College Success for Students with Learning Disabilities by Cynthia G. Simpson and Vicky G. Spencer is written for students to use to prepare for college. Although it focuses on late high school and freshman year of college, it does have a timeline of activities starting in 8th grade.
Eighth grade is the time for all students to begin to think about post high school experiences. Developing a rigorous high school course load, participating in extracurricular activities and community service and thinking about jobs and their role in adolescences are all important to consider. Families need to be realistic about cost and opportunity. College should not be eliminated because of cost for any child. Work and savings, scholarships, grants and loans can make the experience possible, perhaps not at the 4 year institution of choice, but somewhere. Good grades, academic skills and a solid work ethic, however, are a foundation that need to be built.
The authors of this book have structured it for students. Parents, guidance counselors and teachers may have the background knowledge to see the text as simplistic and need more details than provided. 7 Steps for Success: High School to College Transition Strategies for Students with Disabilities by Elizabeth Hamblet is a more comprehensive text that I reviewed in an earlier blog. It offers much more detail on the legal aspects of transition and provides more scripted examples of how to go about some of the things Simpson and Spencer just tell you to do.
The book is structured so that "learning to ask the right questions" sections punctuate areas. Although the questions are important to address, they may be intimidating and individuals with disabilities may need help pursuing the answers. Some of the areas are ones that need to be taught and discussed with all students, others are full of self-examination and reflection while others require research into student and region specific opportunities. The book does not provide guidance in locating services outside of school for support.
Each chapter ends with student interviews, resource documents and websites related to the chapter. The student interviews are with two education majors. This is a significant limitation of perspective. Education professors are likely to a) be the best instructors in a college or university because of their training in teaching and b) be most familiar with instructing students with disabilities. Furthermore, the programs are more likely to be full of students who are most likely to be motivated to react positively to peers with disabilities. Students in other courses of study may not be well represented by these two interviews.
The resource documents are useful, but the text offers limited advice on what to do with them. Chapter 3, for example is on picking the right college. It includes a two page preferences document on pages 66-7. Individuals are instructed to fill it out and use the information on their search. They offer limited advice on how to find the information out or even how to use it when you have it. Students may need lots of support to complete this.
Overall this book is a good beginning and very accessible. It is not, however, very deep and further information will definitely be required. Good transition planning at the high school level will be invaluable to student success. Families, students and schools need to work together in the research and teaching that go into getting ready for post-high school experiences.