Office of Counseling
& Disability Services

Information for Parents of Students With Disabilities

Over the years you’ve watched your baby grow and learn, marking each milestone, if not in a memory book, then etched in your heart.   Now he or she is ready to mark one of the greatest milestones yet—college and career.  Perhaps your child is currently in high school preparing for that jubilant jaunt across the stage at graduation.   Perhaps your child is emerging into adulthood attempting to sort out his or her future with all the possibilities that college, career, and an independent self-determined life in the community can bring.  At either stage, these most certainly are exciting times for the both of you!

However, your child is not the only one transitioning.  You are too!  You are entering a new phase of your life, growing older, confronting your own future as your child prepares to launch into adulthood.   Over the last 12 years you’ve mastered how to assure your child a “free appropriate public education”, attended countless meetings to develop your child’s Individualized Education Plan and advocated for them every step of the way. Now as your child enters college and the adult service delivery systems, you leave behind those mandated services for what may appear as a completely new world of “eligibility.  You may hear, “There are no IEPs in college!” and wonder what that means for your child.  Gaining the knowledge and understanding of the college systems and support services will help make your child’s transition into adulthood smoother.

Your role as a parent of a transitioning college student with a disability is very crucial.  It is important for you to understand that college is a radical change from high school.  Supports and services you and your child have become accustomed to in public school will not be the same as in college.  Your child will leave behind routines and supports structured to assure not only access but also success.  In college, your child will face complicated academic and social environments without the benefit of constant reminders to take medication, finish homework, go to bed at a reasonable time, and attend classes whether or not he or she feels like it.  From elementary through high school, your child had benefit of structured constant interaction from teachers and your hands-on help at home.  Now your child will need to rely on the self-sufficiency and self-determination skills taught throughout his or her life to independently ask for support and accommodations, meet class assignment deadlines, become involved in campus social and academic life, and care for personal necessities.

Ways in which you can mentor and support your child with disabilities entering the college setting include: 

  • If they regularly use test accommodations in high school, make sure that the proper paperwork is done with the school counselor and the testing agency for your student to receive test accommodations on the SAT or ACT, so the scores reflect their best work.
  • Encourage, guide, and mentor your child to be directly involvement in his or her IEP planning including leading the meeting while still in high school.
  • Help your child develop and use the skills needed for self-determination and self advocacy.  Your son/daughter will start to advocate for themselves for needed accommodations in college or career.  Help them practice talking about their disability and their needs, strengths and weaknesses in an insightful way. Remember when your child leaves high school you will take on the role as mentor for your child as he or she takes control of making life choices.  Work with the teachers and therapists to identify skills you are able to reinforce at home, and which will foster greater independence for you and your child.
  • Prior to enrollment in college, make sure that your son/daughter has all the paperwork and current documentation needed to obtain disability services.  See Documentation Requirements webpage. 
  • Once you have gathered the necessary paperwork, make copies and turn it over to your son/daughter as the first step toward assuming responsibility.  Help them start a file box of their important papers.  (Make sure that you keep a copy in a safe place).  
  • Encourage your son or daughter to contact the Office of Counseling and Disability Services and set up the initial appointment to request accommodations. You are welcome to come to the intake appointment also, but let them take ownership of initiating the process. 
  • Help your student develop independent living skills before they move onto campus.  It is important that your student know:  
  • how to manage a checkbook
  • how to budget
  • how to avoid problems with credit and debt
  • how to do laundry
  • their medical history
  • current diagnoses, current medications (how to take them and get them)
  • how to eat a balanced diet and prepare simple meals
  • buy groceries
  • how to manage basic car care if they will have a vehicle on campus
  • how to negotiate with roommates and be appropriately assertive when needed
  • what their plans are in case of a campus emergency hurricane evacuation
  • how to keep themselves safe and recognize potentially dangerous situations
  • how to protect themselves against unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases

Students need to have a copy of their health insurance card.  Primary care services are available free on campus Monday through Friday. Students with complex medical conditions should know their doctor’s name and address and when they should make an appointment.  If a student is coming from out of town and needs specialized care, it is strongly recommended that a specialist be found and met with and records transferred before school begins.  

  • Be very clear and up front with your student about your expectations and under what conditions you are willing to continue to provide financial support for education or have them live on campus.  Think of the whole first year as an adjustment and transition period.   Be realistic, but discuss your family values, especially regarding behavior, sexuality and alcohol / drug use, what responsibilities they have and what results you expect.
  • Determine the local agencies from which your child may be eligible to receive assistance:
    • GA Dept of Labor Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services
    • Medicare /Medicaid
    • Social Security Administration
    • Disability transportation services such as Chatham Area Transit ( CAT ) Teleride
    • Local churches Living Independence for Everyone (LIFE)
    • Savannah Association for the Blind (SAB)
    • American Diabetes Association and other national organizations for various illnesses.
    • Local hospitals: Memorial Health University and Candler/St Josephs
  • Encourage your student to use all the resources available on campus such as tutoring through the Student Success Center, Career Services, Residential Services, Counseling and Disability Services or their Academic Advisor when problems arise.  Help your student learn how to start problem solving using the available resources instead of relying on you to do it for them.
  • Encourage them to find a balance with time management.  It is easy to be over-involved in social activities, and groups on campus, especially for students who live on campus.  Too many hours of employment can also substantially limit academic success. Finding time to sleep and exercise helps academic performance. 

