Newbee Ehomework

This is the second article by College Parent Central contributor Dr. Lynn Abrahams.  Lynn specializes in college transition and success for students with learning differences.

Over the past ten years more and more programs have been created to help prepare and support college students with learning differences. In fact, there are now so many models out there that it has become crucial to do your homework before making the decision about the best post-secondary environment for your student. As a learning disabilities specialist over the past 30 years, I have seen families pay a tremendous amount of money for programs that may not be the right fit, because they did not fully understand what was or was not being offered.

Here are a few issues to keep in mind:

Support in High School

Look at how much support your student is getting in high school. Shifting the amount and type of support when entering a new college environment is not usually a good idea.

  • Is your student in a substantially separate classroom?
  • Is your student fully mainstreamed in all high school classes?
  • Is your student in college preparatory classes?
  • How much time does your student get for support in a resource room?
  • How much time does your student work with other therapists, such as speech and language, occupational therapy, English language learner support, or counseling?

Support Between High School and College

Decide whether your student needs extra support before going to college. Take an honest look at whether a pre-college program would help academic, social, or emotional readiness.

  • There are summer-before-college programs designed to help students with learning differences prepare for the academic and social shift to college.
  • There are post-grad and transitions programs that may give all types of students an extra year to prepare academically and mature emotionally.
  • There are travelling, volunteering, or working gap year programs, or simply the choice to live at home a work for a year.

Support in College

Study the different models that are out there for support while in college.

  • At one end of the continuum are colleges exclusively for students with learning differences. In this environment, all the professors are learning specialists who understand the many challenges students may face. This may be a good environment for starting college, until confidence and skills are built.
  • At the opposite end of the spectrum are colleges and universities that have an Office for Disabilities and are federally mandated to provide testing accommodations. In this situation, it is very important to ask who will be supporting your student (learning specialists? professors? peer tutors?) and how much time the students are allowed to have with those support people.
  • In the middle of the continuum are mainstream colleges that offer a support program, a vague term that could mean separate classes for a semester, or mainstream class with support from either professionals or peers, or a tiered approach to support that starts with a separate program and weans students off. These programs often have an extra cost, in addition to tuition.

Keep in mind that the right fit for the first year of college may not be the right fit for the third year of college. Your student will mature and change (really, they will!) and the need for support services will change as well. If you and your student look carefully at the different models, chances are higher that you will find the environment that will foster success.

Related articles:

Making the Shift from High School to College When Your Student Has Learning Differences

The Delicate Balance of Support and Self Reliance

Helping Your College Student Find Support on Campus

Why Is My Student in “Developmental” Classes?


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Olivia started 1st grade last week. I’m excited for her to dive into schoolwork and to be exposed to new ideas and skills. But I’m a bit apprehensive about one thing – homework.

She had a few “homework” assignments in kindergarten. They were family projects and mostly art-based. But, even so, she had some mini meltdowns at the start of the projects. She would insist “she didn’t understand” and “didn’t know what to do” despite me patiently guiding her. Or she would put very little effort into it so she could go back to doing something else.

That’s why I’m thinking about how to make homework a positive experience for her. And my first task is setting up a homework space.

Initially, I thought I would set-up a homework space in the kitchen or dining room so I could multi-task from the kitchen. I was recently cleaning out our home office, however, when I started thinking that setting up my husband’s desk (which he rarely uses) may be the best physical set-up for her – despite it being upstairs.

But the space is going to need a makeover to be more kid-friendly and functional for her homework needs. Here are my must-haves for the space:

  • Organization. As a homework newbie, the biggest challenge will be helping Olivia prioritize assignments. A homework wall calendar will keep everyone organized. I ordered this Homework Caddy because it includes not only a calendar but a place to add notes, papers, library books, etc. and hangs from a door or a wall.

  • Supplies. My goal is to keep school supplies limited to necessities – pencils, erasers, sharpeners, glue sticks, crayons, markers, scissors. But knowing my daughter, this list will grow. So, I’m researching desktop organizers that’ll keep supplies within arms reach, yet neat and out of the way. I like these pencils, crayons, and supplies holders.

  • Storage. We have this Ikea bookshelf in the office already where I can clear off some shelf space for her. I also have an old metal filing cabinet that I’ll (eventually) spray paint a fun color for storing additional work, paper and other items.
  • Art & Homework Display. We have our favorite of the kids’ art displayed in the kitchen. But having Olivia select her favorite work and showcase it in her own space gives her the ability to be proud of her personal accomplishments. I love these two ideas: large fabric pinboard (in fourth photo down) and curtain rod or clothesline art hangers.

  • Colorful and Inviting. I’m more effective in a bright and welcoming work space. I want my daughter’s homework area to be fun and inviting like this homework space so she wants to be there doing her homework.

  • Lighting. Our office is well-lit when the sun is out but in the winter we’ll need some good lighting options. These colorful desk lamps are flexible and, well, just fun.

  • Reading Area. I love this kid’s reading nook but it doesn’t fit with the room structure so I’m thinking a simple bean bag chair will work.

  • Portable Homework Station. And when it just doesn’t work for her to be in her dedicated homework space, I love this idea of a portable homework station.

I better get working. I’ll post photos when I’m done creating our new homework space.


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