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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
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
FOR COLLEGE STUDENTS WITH
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:
LEARNING SPECIALIST IN A BOX
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
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
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
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
* 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
* 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
* 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
* 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
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
* Register to vote and for selective service (if a
STUDENTS WITH LEARNING DISABILITES:
© 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)
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
CONQUER COLLEGE WITH LD. You may
contact Joan at email@example.com.
Time Management for College Students,
by Joan M. Azarva, Ms.ED
COLLEGE STUDENTS WITH LEARNING
A Student's Perspective
BREAKING THROUGH 87 ROADBLOCKS
SCHOOLS THROW IN YOUR WAY