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Walla Walla Community College

Walla Walla Community College is committed to supporting students as they grow and develop into adult learners. As students with disabilities enter college they become their own advocates, take on the responsibilities of a college student and are responsible for their learning. The intake process through Disability Support Services (DSS) is designed to help students articulate their needs as learners and help identify the barriers they may face as they begin their educational career. We also support them in identifying their successes and strengths to allow them to utilize those while attending WWCC. 

DSS staff will not meet with parents or third-party advocates without the student present. We also reserve the right to meet with the student alone. If parents or third-party advocates have general questions about services or the process we may provide guidance or resources. During meetings with DSS staff it is expected that the student will be able to communicate their needs as an adult learner. 

As a reminder all Running Start students are considered to be adult learners and as such have the same responsibilities as all other college students. 

We understand that the transition from High School to College can be difficult for parents as well as students. In High School parents took the lead on advocating for supports and accommodations. While in College students are expected to do their own work and this includes filling out/submitting forms, engaging with campus staff/faculty, and advocating for their needs.

Here’s some tips and resources to help with this transition.

Preparing for college

High School vs. College Disability Accommodations

There is no Special Education at the college level. The following information is a sampling of the differences between High School and College. If you would like more information please contact the DSS staff located on the campus you plan on attending.

Applicable Laws
IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Educational Act) ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) of 1990, Title II
Section 504 Rehabilitation Act of 1973 Section 504 Rehabilitation Act of 1973
Required Documentation
School provides evaluation at no cost to the student Varies depending on the disability and the college’s requirements. Students are responsible to pay for any evaluation they seek
School conducts yearly reviews and tri-annual reevaluations IEP and 504 Plans are not always sufficient documentation
Eligibility for an IEP is based on specific disability categories in IDEA Student must request specific accommodations and provide supporting evidence through documentation and/or personal narrative
Student’s Role
IDEA guarantees FAPE (Free Access to Pubic Education) for all students Students must meet all the admission requirements for the college and their desired program
Student is identified and supported by parents and teachers Student must self-identify at Disability Support Services
Primary responsibility for accommodations belongs to the school Student needs to self-advocate for services and accommodations
Services such as organizational skills, speech and language skills, study skills, occupational therapy and/or physical therapy may be provided as part of a student’s IEP Most instructors expect students to initiate contact when assistance is needed
Schools may provide a 1:1 para educator or personal aide at no cost to the student Students are not provided aides or 1:1 support through the DSS office
Parent’s/Guardian’s Role
Parent has access to student’s records and participates in accommodation process Parents have no access to student records without written consent from the student.  This includes students who are under the age of 18 and/or enrolled through the Running Start Program
Parent advocates for the student Student advocates for self
Parents can routinely communicate with teachers and can easily monitor student academic progress Parents are not provided with progress reports or notified of student’s attendance. Instructors do not communicate with parents
Curriculum and Instruction
Services include individually designed instruction, modifications, and accommodation based on the IEP No fundamental alterations to the curriculum are made. The college is not required to lower or effect substantial modifications to essential requirements
Modifications that change course outcomes may be offered based on the IEP Instructors expect you to read, save, and consult the course syllabus for due dates, expectations, and grading rubrics
Teachers often remind students of due dates Student is responsible for attending class and getting material they miss if absent
Teachers often provide students with missed information when they are absent Instructors offer office hours but it is up to the student to seek out support from their instructors
Teachers often provide students with missed information when they are absent Instructors offer office hours but it is up to the student to seek out support from their instructors
Student Responsibilities
Study skills or tutoring may be a part of an IEP/504 plan Tutoring or study skills support is not an accommodation that falls under DSS
Students may receive support in breaking down large projects into smaller chunks with teacher assigned check in points Students don’t receive support in how to structure their homework or study time through DSS. Support may be available to all students
Grades and Tests
IEP and 504 plans may include modification to the test format, material, length, and/or grading Grades reflect the work submitted. Students are responsible for completing all of the assignments assigned in class using the same grading rubric as all other students
Students may be allowed to use their textbook or notecards through their IEP and/or 504 plan Test format changes (i.e. multiple choice vs. essay) are generally not available. Accommodations on HOW tests are given (extended time, alternative testing location, readers) are available when supported by disability documentation
Make up and/or retakes tests may be offered Make up tests or retakes are seldom an option, if they are student needs to request them
School staff will pull students out of class so they can test in a quieter testing environment Students approved for a reduced distraction testing environment are responsible for scheduling tests in the testing center
Bottom Line
Focus is on SUCCCESS Focus is on ACCESS
High schools provide a high level of support and take responsibility for making sure students receive the services in their IEP/504 Plan Colleges provide a different level of support, and it is the student’s responsibility to ask for help and advocate for themselves

An Open Letter to Parents of Students with Disabilities about to Enter College

Jane Jarrow is a parent of a student with a disability and a well-known name in disability work in higher education.

