Persistent myths about IEPs, 504s, and college admissions/accommodations for LD, ADHD students
Thursday, June 13, 2019
In April, I saw a post that said, "It’s IEP season again." At high schools across the country, that’s the time of year IEP teams of families and professionals are finalizing plans for their students — some of whom are now rising seniors.
That got me thinking about things I hear from both parents and educators — that some IEP teams are moving students from one kind of plan to another (typically from an IEP to a 504) or off of their plans entirely for their senior year based on misunderstandings about college admissions and accommodations.
I hope that addressing these myths will be helpful to everyone involved planning for these students — educators, administrators, other relevant professionals, and family members.
Myth #1 — Students should be moved from an IEP to a 504 plan for senior year because it "looks better" when they apply to college.
Since colleges don’t ask students whether or not they have a disability (they’re not allowed to), and students don’t have to tell them if they don’t want to, IEP teams should not let students' plan to attend college change the kind of plan they're on as seniors.
And teams should know that there is no reason to send students' IEP with their application — colleges don't ask for this. (Students only register for accommodations after they enroll at college, and they'll send their documentation directly to the disability services office.)
Myth #2 — Students should be moved from an IEP to a 504 plan because 504 plans are valid at college.
There is a lot of misunderstanding about 504 plans. It is understandable that people believe that since Section 504 covers both K-12 schools and colleges, colleges have to follow 504 plans, but this is not true.
Colleges do have to provide eligible students with accommodations, but is not because they have 504 plans. Neither 504 plans nor IEPs are valid after students graduate from high school.
I think one possible cause of confusion may be that some colleges accept students' 504 plans (or IEPs) as documentation (meaning proof) of their disability, and in some cases, they may also grant the same accommodations students had received in high school.
This may lead to an understandable misconception that those schools are actually following students' 504 plans, but this is not what they're doing. In these situations, colleges are simply providing the same accommodations students received before because they've found those students eligible for them and the accommodations were considered appropriate.
Myth #3 — High school students should be taken off of any plan for their senior year because there aren’t accommodations at college for students with learning disabilities and/or ADHD.
Colleges do provide accommodations for all sorts of disabilities. In some cases, students may even get more accommodations than they received in high school.
No one should take away all of students’ accommodations in their senior year because of any misunderstanding about the availability of college accommodations. Ideally, though — by senior year — college-bound students should be trying to work with only the kinds of accommodations they might find available at college. (Of course, each student's situation is different, and IEP teams must make individualized decisions based on students' needs.)
It is important is that — as early as the 8th grade meeting that writes the plan for 9th grade — all members of the team have a good understanding of what kinds of accommodations colleges typically offer.
If college is a goal for students, the plan should be to provide direct instruction in learning strategies and the use of assistive technology so that by senior year, students are ready to function without the supports they're unlikely to find at college. To get a full sense of what accommodations are or are not typically available at college (and why), read Steps 1 and 6 of my book, as well as the accommodation posts on my site.
This post has been reprinted from Elizabeth C. Hamblet's blog and all rights are reserved by the author.
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