Disability Self-Determination BreakThru Points

BreakThru Points

As a student with a disability, you face unique challenges as you plan for college. Students with disabilities that are successful in college demonstrate self-determination skills. Self-determination involves:

  1. Understanding your rights
  2. Understanding your disability and how it impacts your learning
  3. Setting goals
  4. Knowing how to communicate your disability and academic-related needs

Students who understand themselves and their disability and have the confidence to act in their own best interests can create a successful college experience.

1.Understand Your Rights

In order for you to have an equal opportunity for success, you need to know what you need to do and what the college is required to do.


Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
  • Statute entitles children (kindergarten – 12th grade) with disabilities the opportunity to receive a free appropriate public education.
  • School is responsible for identifying students with disabilities
  • School is responsible to evaluate the child at no cost to the family
  • School is responsible to arrange and implement accommodations and special education services
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act
  • Civil rights legislation to prevent discrimination against persons with disabilities under any entity that receives Federal funds.
  • Law requires colleges to make reasonable and appropriate accommodation to provide access to the college programs and activities.
Americans with Disabilities Act
  • The purpose of this law is to provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities.
  • The ADA applies to all institutions of higher education regardless of receipt of Federal funds.

If you believe your rights have been violated, colleges have informal and formal methods to resolve the issue.

  • The disability provider at the college can assist you in resolving disability complaints informally by acting as a liaison between you and the college.
  • If the issue cannot be resolved informally, you can access a formal Tabela to have grievance procedures related to discrimination.
  • You also have the right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

2. Understanding Your Disability

Being self-determined in high school will help you succeed in college. You have to know about your disability so you can ask for assistance in college. These practices will help you learn about yourself and practice self-determination skills:

Review Your High School File. Meet with your Individual Education Plan (IEP) team and your parents to discuss your disability and learning strategies. Ask the following questions:
  • What is my disability?
  • How does it affect my learning?
  • What is my learning style?
  • What accommodations and strategies help me learn the best?
  • Can I have copies of my IEP and evaluation reports?

Activity # 1: Disability Worksheet. Complete the Understanding Your Disability Worksheet to help you better understand your disability and how it affects your learning

Meet With Your Evaluator
  • Ask the same questions above so that you get a complete and clear understanding of your disability.
Take An Active Role In Your IEP Meetings
  • Participate in discussions to practice communicating your disability-related needs.
  • Learn about your strengths and limitations.
  • Gain valuable knowledge that can influence your services in high school and those you request in college.

3. Communicating Your Needs Through Self-Advocacy

An essential component of self-advocacy is communicating your needs so that you acquire can the necessary accommodations and supports to be successful. The ability to talk about your disability and academic accommodations is important in the college environment where faculty are unaware of your learning needs. Practice communicating about your disability begins in high school with taking an active part in your IEP meetings.

The following communication tips will assist you in taking the lead in your IEP meetings:

  • Complete Understanding Your Disability Worksheet to the IEP meeting as a way to remind you of your talking points
  • Listen to the discussion
  • Express your desires and goals
  • Ask questions
  • Actively pursue your goals in the meeting

4. Activity: Practice Requesting Accommodations

Pair up with another avatar (your mentor or a member of your peer mentor group) and role-play requesting accommodations and using your script. Reverse roles so that you play the part of the student and the teacher.

Becoming a student who is self-determined can improve the transition from high school to college and improve success in college. When teachers and faculty are fully informed, they will be more helpful in anticipating issues, accommodating requests, and making modifications to tests and instruction methods.

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