Kathy Bates
unh students on campus

Hi Kathy,

I work as a Case Manager at the high school level. Many of my students are college-bound and we try hard to prepare them for post-secondary skills. What can we do to prepare them for college? Both academically and socially. I try and put a lot of effort into helping my kids build self-advocacy skills to be successful after high school but would love to hear specific things that would be helpful for special education teachers to focus on to support the success of these students. Thank you,

- Jackie (McKenney) Casey

Hi Jackie,

Thanks for your great question. Self-advocacy skills are very important, and everyone should start building those skills as early as possible. This is especially true for youth who have disabilities. I always say that I am not an expert on anything or anyone other than Kathy Bates. With that in mind, your students need to become experts on themselves.

Some of the information I used to answer your question came from my personal experiences in college. I also have some teaching experience at the University of New Hampshire where I co-taught the class “Contemporary Issues and Developmental Disabilities” for several years. As a part of that class, a representative from Student Accessibility Services would come and present about preparing students with disabilities for college.

Your students need to be able to express their needs to access help. In post-secondary education, the student is in the driver’s seat. They should feel comfortable explaining their disabilities and where they have difficulties, even if they aren’t sure what type of support they need. While students are in college, their parents most likely won’t be there to speak on their behalf. These skills are just as necessary outside of school settings. If they need a doctor’s appointment or seek medical treatment, basic skills like making appointments, asking relevant questions, describing what is bothering them, and following directions are so important.

Time management skills are also vital to a successful college education. Unlike high school, the student is responsible for organizing their day and completing assignments when they are due. When I started college, it took time to get used to the fact that I didn’t have the same classes every day. Sometimes it felt like I had more time than I did. For this reason, time management and study skills are very important. So encourage students to learn to use a calendar app and other assistive technology that works best for them.

The good news is that in college there is usually a club or student group for everyone. The best way to be included is to participate. That is why I would encourage your students to join a club in high school, take part in social activities, and get comfortable with a diverse group of their peers. Your students will be dealing with all this newfound freedom in college, and they will have to learn to pace themselves. This is one of the hardest lessons for any student to learn.

As a high school case manager, you should encourage parents to take a step back and give the student a chance to make decisions for themself. This will help them develop the advocacy skills that they need, not only in college but in their adult lives.

Life is full of challenges such as post-secondary education and landing a great job. Most students need time to think about their options, plan, and figure out what to do after high school. The University of New Hampshire offers a training series called Bridges. This online free course is designed to prepare young adults ages 18 to 24 with intellectual disabilities for higher education, independent living, and careers. The topics include:

  • Tools for Academic Success
  • Setting & Realizing Goals Using Person-Centered Planning
  • Healthy & Social Aspects of Life
  • Next Steps in Person-Centered Planning

The Bridges Training Series could give your students a chance to connect with other young adults, learn about college life, and think about their futures. The disability community will always need educated, strong advocates who are not afraid to express themselves.

Thank you for all the work you do.

Kathy Bates