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Disability Support Services

202 Wilson Hall
371 Wilson Boulevard
Rochester, MI 48309-4454
(location map)
(248) 370-3266
Fax: (248) 370-4327
[email protected]

Office Hours:
Mon-Fri: 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Disability Support Services

202 Wilson Hall
371 Wilson Boulevard
Rochester, MI 48309-4454
(location map)
(248) 370-3266
Fax: (248) 370-4327
[email protected]

Office Hours:
Mon-Fri: 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

two women looking at a book, standing between two shelves lined with books

Parent Resources

As a parent, you may feel apprehension and uncertainty as your student with a disability enters college. We're here to support your student as he/she develops self-awareness and self-advocacy - two of the biggest indicators of college success. Learn how you can contribute to that success and pave the way for your student to have the best college experience.
Role of Parents
Role of Parents of Students with Disabilities in the Accommodation Process
  • Understand that your student is now treated as an adult in the college system.
  • Learn about the differences between the high school accommodation process and the college accommodation process.
  • Respect the fact that some students will not want to initially use college accommodations even though high school accommodations were used; it’s the student’s choice.
  • Balance the need to let your student share his personal story with you sharing your student’s story; the DSS will work with you and will acknowledge your perspective, but we need to work with your student first and foremost.
  • Find a healthy balance of knowing when to become actively involved in a situation; give your student an opportunity to learn. 
  • Realize that most course instructors will want to work with your student directly, not a parent; if you are really concerned about a classroom situation, contact the DSS office.
  • Appreciate the fact that successful college students do not often have the highest GPA, but rather are the most independent students who are great self-advocates and sound managers of life’s details.
Transitioning From High School

Differences Between High School and College for Students with Disabilities

  • Applicable Laws:
    • High School
      • IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act)
      • Section 504, Rehabilitation Act of 1973
      • IDEA is about success
    • College
      • ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Title II)
      • Section 504, Rehabilitation Act of 1973, particular reference to Subpart E.
      • ADA is about equal access
  • Required Documentation:
    • High School
      • IEP (Individual Education Plan) and/or 504 Plan
      • School provides evaluation
      • Documentation focuses on determining whether student is eligible for services based on specific disability categories in IDEA
    • College
      • High school IEP and 504 may not be sufficient. Documentation guidelines specify information required
      • Student responsible for cost of evaluation
      • Documentation must provide information on specific functional limitations, and demonstrate the need for specific accommodations
  • Self-Advocacy:
    • High School
      • School District identifies students with disabilities
      • School District responsible for developing educational plan
      • Teachers approach you if they believe you need assistance
    • College
      • Student must self-identify to the Office of Disability Services
      • Primary responsibility for self-advocacy and arranging accommodations belongs to the student
      • Professors are usually open and helpful, but most expect you to initiate contact if you need assistance
  • Parental Role:
    • High School
      • Parent has access to student records and can participate in the accommodation process
      • Parent advocates for student
    • College
      • Parent does not have access to student records without student's written consent (FERPA)
      • Student advocates for own needs
  • Instruction:
    • High School
      • Teachers may modify curriculum and/alter curriculum & pace of assignments
      • Short assignments are read and discussed and often re-taught in class
      • You seldom need to read anything more than once; sometimes listening in class is enough
    • College
      • Professors are not required to modify design or alter assignments that fundamentally alter the course
      • You are assigned substantial amounts of reading and writing, which may not be directly addressed in class
      • You need to review class notes and text and material regularly
  • Grades and Tests:
    • High School
      • IEP or 504 plans may include modifications to test format and/or grading
      • Testing is frequent and covers small amounts of material
      • Makeup tests are often available
      • Teachers often take time to remind you of assignments and due dates
    • College
      • Grading and test format changes (i.e. multiple choice vs. essay) are generally not available
      • Testing is usually infrequent and may be cumulative, covering large amounts of material
      • Makeup tests are rarely an option and usually not a reasonable accommodation
      • Professors expect you to read, save, and consult the course syllabus (outline); the syllabus explains what is expected, when it is due, and how you will be graded
  • Study Responsibilities:
    • High School
      • Tutoring and study support may be a service provided as part of an IEP or 504 plan
      • Your time and assignments are structured by others
      • You may study outside class as little as 0 to 2 hours a week, and this may be mostly last-minute test preparation
    • College
      • Tutoring is not managed through Disability Services. Students with disabilities can seek out tutoring resources at the ASC & available to all OU students
      • You manage your own time and complete assignments independently
      • You need to study at least 2 to 3 hours outside of class for each hour in class

