Can Students With Learning Disabilities Get Special Accommodations In College?

By Danny Ruderman


The answer is absolutely yes. Now obviously, there are different types of disabilities—there are physical disabilities and learning disabilities, and both can get accommodations through the same office. This office is typically called the Office of Student Disabilities, and one of the best ways that I tell parents to find out exactly what a college offers is simply to call and ask them. Explain your son or daughter’s situation, whatever it is, and ask what they offer. Ask if there’s a separate application. And ask if there’s a cost involved because each school has a different set of rules and accommodations that it can offer.

For example, the University of Arizona has the S.A.L.T Program. It’s a separate program in a separate building. It also has a separate application that students have to use to submit documentation that describes their disability so that the program can best evaluate what accommodations to provide. For example the S.A.L.T. program has note takers, tutors, and many other resources for students with learning disabilities.

Other schools have similar programs, but they might not have as many accommodations, so you’re going to want to compare who offers what. There’s actually a book that you can get that lists hundreds of colleges in the country and what they offer students with disabilities. It is called the K&W Guide to College Programs and Services for Students with Learning Disabilities or ADHD. It’s actually in the eleventh edition already.  (

A lot of parents also want to know whether their child should even say anything about his or her disability. I’m a big proponent of being an advocate. Now if a student has a disability and is getting straight As, it doesn’t really matter whether or not a student describes the learning disability because proof is in the pudding. The student is getting good grades, and if the student needs accommodations, he or she can get them once he or she gets on campus.

At the same time, a college is not going to look down on a student just because he or she has reports a learning disability.  Let’s say that a student really struggles in math because of discalculia or some other specific math learning disability. I often have students describe their disability and the challenges they went through in a supplemental essay to order to explain a bad math grade. Let’s give it some context. It should be noted that I don’t usually have students write about their disability in their personal statement, but I will take the extra section in the Common Application (most applications have an extra additional information section where you can explain things).

The bottom line is that colleges want to know about you. They want to make sure that they give you the kinds of support so you can be successful.

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