Open Letter to Parents/Guardians

 

Dear Parents and Guardians,

On behalf of the Office of Accessible Education and Student Support, welcome to Bates!

While this is no doubt an exciting time for you and your student, we know the transition to college can also be a time of uncertainty about what comes next. For students with disabilities and their families, there is often an added layer of unease about accommodations in college. The purpose of this letter is to acknowledge this, share information, and provide suggestions for how to best support and empower your student through the process.

As you may already know, there are significant differences between disability services and related legal requirements at the high school and college levels. I would like to offer a resource from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, Students with Disabilities Preparing for Postsecondary Education, which I have found particularly helpful in highlighting some of these differences.

One of the key changes in college is that the student needs to initiate services and be their own advocate. Through this transition, many students are able to become more self-aware, develop independence, and practice advocating for their needs- skills they will need during their Bates career and beyond! We also know this change can be scary for students and parents. It’s possible that, up to this point, you have needed to be very involved in your student’s educational planning and support. As an older sibling to an individual with a disability, I know my sister would not have received the services she needed in K-12 without my parents’ tireless advocacy on her behalf.

However, now that your student is in college, educational privacy laws limit what information we can share with parents. Beyond this, your student will be working directly with us regarding accommodations and any related issues. They will also need to communicate directly with their professors regarding the implementation of any approved accommodations. We know parents and guardians can be a great source of support and we encourage students to share information with their families, if they wish. If you do feel the need to contact our office, the rule is generally that students be included in this conversation so we can all work together and remain on the same page.

Self-advocacy may or may not be a new skill for your student. Some students may be very confident in articulating how their disability impacts them and what they anticipate needing in college, while others may not. We understand this and have provided some Tips for Self-Advocacy when Requesting Services as a guide for students leading up to the initial meeting with me. We do not make a determination about an accommodation request based solely on medical documentation and information shared by the student is just as critical a component of the accommodation request process.

The initial meeting with me, part of the formal request process, is an opportunity to answer any questions your student may have about accessible education, differences between high school and college, and what to expect while at Bates. It is also an opportunity for us to learn more about your student, their strengths and challenge areas, and their past experiences so we can better understand their needs, identify resources that may be helpful, and come to a determination about any accommodations for which they may be eligible. This process can be completed over the summer so incoming students can know what to expect by the time they arrive to campus.

Parents and guardians can be an important support to students in preparing for the transition to disability services at the college level. We encourage you to have a conversation with your student about this process and what information they want to share with us. You may find our resources page helpful in this context.

We view parents as partners and appreciate you taking the time to read and consider the information in this letter. We very much look forward to meeting your student and welcoming them into the Bates community.

Sincerely,

Abigail Nelson

Assistant Dean of Accessible Education and Student Support