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Is College An Option?

Q – Is college an option if my child has a learning disability? If so, should I disclose that my child has a learning disability in their college application?

A – Absolutely!! Just because a student has a learning disability doesn't mean they can't go to college. Many parents are reluctant to disclose that their child has a learning disability in the student's college application for fear that it will jeopardize their chances of admission. However, the opposite is true.


Under the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, colleges may not ask a student if s/he has a learning disability. Hence, students are responsible for informing colleges about their learning disability. But, disclosing their learning issues will help the admissions officers understand why the student has less than stellar grades and/or test scores, especially the discrepancy between a student's abilities and intelligence and his/her GPA and test scores.

These discrepancies can be explained in detail in the student's personal statement and/or as an addendum to their college application. For example, if the student was diagnosed with a learning disability in their sophomore year in high school, students should inform colleges of the positive changes, such as improved grades and test scores, made after the diagnosis.

Further, students with learning disabilities typically qualify for accommodations for the SAT and ACT. Generally, the student's high school should apply for accommodations on behalf the student with IEPs and/or 504 plans in place. Typically, the accommodations on the SAT and/or ACT should parallel the accommodations the school has been providing, but ultimately it is up to the testing agency to decide.

More importantly, by disclosing the student's learning disability, the student will be able to receive accommodations to help them succeed in college.

It is imperative that families conduct their own due diligence when looking into colleges that offer services to students with learning disabilities, such as ADHD, ADD, Autism or Asperger's Syndrome, to name a few. Families should visit college campuses and ask good questions when exploring colleges to fit the student's individual needs.

There are two excellent guides to colleges with programs for students with disabilities – The K&W Guide to Colleges for Students with Learning Disabilities and the Peterson's Guide to Colleges for Students with Learning Disabilities or ADD. These guides not only list the types of disability support services available, but also discuss the application procedures.

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