Dear Parents,

I have been working in the area of students with disabilities at the college level for more than 30 years, but that is not why I am writing to you today. I am writing as a parent, and thus as someone who shares all your current anxieties. My daughter, who graduated from high school in early June, will be going away to college this Fall. She has Cerebral Palsy, uses a wheelchair, and has limited speech capabilities, so you can be assured that I have been very involved in the educational programming and planning she has received during her years in the public school system. I wanted to be involved, but I also needed to be involved since, by law, the school could not do anything for, to, or with my daughter regarding her disability without my permission. I sat through countless IEP meetings over the years, I was insistent on certain issues of academic support when I needed to be, and I agonized over everything from teacher selection to her successful social integration with classmates. And now, as I prepare to pack her up and take her off to college in the Fall, I recognize that this role has ended for me – and the word “anxious” doesn’t even begin to describe my feelings.

If you are worried that your child with a disability will have a difficult time making a successful transition to college without your involvement… then you are probably right to be worried. Very few children with disabilities can succeed at the college level. On the other hand, students with disabilities survive and thrive on college campuses across the country. If you still think of your son or daughter as your “child,” and they still are comfortable in accepting that role, it is time to take a careful look at where you have come from and what lies before you. As parents, it is time for us to step back and allow/encourage/gently nudge our SWD’s (Students With Disabilities) to assume significant independent responsibility for their own lives, both academically and personally.

As you and your SWD prepare to visit campus for that initial meeting with a disability service provider at the college, you would do well to think about what can be accomplished at this initial meeting, what needs to be said – and who is going to say it!!! As I approach that same milestone with my daughter, I find myself a little panicky, realizing that there are things about her disability and how it impacts on her functioning that I know and that the disability services provider needs to know, and that I may not have many chances to say. There is no doubt that I can explain those things more fully than my daughter can explain them (or even understands them!). And it doesn’t matter. Much as I hate it, I know that SHE has to be the one to convey all this crucial information (not me!), for a number of reasons.

First, colleges and universities provide services and support to SWD under very different laws than those that governed services in the k-12 system. I have no rights under Section 504/ADA in speaking for my SWD who is in college. (If you aren’t sure what “Section 504/ADA” means in this context, perhaps the disability service provider you meet with will have gathered some information that helps explain the differences between settings, both legally and practically. Two of my favorite websites for learning more are at: The US Department of Education  and GW School of Education and Human Development).

The services and support available to SWD are sometimes very different than what was provided in high school, and the college is under no obligation to continue the services given in high school or to adhere to the recommendations of an outside diagnostician. The college will make its own determination of what services and support to offer, based on the documentation of disability and their interview with your SWD. There are no IEP’s in college, there is no place to sign off with my parental approval. Indeed, the college doesn’t legally have to care whether I am satisfied or not. My daughter is responsible for her own destiny now.

More importantly, while this may be your last chance to convey all that important information on to the college, it is your SWD’s first chance to convey that information all by himself/herself. Don’t spoil that opportunity, and don’t interfere. Remember, while you and your SWD are learning more about the campus, the resources, and the people who will be there to help when needed, the disability service provider is learning more about your son/daughter, as well. You want their first impression to be one that is positive and reassuring. The service provider is anxious to find out whether your SWD is mature enough to handle the responsibilities and independence of college life. Here are some specific suggestions for helping your SWD to shine in this newly focused spotlight:

DON’T be insulted if you are not invited to sit in on the initial meeting between your SWD and the disabilities services folks. Some institutions have found that it is helpful for them to speak directly (and alone!) to the student in order to get a feel for how knowledgeable and confident s/he is in sharing information about past services, what works and doesn’t work, and what accommodations they hope to have at the college level. You will get a chance to ask your questions, but recognize that it may come later, rather than sooner.