The following chart will help you understand the major differences in the applicable laws and division of responsibilities now that your student with a disability is leaving high school and starting college.


Applicable laws: IDEA 2004 mandates eligible students shall receive free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment. Some students may also receive accommodations under Section 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.


Applicable laws: Americans with Disabilities Act 1990 (ADA), ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA) and Section 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. "No otherwise qualified individual with a disability shall, solely by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity."


Parents are required to make sure child attends school to age 16. Appropriate public education is a right.

Parents are under no legal mandate to send child to college at any age. Postsecondary education is not a right - students must meet certain admission criteria.

Public education is free to the family, paid by local and state taxes.

Students are responsible for applying for financial aid, scholarships or arranging other types of payment. Eligibility for funding assistance may require students to attend full-time.


School districts must identify and provide appropriate special education supports and services to eligible students.

Students must self-identify. Colleges have no legal responsibility to identify students with disabilities or involve parents in decision-making.

Parent or some other adult is considered the student's guardian.

Student is considered his/her own legal guardian unless there is a court order to the contrary.


Parents and their children are collaborative team members involved in the decision process of determining eligibility, IEP, placement, supports, fundamental accommodations, and services. The IEP team meets regularly.

No fundamental modifications are required - only accommodations. Students must identify needs and request services. No IEP exists and is not considered sufficient documentation.


School District provides and funds evaluations.

Students are responsible to obtain and pay for own evaluations.

Under IDEA 2004, support and education services are funded through the public school.


Under Section 504 and the ADA, colleges must provide – at no cost to the student — “reasonable accommodations” to make their programs accessible to students with disabilities. Section 504 and the ADA use the term “auxiliary aids and services” to refer to devices and services that make programs and materials available to people with disabilities.


The goal under IDEA is to assure successful postsecondary outcomes.

The goal under ADA is to assure the civil right to equal access.


Students do homework. Parents, teachers, counselors, therapists, classroom aids, administrators and many others support students and encourage them to get their class assignments and homework completed.

Students study. Students are responsible for seeking assistance from the Disability Services Office. Professors expect students to independently read, save, and consult the course syllabus (outline) throughout the course. The syllabus informs the student exactly what is expected of him/her, when it is due, and how it will be graded. 


Provision of personal services for medical and physical disabilities are required (i.e., Personal Care Attendant).

Provision of personal services are not required - however, the Disability Services Office may assist the student in advertising for such services.

Parents may access student records. Parents should expect periodic progress reports and can request a conference at any time. 

Parents have no access to student records without written consent of their child. Parents should not expect college staff to provide reports on student progress or attendance. Student may sign release forms to allow staff to discuss personal information with whomever he/she chooses.


Parents may advocate for their child.

The student must be a self-advocate. Parents are mentors.


School year generally runs September to June with holiday breaks in spring and winter. Summer sessions may be for remediation or enrichment.

School year may be divided into 2 semesters: from September to December and from January to May, and may include shorten summer or intercessions for full course credit.


Classes meet daily, are mandatory by law, and require notes from parent to be excused.

Classes may meet 1, 2, 3, or 4 times a week. Missed classes may affect grade without prior arrangements made between student and professor.


The average length of a class is 35-45 minutes.

Classes vary in length from 50 minutes to 3 hours. Some may be on weekends.

Students meet daily with teachers.

Classes meet less frequently, students must make arrangements to meet with teachers outside of class.

Class size is generally 30 students all the same grade.

Class size may vary from 8 -100 students. Students may be from different majors, levels, and ages.

Counselors advise, fill in, and submit students’ course schedules. The school determines when the student will take the course.


Counselors advise, fill in, and submit students’ course schedules. The school determines when the student will take the course. When accepted and tuition has been paid, students self- select courses, manage course conflicts, determine if they have prerequisites or alternates if the classes are closed. Students seek help from academic advisor. 


Parents and students may find information at the main office building.

Students are responsible for seeking out information and knowing where to go for it.


The school is responsible to inform you and your child about graduation requirements and various diploma options available


Graduation requirements are complex, and differ from year to year. Students are expected to know those that apply (e.g., requirement of a foreign language for one major/one college, may not be the same for another).


*Taken from the Heath Resource Center