Many thanks to Joan Azara for sharing her

    ASK JOAN is a social networking site for
    college students who learn differently. Get
    professional advice, swap stories, interesting
    articles.  If you'd like to join go to to learn how.

    Your teen's psychoeducational evaluation

    Did you know that if your child is going to
    disclose a disability in college, his/her
    psychoeducational evaluation (documentation)
    must be no older than three years?

    For many students, that means being re-tested.

    Since executive function (ability to organize, set
    goals, problem-solve, regulate emotions, etc.) is
    an issue for many students with disabilities, how
    can you get an accurate reading of this variable?

    Standardized test batteries in school have a low
    correlation with executive function. Tasks on
    tests are structured and don't require planning
    or the organization needed for independent
    work.  Even some of the Woodcock-Johnson sub-
    tests, administered by many psychoeducational
    testers, is limited in what it tells us because
    there is no time limit.  So, if you are getting
    your child re-tested, what can you ask for that
    more accurately reflects executive function?

    The Rey Osterrieth Complex Figure test is a
    good test of organizational ability.  The Delis-
    Kaplan Executive Function System gives a better
    picture of the components of executive function,
    and it also measures the ability to use initial
    abstraction to problem-solve, as well as the
    ability to use feedback to improve
    performance.  A good measure of executive
    function as it applies to real life is the Behavior
    Rating Inventory of Executive Functions
    (BRIEF).  Parents and teachers fill out a scale
    that examines eight components of executive
    function, and the result is feedback as to how
    well the student uses them at home and at school.
    This test can be ordered by psychologists,
    approved mental health providers, and some
    school professionals, so parents must specifically
    request it.

    If your teen's executive function is an issue,
    don't settle for measurements by typically-
    administered tests for psychoeducational
    evaluations.  Speak to whomever is testing your
    child about using the above tests to gain a more
    accurate reading.

             8 KEYS TO SUCCESS

             By Joan M. Azarva, Ms.ED

    1. Know your professors’ names and make
    personal contacts with them as often as possible.
    This conveys the message that you are interested
    in doing well.

    2. Enter the names and phone numbers of at least
    3 classmates on each syllabus, so you have
    someone to call in the event of absence or
    confusion about regarding an assignment.

    3. DO NOT SKIP CLASSES, if at all possible.
    If you have to miss a class, call a classmate that
    evening for notes and homework, and return to
    class caught up.

    4. Everything the professor writes on the board
    should be entered in your notebook.

    5. Review all class notes (by simply reading them
    over) within 24 hours of taking them. This will
    greatly improve recall when exam time rolls

    6. Ask the professor if he/she has an old test on
    which you can practice. Some teachers re-use
    exams from year to year, others make up new
    exams and are willing to give you an old one on
    which you can “rehearse”.

    7. Vary your study techniques to prevent
    boredom – for example: alternate use of
    flashcards, a tape recorder, re-writing of notes,
    a study group or partner, and practice tests, so
    you stay engaged.

    8. Find interactive exercises on the internet that
    help you practice what you’re learning. For
    example, if you are studying quadratic equations,
    enter “quadratic equations + interactive
    exercises” (with quotes) into several search
    engines, and you’ll find sites that help you learn

    Do you have a teen returning to college or
    one about to start?

    If your teen is going off to college for the first
    time in September, I can empathize with your
    anxiety.  After all, this is truly a rite of passage
    -- entree into the adult world.

    Is he prepared to live on his own?  Does she have
    sound judgment and make wise decisions?  Does
    he understand the college system and how to
    navigate as a student with a disability?

    I'm sure all these thoughts are whirling around
    in your mind, as you run around trying to find
    twin extra long sheets, a mini fridge, and all the
    other accoutrements of a college student.

    If your teen is returning for a second year, you
    may be anxious because the first year didn't go
    nearly as well as planned.  The pressure is on for
    your son or daughter to do things differently
    this time around, and you're hoping that
    "different" is effective.

    If your concern is turning into high anxiety as
    September approaches, this may be your answer:



    What Does Transition Services Mean?

    Transition Services are defined in the
    Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
    (IDEA), Section 300.18, as a coordinated set of
    activities for a student, designed within an
    outcome-oriented process, that promotes
    movement from school to post-school activities,
    including post-secondary education, vocational
    training, integrated employment (including
    supported employment), continuing and adult
    education, adult services, independent living, or
    community participation.