Student Myths and Misconceptions

  1. I can make arrangements with the DSS office to wake me up in the morning, make sure I get to class/exams, help me get organized, and remind me of deadlines.
    Truth: Items of a personal nature are the responsibility of the student. The institution expects that students can get to class and be responsible as part of being ”otherwise qualified.”
  2. Because of my disability, admission and/or graduation requirements can be altered/flexible.
    Truth: Established requirements – admission, graduation, course, GPA, code of conduct, etc. are the same for all students.
  3. Accommodations are supposed to guarantee that I will pass my classes.
    Truth: Accommodations are meant to provide equal access and equal opportunity. Access is no guarantee of success.
  4. DSS/OU will provide transportation from my home to campus.
    Truth: Equal access to transportation is required. If none exists, there is no responsibility to create a system for students with disabilities.
  5. I sent my documentation to the admissions office so I will be taken care of.
    Truth: DSS is the designated office on campus to verify eligibility for services and maintain confidential disability records.
  6. Absences will automatically be excused if I am sick or if it is disability related.
    Truth: Attendance is usually considered an “essential requirement” and is subject to the attendance policy of the professor.
  7. Colleges are required to provide one-on-one tutoring.
    Truth: Tutoring is considered “personal” and outside the scope of accommodations. All students have access to tutoring, study skills workshops, time management, test-taking strategies etc. offered through The Tutoring Center. 
Students have rights and responsibilities under ADA.
DSS Versus Special Education
What are a university’s responsibilities to students with disabilities, and how do these responsibilities differ from a school’s responsibilities under special education law (IDEA)?

Students who have been served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) while in elementary or secondary school often harbor some misconceptions about a university’s responsibilities to persons with disabilities and the range of services a post-secondary institution is required to provide. Though post-secondary institutions such as Oakland University do have a legal responsibility (under section 504 or the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the American with Disabilities Act) to make their programs and services accessible to persons with disabilities, the broad mandated responsibilities that elementary and secondary schools incur under the IDEA don’t apply to post-secondary institutions.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is an “entitlement” law intended to guarantee persons with disabilities a free and appropriate primary and secondary education that allows for achievement. Within this educational framework, funding is mandated to identify children with significant problems and provide them with appropriate services that facilitate successful learning. Aggressive measures, including the substantial alteration of academic course requirements, are often used to assure the success of students in special education programs.

In contrast, section 504 and the ADA are “non-discrimination” statutes that are based on a civil rights model. They aren’t entitlement laws, and they don’t guarantee successful learning or mandate the creation of special programs for persons with disabilities. Instead, section 504 and the ADA guarantee that the simple presence of a disability cannot be used as the basis for denying an otherwise qualified student equal “access to the same programs, services and facilities available to others. Simply stated, the goal of section 504 and the ADA is to remove barriers and to guarantee reasonable accommodations so that persons with disabilities have an opportunity to participate at the level enjoyed by the average person.

