Transitional Independent Living


Should You Tell Your Young Adult Childs College That He/She Has a Disability

Because of his or her special needs, you weren’t sure if college was possible for your young adult child. But now that your family is considering it, you’re not sure if you should inform the school of your child’s disability.

What if it changes how your child is viewed by others? Will the school try to limit what your young adult can or can’t do based on preconceived ideas?

On the other hand, what if your young adult needs additional support? Will there be problems if your child acts out while on campus?

While your fears about how your young adult will be treated or perceived are understandable, it’s best that the school knows exactly what is going on with your child. This will open up opportunities at the school for your child.

According to the US Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR), you and your child are not obligated to report his or her disability to the school. Nor is the school allowed to ask if your child has a disability before the school decides whether or not to admit your child. However, once your young adult has committed to attending the school, he or she may benefit from informing the school.

Statistics on Special Needs Students and College Education

Amy Jane Griffiths, PhD, reports that only 8% of students with disabilities complete the postsecondary education they begin. That’s a large difference from students without disabilities: approximately half of them graduate from college. Working with your young adult’s chosen school helps improve those odds.

Let the School Help You Both

f your child ends up needing some type of academic adjustment or additional support, the school can’t provide it unless they know why. If you do decide to disclose your young adult’s disability, most schools will require some type of documentation to verify the disability. The OCR says you or your young adult will be expected to obtain and provide this verification to the school.

Many colleges are now offering programs for students with special needs. These students often require personalized assistance with their studies, and many may not have the same level of preparation for college-level courses that other students have experienced.

Your child will at least have access to a disability coordinator. This person provides assistance with all matters related to your child’s disability, such as requesting academic adjustments.

If you do choose to disclose your young adult’s disability to the school, be sure you do so as soon as possible. The OCR points out that it takes some time for the school to put together any academic adjustments or additional support your young adult may need during the semester.

Work With the Institution

Between the help you offer your child at home and the assistance provided by school programs, your young adult’s chances of completing and succeeding at postsecondary education increase. Speak with the disability coordinator or special needs program at young young adult’s school to learn exactly what your resources your child has available to him or her, and then make sure they are being utilized.


US Department of Education Office for Civil Rights –

Young Adults With Learning Disabilities and Other Special Needs – – Amy Jane Griffiths, PhD –

CTA: Read how NDFYA prepares young adults for the college experience

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