    The coordinated set of activities must—

    (1) be based upon the individual student's needs
    taking into account the student's preferences
    and interests; and
    (2) include instruction, community experiences,
    the development of employment and other post-
    school adult living objectives, and if
    appropriate, the acquisition of daily living skills
    and functional evaluation.

    Growing up is not easy! It is even more
    complicated for young adults with disabilities.
    Far too many students with disabilities leave
    school lacking the academic, technical, and social
    skills necessary to find and/or maintain
    employment, and often the jobs they do find are
    low paying and offer no health benefits.
    Identifying the challenges students will face as
    adults, and preparing and assisting them to meet
    those demands successfully, requires careful
    transition planning beginning at the earliest age

    Transition Services and the IEP

    The Individual Education Plan (IEP) for each
    student, beginning no later than age 16, must
    include a statement of needed transition
    services. Federal law permits the provision of
    transition services for some students at age 14
    or younger, particularly for those at risk of
    dropping out of school before age 16, or when
    the provision of these services would be
    beneficial to any student with a disability and
    have a positive effect on employment and
    independent living outcomes. The decision to
    provide transition services to students younger
    than age 16 should be made by the IEP team.

    Broadly defined, transition is an all-inclusive
    process that focuses on improving a student's
    employment outcomes, housing options, and social
    networks after leaving school. The transition
    plan provides the framework for identifying,
    planning, and carrying out activities that will
    help a student make a successful transition to
    adult life. It identifies the type of skills to be
    learned; and which transition services will be
    provided, when they will be provided, and the
    party responsible for providing them. Involving
    a team of people drawn from different parts of
    the student's school and community life, the
    transition planning process focuses on the unique
    needs and goals of the student.

    The specific needs of the student for post-
    secondary services should determine who is
    invited to the IEP transition meeting. It is
    important to have representatives from various
    adult agencies and organizations at the meeting,
    such as mental health agencies, vocational
    rehabilitation, community colleges, housing, and
    employment and training agencies. If the school
    does not invite representatives from adult
    agencies, the parent or student should do so. If
    representatives from the agencies do not attend
    the meeting, the school is required to "take other
    steps to obtain their participation" in planning
    the student's transition services. Although not
    specified in IDEA, these steps might include
    arranging for a subsequent IEP meeting to
    discuss transition issues, contacting a trained
    advocate, forwarding a copy of the IEP to the
    agency (with student and parent approval), and
    maintaining contact with the agency to promote
    their involvement.

    The Transition Plan and Graduation

    Students with disabilities can remain in school
    through age 21 if there are continuing transition
    needs. These may include, for example, the need
    to acquire skills necessary for independent living
    or employment. These needs must be stated in
    the IEP and must include community-based
    instruction, learning experiences, and other adult
    objectives. All provisions of due process in
    IDEA remain in place throughout the transition
    Young adults who remain in school past the
    typical graduation date may be able to
    participate in the commencement activities
    without receiving their diploma. They would then
    receive their diploma upon completion of their
    transition objectives. However, in many state
    and local agencies, the right to receive transition
    services from the school district is terminated
    once the student receives a diploma, even if
    she/he is under 21. This can present
    complications for the student, because, before
    receiving the diploma, all their services were
    provided through one centralized system-the
    school district. Now the young adult becomes
    responsible for not only identifying appropriate
    adult services, but also for proving their
    eligibility to receive those services. Thus, it is
    critical that students and their parents are
    aware of and think about the school district's
    graduation requirements, and how the student's
    transition goals will be accomplished before all
    services from the school district have ceased.

    How to Begin Transition Planning

    Transition goals cannot be achieved in one year.
    Transition planning, services, and activities
    should be approached as a multi-year process.
    Young adults themselves, along with their
    parents, play an important role in the transition
    process. Granted, involving the student in
    his/her own transition planning is required by
    law, but perhaps the most important reason for
    student involvement in transition planning is to
    facilitate the development of his/her self-
    determination skills, for these are essential for
    the student to develop the ability to manage his
    or her own life.
    To begin with, examine your family's values as
    well as your young adult's interests, skills, and
    desires for the future. Encourage your son or
    daughter to talk about their preferences for the
    future. These preferences should be the guide
    for the transition planning process. Involve your
    child in activities that help him/her become a
    good decision maker and develop self-advocacy
    skills. (The Transition Checklist on page 3 can
    be used in developing the transition plan).
    Transition services can and should be delivered
    through curricular and extracurricular activities
    in many settings-in academic and vocational
    classrooms, at home, and throughout the
    community-to practice and reinforce newly
    acquired skills. The more young adults with
    disabilities have opportunities to practice their
    skills in real life situations, the more
    comfortable and natural they will feel in those