Pursuant to the Federal Rehabilitation Act, Oakland University will make reasonable modifications to its academic requirements as are necessary to ensure that such requirements do not discriminate or have the effect of discriminating, on the basis of disability, against a qualified disabled applicant or student; provided however, that no modifications will be made to requirements essential to the instruction being pursued by such student or to any directly related licensing requirement.  Reasonable modifications may include changes in the length of time permitted for the completion of degree requirements, substitution of specific courses required for the completion of degree requirements, and adaptation of the manner in which specific courses are conducted.  Similarly, pursuant to the Federal Americans with Disabilities Act, Oakland University will make reasonable modifications in polices, practices, or procedures when the modifications are necessary to avoid discrimination on the basis of disability; provided however, no modifications will be made that will fundamentally alter the nature of the services, program, or activity.
Letter From Jane
An Open Letter to Parents of Students with Disabilities About to Enter College

Dear Parents,

I have been working in the area of students with disabilities at the college level for more than 30 years, but that is not why I am writing to you today. I am writing as a parent, and thus as someone who shares all your current anxieties. My daughter, who graduated from high school in early June, will be going away to college this Fall. She has Cerebral Palsy, uses a wheelchair, and has limited speech capabilities, so you can be assured that I have been very involved in the educational programming and planning she has received during her years in the public school system. I wanted to be involved, but I also needed to be involved since, by law, the school could not do anything for, to, or with my daughter regarding her disability without my permission. I sat through countless IEP meetings over the years, I was insistent on certain issues of academic support when I needed to be, and I agonized over everything from teacher selection to her successful social integration with classmates. And now, as I prepare to pack her up and take her off to college in the Fall, I recognize that this role has ended for me – and the word “anxious” doesn’t even begin to describe my feelings.

If you are worried that your child with a disability will have a difficult time making a successful transition to college without your involvement… then you are probably right to be worried. Very few children with disabilities can succeed at the college level. On the other hand, students with disabilities survive and thrive on college campuses across the country. If you still think of your son or daughter as your “child,” and they still are comfortable in accepting that role, it is time to take a careful look at where you have come from and what lies before you. As parents, it is time for us to step back and allow/encourage/gently nudge our SWD’s (Students With Disabilities) to assume significant independent responsibility for their own lives, both academically and personally.

As you and your SWD prepare to visit campus for that initial meeting with a disability service provider at the college, you would do well to think about what can be accomplished at this initial meeting, what needs to be said – and who is going to say it!!! As I approach that same milestone with my daughter, I find myself a little panicky, realizing that there are things about her disability and how it impacts on her functioning that I know and that the disability services provider needs to know, and that I may not have many chances to say. There is no doubt that I can explain those things more fully than my daughter can explain them (or even understands them!). And it doesn’t matter. Much as I hate it, I know that SHE has to be the one to convey all this crucial information (not me!), for a number of reasons.

First, colleges and universities provide services and support to SWD under very different laws than those that governed services in the K-12 system. As a parent, I have no rights under Section 504/ADA in speaking for my SWD who is in college. (If you aren’t sure what “Section 504/ADA” means in this context, perhaps the disability service provider you meet with will have gathered some information that helps explain the differences between settings, both legally and practically. Two of my favorite websites for learning more are at the U.S. Department of Education and the George Washington University of Health Resources.

The services and support available to SWD are sometimes very different than what was provided in high school, and the college is under no obligation to continue the services given in high school or to adhere to the recommendations of an outside diagnostician. The college will make its own determination of what services and support to offer, based on the documentation of disability and their interview with your SWD. There are no IEP’s in college, there is no place to sign off with my parental approval. Indeed, the college doesn’t legally have to care whether I am satisfied or not. My daughter is responsible for her own destiny now.

More importantly, while this may be your last chance to convey all that important information on to the college, it is your SWD’s first chance to convey that information all by himself/herself. Don’t spoil that opportunity, and don’t interfere. Remember, while you and your SWD are learning more about the campus, the resources, and the people who will be there to help when needed, the disability service provider is learning more about your son/daughter, as well. You want their first impression to be one that is positive and reassuring. The service provider is anxious to find out whether your SWD is mature enough to handle the responsibilities and independence of college life. Here are some specific suggestions for helping your SWD to shine in this newly focused spotlight:
  • DON’T be insulted if you are not invited to sit in on the initial meeting between your SWD and the disability services folks. Some institutions have found that it is helpful for them to speak directly (and alone!) to the student in order to get a feel for how knowledgeable and confident s/he is in sharing information about past services, what works and doesn’t work, and what accommodations they hope to have at the college level. You will get a chance to ask your questions, but recognize that it may come later, rather than sooner.

