Supporting Students with Disabilities
College is an important time for students to establish their independence and learn to advocate for themselves. You can support your student by encouraging him/her to take responsibility for the impact a disability may have on his/her academic and residential life. Encourage him/her to contact the DSO for information on accommodations. Emerson offers other resources to students, such as the Lacerte Family Writing and Academic Resource Center (WARC), Counseling and Psychological Services, the Center for Health and Wellness, and the Office of Housing and Residence Life.
Encouraging Students to Seek Accommodation
Students may resist contacting the DSO for many reasons. Some students transitioning to college may want to leave behind the “special education” label, or they may feel they don’t need “help” with their work. Some students may feel shame about their disabilities, have negative feelings about being “labeled,” or worry their work will be devalued if they disclose their disabilities to their professors.
However, the role of the DSO is not to help students with disabilities through college or give them an unfair advantage. Our goal is to arrange accommodations to give them the same opportunities to succeed as other students. You can help your student understand that disability is a normal part of life, and encourage him/her to ask for accommodations to benefit from the educational experience.
Your student must ultimately decide whether or not to seek accommodations, but you can guide his/her decision by encouraging a positive attitude toward disabilities. Affirm your son/daughter’s independence by reminding your son/daughter that you trust his/her decision-making abilities.
FERPA and Disclosure
According to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1976 (FERPA), once a student is enrolled in a post-secondary institution, the student is the sole guardian of his/her records, including grades, transcripts, and records of interactions with the DSO. If a student would like to share this information with you, he/she can sign a release form.
Since students’ contact with the DSO is completely confidential, none of their peers need to know they have a disability, and their professors will not know the nature of their disability.
The NCSET Parent Brief provides helpful advice for parents on supporting their children with disabilities entering post-secondary education.