    Throughout public school years, the district has
    had the responsibility of providing the services
    for the student with disabilities to become a
    successful learner. The transition from school to
    adulthood may be complicated because the adult
    system is very different: there are many public
    and private agencies that provide services for
    adults with disabilities. However, unlike
    educational services, there is no absolute
    entitlement to those services. In other words,
    different, more restrictive eligibility criteria,
    long waiting lists, and uncertain funding may
    keep a young adult from obtaining services upon
    leaving school. This is why transition planning at
    an early age is so critical.
    Transition services and activities should provide
    young adults with disabilities with the necessary
    skills to make informed choices and decisions,
    and gain full inclusion in society in all aspects of
    their lives.

    Transition Checklist

    The following is a checklist of transition
    activities that you and your son or daughter may
    wish to consider when preparing transition plans
    with the IEP team. Your student's skills and
    interests will determine which items on the
    checklist are relevant. Use this checklist to ask
    yourself whether or not these transition issues
    should be addressed at IEP transition meetings.
    The checklist can also help identify who should
    be part of the IEP transition team.
    Responsibility for carrying out the specific
    transition activities should be determined at the
    IEP transition meetings.

    Four to Five Years Before Leaving the
    School District

    * Identify personal learning styles and the
    necessary accommodations to be a successful
    learner and worker.
    * Identify career interests and skills, complete
    interest and career inventories, and identify
    additional education or training requirements.
    * Explore options for post- secondary education
    and admission criteria.
    * Identify interests and options for future
    living arrangements, including supports.
    * Learn to communicate effectively your
    interests, preferences, and needs .
    * Be able to explain your disability and the
    accommodations you need.
    * Learn and practice informed decision making
    * Investigate assistive technology tools that can
    increase community involvement and employment
    * Broaden your experiences with community
    activities and expand your friendships.
    * Pursue and use local transportation options
    outside of family.
    * Investigate money management and identify
    necessary skills.
    * Acquire identification card and the ability to
    communicate personal information.
    * Identify and begin learning skills necessary
    for independent living.
    * Learn and practice personal health care.

    Two to Three Years Before Leaving the
    School District

    * Identify community support services and
    programs (Vocational Rehabilitation, County
    Services, Centers for Independent Living, etc.)
    * Invite adult service providers, peers, and
    others to the IEP transition meeting.
    * Match career interests and skills with
    vocational course work and community work
    * Gather more information on post secondary
    programs and the support services offered; and
    make arrangements for accommodations to take
    college entrance exams.
    * Identify health care providers and become
    informed about sexuality and family planning
    * Determine the need for financial support
    (Supplemental Security Income, state financial
    supplemental programs, medicare).
    * Learn and practice appropriate interpersonal,
    communication, and social skills for different
    settings (employment, school, recreation, with
    peers, etc.).
    * Explore legal status with regards to decision
    making prior to age of majority.
    * Begin a resume and update it as needed.
    * Practice independent living skills, e.g.,
    budgeting, shopping, cooking, and housekeeping.
    * Identify needed personal assistant services,
    and if appropriate, learn to direct and manage
    these services.

    One Year Before Leaving the School District

    * Apply for financial support programs.
    (Supplemental Security Income, Independent
    Living Services, Vocational Rehabilitation, and
    Personal Assistant Services).
    * Identify the post-secondary school you plan to
    attend and arrange for accommodations.
    * Practice effective communication by
    developing interview skills, asking for help, and
    identifying necessary accommodations at post
    secondary and work environments.
    * Specify desired job and obtain paid
    employment with supports as needed.
    * Take responsibility for arriving on time to
    work, appointments, and social activities.
    * Assume responsibility for health care needs
    (making appointments, filling and taking
    prescriptions etc.).
    * Register to vote and for selective service (if a

    College Success and Proactive Preparation
    © Joan M. Azarva, Ms.ED

    Recent estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau
    indicate that people with bachelor’s degrees will
    earn approximately $600,000 more during their
    lifetime than those without an undergraduate
    degree. This estimate was cited by then
    Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley in his
    statement before Congress during the
    authorization of the Higher Education Act of
    1965. He noted:

    More than ever before, education is the fault
    line between those who will prosper in the new
    economy, and those who will be left behind.
    Today’s jobs increasingly require skills and
    training beyond a high school education, and
    accessible postsecondary education is critically
    important to individuals as well as our nation’s
    economy and democracy. (Price-Ellingstad &
    Berry, 1999, p. 1, quoting Riley, 1997)

    Postsecondary Education

    Trends in enrollment of students with
    disabilities in two- and four-year programs
    continue to increase, with some estimates ranging
    from 9.3 percent to as high as 17 percent
    (National Center for Education Statistics,
    2000; NCD, 2000). In spite of this increase,
    individuals with disabilities still remain less
    likely to pursue postsecondary education when
    compared to individuals without disabilities
    (Whelley, Hart, & Zaft, 2002).