  • If you are invited to sit in on the meeting with the disability services folks, DO acknowledge your SWD as the authority on their disability-related needs by making it clear that you believe they have all the answers! Try focusing your visual attention on your son/daughter instead of trying to make eye contact with the interviewer. If you look to your SWD, so will the professional.

  • DON’T begin any sentence with “S/He needs to have…” Instead, you can try, “In high school, s/he had…” or “The person who tested him/her suggested…” but it would actually be better if you said nothing at all! Try to talk as little as possible in the meeting. This is not your meeting. Remember, you are there as an observer, not as a participant.

  • DO take some time prepping your son/daughter in advance on the issues that you think need to be discussed – the things that you would say if you had the chance. Make a list of the topics you would bring up, explain why you think each is important, and make sure your SWD has the list in hand when s/he goes into the interview. Rehearse with your son/daughter, if they will let you. If they are typical teens and aren’t comfortable sitting through that kind of rehearsal, settle for making them sit and listen while you demonstrate how you would approach certain subjects. For example, “I think you should tell them about how the teachers arranged for extra time for you on tests when you were in high school. I’d probably say, ‘In high school, I was allowed extra time for tests in English because it takes me a long time to put my thoughts in writing, but I never needed it in Math.’” Your SWD may not acknowledge the strategies you share, but you may be surprised to hear those words come out of his/her mouth at the interview!

  • DON’T interrupt. If you disagree with something the disability service provider says, or if your SWD says something that you know is incorrect, or if you see your SWD agreeing with/to something when you know they have no idea what they are agreeing to – DON’T INTERRUPT! Let the interview play out. Give the disability service provider a chance to draw your SWD out further, give your SWD an opportunity to clarify matters, or simply wait to see if the confusion/disagreement remains. It is important to know just how independent and accurate students are in describing their needs. You will get your chance.

  • DO prompt your son/daughter to speak up and share those important points as the interview progresses. Instead of explaining to the disability service provider why Johnny needs a calculator in math classes, turn to Johnny and say, “Why don’t you explain to Ms. ____ why it is important for you to have a calculator for math and science classes. Is it because you have trouble lining up the columns, or because you have trouble remembering basic math facts or ????” Give an open-ended question that encourages your SWD to flesh out the response. At the same time, you are hinting to the interviewer that there is an issue here to be discussed (See? I told you that you would get your chance!)
Why not take notes as the interview progresses? When your son/daughter has exhausted the list of topics to discuss, and the disability service provider has shared all the information they thought was important, it is YOUR turn to talk. Go ahead and ask your questions. The most important thing to remember now is that you do not want to undermine your son/daughter’s credibility. If you have more information to share on a given subject, try starting the sentence with, “As Susie told you, she has used…” and then add whatever you need to on top of information already given. If you think your SWD gave incorrect information, tread carefully. You might say, “I was surprised to hear Jane say _____. I would have said _____, because…” You’ll get your point across without directly contradicting what your son/daughter said. Your goal is to assure both the SWD and the disability service provider that you are supportive of their budding understanding, and simply want to share another viewpoint.

An old adage maintains: There are only two things a parent can give to a child… One is roots. The other is wings.

It is time for our kids to solo. That is a scary thought for us, as parents, and it is sure to be scary for them, too. That’s OK. This is what we have all been working towards for a long time. Remember, your son/daughter will call, email, or text if they need you. They know what you can do for them, but now it is time for them to go it alone. Take a deep breath, cross your fingers, wish them well – and walk away. All will be well!

Best of luck,

Jane Jarrow Proud (and Terrified) Mom