additional documentation when he or she meets with the student.

An IEP is an Individualized Education Program, designed to provide appropriate services for students in K-12. An IEP or 504 plan may be submitted as part of documentation, but very likely may not be sufficient in and of itself. If recent test scores and a psychologist's report is included in the IEP, that document may be sufficient.


Many students with disabilities benefit from assistive technology, particularly for reading and writing. A student with a documented disability may ask for a referral to the assistive technology manager. The AT manager can provide a needs assessment and specific technology training. Two common software programs used by students with learning disabilities are Kurzweil, a sophisticated screen reader, and Dragon Naturally Speaking, a voice recognition software. If your child is accustomed to using recorded books, an individual membership in Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic (RFB&D) is recommended. More information about assistive technology can be found here.