In my time as a high school teacher, I worked with my fair share of teenagers who engaged in … challenging behavior. But the students that concerned me the most were those who did not have at least one trusting, positive relationship with some adult in school. In these scenarios, my fear stemmed from how little we know about the emotional state of our students at such a vulnerable part of their development. It was too easy to miss signs of& serious distress and even easier to miss crucial opportunities to help them expand their abilities or sense of possibilities. Their classwork and their grades could maybe tell us what, or if, they were learning; but we had few answers to the most essential question: how are they handling the critical challenges of adolescence? That so many of us have a story about a teacher (or some other caring adult) who played a critical role in guiding us through adolescence is a testament to the power and importance of the connections we should strive to make with our students.
Although it took almost two years from initial proposal to publication, we now contemplate with satisfaction and some pride From Disability to Diversity: College Success for Students with Learning Disabilities, ADHD, and Autism Spectrum Disorder. It encompasses many of the ideas that make Landmark College an exceptional learning environment for students who learn differently, but adapts them for application at colleges that are not specialized. We wanted to “provide useful information for those working in postsecondary contexts who are not yet experts in supporting these students,” as well as a layperson’s overview of recent advances in neuro-cognitive research and social justice advocacy that undergird the approaches we promote.
Earlier this month, I drove past a local park where volunteers were preparing for a 5k run to support Autism Speaks. Given that April is Autism Awareness month, I wasn’t surprised to see the blue t-shirts and puzzle pieces. However, I was surprised to see a small group of protestors with a sign that read: “Autistic people are already speaking. LISTEN.” The sign and the courage it takes to protest a charity event was a powerful reminder of the opposition to Autism Speaks among autistic self-advocates. But I also read it as a clear expression of a core demand of the disability rights movement: “nothing about us without us”. It is a demand that is too often unheeded: autistic people are routinely denied self-determination and excluded from the process of making social policy that dramatically impact their lives.
One explanation for why students with learning disabilities are not successfully completing postsecondary programs is that they are not disclosing their disability to their college or university, and, therefore, are not eligible for disability-related accommodations. In fact, only 24% of students with LD inform their college or university of their disability. With this in mind, Landmark College’s Lead Education Specialist Dr. Adam Lalor and his colleagues conducted an analysis of data from the National Longitudinal Transition Study 2 (NLTS2) to better understand the effect of support use on the college persistence and completion of all students with LD — those who disclose their LD to their college or university and those who do not disclose.
We often get asked for strategies that help teach appropriate social communication skills to students, especially for neurodivergent students. A few tips: Student with…