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High-School Grad with LD Wants to Go to College

LD and ADD/ADHD Expert Advice from Jerome J. Schultz, Ph.D.

Q: I'm a 19-year-old high-school graduate and I'm trying to get into college. I have been in LD from first grade through high school. There has been little improvement. I fight with this every day. I need help! I only have a third-grade reading and writing level. Do you know what I can do? Please help.

A: Thanks for writing. It's good to hear from someone who is fighting to keep moving ahead despite what sounds like a significant learning disability. I think it's amazing that your school let you graduate with third grade reading and writing skills. Under Federal law, a school has the obligation to keep working with you until you turn 22. They might have just wanted to get you out of school so that you could move ahead, but they certainly didn't do you any favors by cutting you loose with such low-level skills. You have several options:

1. Go back to your high school guidance counselor and ask him or her to help you find a college that accepts and works with students who have learning disabilities. If the guidance counselor won't or can't help, then call the Learning Disability Association in your state (find the contact at www.ldanatl.org) and ask them to refer you to someone who specializes in helping students with LD find appropriate colleges. Go to www.google.com and type in "Colleges for Students with LD" and you'll come up with many resources that can get you moving in the right direction -- fast.

2. If you feel that your high school failed to teach you appropriately, and you're ready to "go to the mats," contact your state Office for Civil Rights, and tell them you think your rights as a disabled person have been violated. Tell them that you would like them to do an investigation. If they find that the school has not done its job, you might be entitled to more services at the school's expense. At the very least, they should actively help you find a college.

3. In the meantime, I suggest that you find a private tutor or reading specialist who has training and experience working with young adults with learning disabilities. With proper help, you should be able to improve your reading and writing skills. You can get a referral through the LD association (see above) or by calling the learning disabilities support center (or something close to that name) at a local college. Most colleges have such centers to accommodate the growing number of students with learning disabilities who are successfully applying to colleges. There are several very good articles on getting to college at www.ldonline.org. I hope that these suggestions help, and that you send us a picture of you in a new college sweatshirt soon! Our best wishes to you. Don't give up!

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Jerome (Jerry) Schultz is the founding clinical director of the Learning Lab @ Lesley University, a program that provides assessment, tutoring, and case management services for children with learning challenges. Schultz holds a Ph.D. from Boston College, and has completed postdoctoral fellowships in both clinical psychology and pediatric neuropsychology.

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