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5 Pieces of Advice to Parents of a Child With Disabilities Going Off to College

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I’m not a parent of a human, so I can’t completely understand what you are going through, but my parents went through this when I broke family tradition and attended out-of-state college. It was one of the best things I’ve ever done.

Our graduating class was tiny and close and I was quite anxious about moving away to college, especially since most of my friends would not be joining me. Thankfully, my parents supported my decision and were proactive in helping me have a great experience.

Here are five pieces of advice for parents of children with a disability who are going off to college for the first time: 

1. Support your child’s decision. Supporting them is one step in helping them maintain independence. If money is a concern, help your child research possible scholarships to defray the cost.

2. Do research on doctors in the area that would help with your child’s specific needs. I needed a urologist, an orthopedist and a neurologist. Fortunately, the tiny town I landed in for my first two years of college had all three. We were even able to meet with them during a college visit.

3. If your child has issues walking long distances, look into purchasing a battery-operated scooter. This will save your child’s joints in traversing large campuses that may have many hills. This will also help carry all their books. Of course cost is a big hindrance, so look into vocational rehabilitation services in your area for assistance. We were able to purchase a battery-operated scooter through vocational rehab right before I entered college and it was a life-saver many times.

4. Now is a great time to contact your college’s “Student Life” office to talk to them about your child’s specific needs. During a visit, you’ll be able to see if there are things that may need to be modified for accessibility. Bring this up during the visit and when you call check up on any progress that has been made.

5. This next one is universal and doesn’t just apply to those with a disability — Before you send your child off to college out-of-state, grab a small notebook and write down things they need to remember. For example, remind them what clothes have to be dry-cleaned or hung on a rack to dry. If they are disabled and have medical equipment to care for, include that as well. Divide the notebook into sections such as laundry and equipment maintenance and put sticky flags on each section. My mom did this for me and it was so handy when I was in college. I even used it after graduation.

Leaving a child at college, especially a disabled child, can be hard on parents. I hope these five tips help you cope. Remember, you are not alone!

Follow this journey on Be-Anxious-About-Nothing.

Originally published: December 6, 2015
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