If you are invited to sit in on the meeting with the disability services folks, DO acknowledge your SWD as the authority on their disability-related needs by making it clear that you believe they have all the answers! Try focusing your visual attention on your son/daughter instead of trying to make eye contact with the interviewer. If you look to your SWD, so will the professional.

DON’T begin any sentences with “S/He needs to have…” Instead, you can try, “In high school, s/he had…” or “The person who tested him/her suggested…” but it would actually be better if you said nothing at all! Try to talk as little as possible during the meeting. This is not your meeting. Remember, you are there as an observer, not as a participant.

DO take some time preparing your son/daughter in advance on the issues that you think need to be discussed – the things that you would say if you had the chance. Make a list of the topics you would bring up, explain why you think each is important, and make sure your SWD has the list in hand when s/he goes into the interview. Rehearse with your son/daughter, if they will let you. If they are typical teens and aren’t comfortable sitting through that kind of rehearsal, settle for making them sit and listen while you demonstrate how you would approach certain subjects. For example, “I think you should tell them about how the teachers arranged for extra time for you on tests when you were in high school. I’d probably say, ‘In high school, I was allowed extra time for tests in English because it takes me a long time to put my thoughts in writing, but I never needed it in Math.’” Your SWD may not acknowledge the strategies you share, but you may be surprised to hear those words come out of his/her mouth at the interview!

DON’T interrupt. If you disagree with something the disability service provider says, or if your SWD says something that you know is incorrect, or if you see your SWD agreeing with/to something when you know they have no idea what they are agreeing to – DON’T INTERRUPT! Let the interview play out. Give the disability service provider a chance to draw your SWD out further, give your SWD an opportunity to clarify matters, or simply, wait to see if the confusion/disagreement remains. It is important to know just how independent and accurate students are in describing their needs. You will get your chance.

DO prompt your son/daughter to speak up and share those important points as the interview progresses. Instead of explaining to the disability service provider while Johnny needs a calculator in math classes, turn to Johnny and say, “Why don’t you explain to Ms. _____ why it is important for you to have a calculator in math and science classes. Is it because you have trouble in lining up the columns, or because you have trouble remembering basic math facts or ???” Give an open-ended question that encourages your SWD to flesh out the response. At the same time, you are hinting to the interviewer that there is an issue here to be discussed (See? I told you that you would get your chance!)

Why not take notes as the interview progresses? When your son/daughter has exhausted the list of topics to discuss, and the disability service provider has shared all the information they thought was important, it is YOUR turn to talk. Go ahead and ask your questions. The most important thing to remember now is that you do not want to undermine your son/daughter’s credibility. If you have more information to share on a given subject, try starting the sentence with, “As Susie told you, she has used…” and then add whatever you need to on top of information already given. If you think your SWD gave incorrect information, tread carefully. You might say, “I was surprised to hear Jane say _____. I would have said _____, because…” You’ll get our point across without directly contradicting what your son/daughter said. Your goal is to assure both the SWD and the disability service provider that you are supportive of their budding understanding, and simply want to share another viewpoint.

An old adage maintains: There are only two things a parent can give to a child… One is roots. The other is wings.

It is time for our kids to solo. That is a scary thought for us, as parents, and it is sure to be scary for them, too. That’s OK. This is what we have all been working towards for a long time. Remember, your son/daughter will call, email, or text if they need you. They know what you can do for them, but now it is time for them to go it alone. Take a deep breath, cross your fingers, wish them well – and walk away. All will be well!

Best of luck,

Jane Jarrow
Proud (and Terrified) Mom

FERPA for Parents

FERPA is a term you will hear often as a parent transitioning your student to college. FERPA is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. 

Please visit FERPA’s Parent Guide for important information on your student’s privacy rights, and your rights at a parent: FERPA Parent Page.

Can I talk to Disability Access about my student?

Parents are encouraged to contact the College if they are concerned about their student. Although Disability Support Services cannot share specific information about students, we can listen to your concerns and provide guidance and resources for parents.

FERPA allows a College to disclose information about a student in the case of a health or safety emergency.

Funding For Students with Disabilities

The University of Washington has collected a library of funding resources for students here.