    Although the gap for high school completion is
    closing between individuals with and without
    disabilities, this trend is not the case in higher
    education. In fact, completion of some college
    coursework has declined from 30 percent to 26
    percent from 1986 until 2001. Earning a college
    degree has dropped during this same time period
    from 19 percent to 12 percent (National
    Organization on Disability, 2001).
    Contributing to the lack of persistence and
    retention of college students with disabilities is
    the issue of their adapting to an entirely new set
    of challenges in managing their academic
    program. Such a student now becomes one of
    potentially hundreds of students seeking
    services through a Disability Support Services
    office on campus. They are responsible for
    requesting their supports and services, providing
    documentation to receive these accommodations,
    and interacting with faculty to implement their

    Adjusting to a college environment presents
    challenges for all students; however, for
    students with disabilities, the responsibility of
    managing their accommodations along with their
    academic coursework presents a set of
    challenges unique to these students. Often
    students with disabilities enter college
    unprepared to disclose their disability, or they
    lack the understanding of how to access services
    on campus. Students with disabilities must self-
    identify to the university to request
    accommodations and supports. Students fail to
    self-disclose for a variety of reasons. Some
    students see college as an opportunity to begin
    anew. As a result, students may elect not to
    disclose their disability to the university in
    order to avoid being labeled (Burgstahler & Doe,
    2006; Getzel & McManus, 2005; National
    Center for the Study of Postsecondary
    Educational Supports [NCSPES], 2000). Others
    wait until they are experiencing academic
    problems to disclose. Still others feel they do
    not belong in advanced degree programs because
    of the need to self-identify for specific
    services. The decision not to disclose, however,
    may be the one on which a student's fate rests.

    There is also the issue of faculty attitudes.
    While it seems hard to fathom that professional
    educators could be uninformed about the nature
    of learning disabilities, this in fact does occur.
    A student unfortunate enough to get such a
    professor can be made to feel self-conscious,
    inferior, and/or unwelcome in that classroom. At
    a critical juncture, when these students need the
    most support and encouragement, a professor not
    aware of the needs of students with disabilities
    may undermine confidence, causing already
    tentative students to question whether college is
    indeed the right decision.

    Given the inherent risks of college for students
    with learning disabilities, it makes sense to
    increase their odds of success by having them
    learn as much as possible about the
    postsecondary system prior to transition.
    Awareness of the pros and cons of disclosure can
    assist them in making an informed decision
    rather than an emotional one. Ability to “vet”
    colleges based on the services they actually
    offer, not what’s listed in a catalog or website,
    can play a critical role in eventual success.
    Advance knowledge of how many courses one can
    adequately handle and how much support one will
    need sets students up for success from the first
    day they cross the college threshold. Knowing
    how to self-advocate prepares students for their
    new responsibilities in college. Preparation
    involves understanding the academic,
    organizational, and time-management demands of
    college, as well as teaching students the skills
    and strategies required for college success while
    they are still in high school, so they can practice
    and feel comfortable using them. It also helps
    for students to have advance knowledge of the
    potential pitfalls, so they can consciously avoid

    Students who transition with foreknowledge of
    college’s unique expectations and how to meet
    them are more likely to succeed simply because
    everyone does better in new situations when
    prepared. For at-risk students with learning
    disabilities, however, this preparation can often
    mean the difference between success and
    failure. As the saying goes: “An ounce of
    prevention is worth a pound of cure”--and in this
    case, a college degree, as well.

    Joan M. Azarva, Ms.ED is an expert college
    Learning Specialist who focuses exclusively on
    the critical high school-to-college transition for
    students with learning disabilities. She is the
    author of two courses, Conquer College with
    LD/ADD and College Study Skills, and runs a
    list serve for parents of high school teens who
    learn differently. Parents may subscribe at
    contact Joan at

    Time Management for College Students,
    by Joan M. Azarva, Ms.ED

    A Student's Perspective

Clues for the College-Bound
Custom Search