In my last blog post (Smooth Moves: Transitioning to University), I talked about the transition process for students moving from high school to college or university, and the idea that many students are unprepared for the changes they will find when they reach post-secondary (with or without a disability). In “Predicting Success (and Why Hope Matters)”, I talked about the six qualities which researchers have identified which distinguish successful students with learning disabilities from those who are less successful. But there are also some specific, concrete things which high school students approaching this transition can do to get ready.
- Discover yourself
- Understand your report, your diagnosis, and your disability
- Learn and use your technology
- Understand your rights and responsibilities
- Learn about the schools and programs you are considering (and choose appropriate classes)
- Connect with Disability Services staff and familiarize yourself with available services
- Document your disability with the school you choose
Most of these things are self-explanatory, but what does it actually mean to “discover yourself”? Well, in part it means that you need to understand the small piece of you that is the learning disability. It’s not a weakness or a character flaw, and it should never define who you are. But…the more you understand what makes you tick, the ways in which you learn best, your cognitive strengths and challenges, your learning preferences, and how your particular brain is best able to process information, then the better chance you have to make good program and course selections, and to implement study skills and strategies that are just the right fit for you. The better you understand yourself, the better prepared you can be for the beginning of life after high school, whether that means university, college, or the work world.
So where do you begin to learn about this stuff? You can start by participating in your own IPRC process. You can start by reading and understanding your IEP (Individual Education Plan). You can have a discussion with your Learning Support Teacher about your specific accommodations and why they make sense for you. You can talk to your parents and/or psychologist about your diagnosis and your report (if you have a recent one). You can take time to meet with your Guidance Counsellor and have a better understanding of your own abilities, aptitude and interests . And armed with this information, you can make smart choices, and begin implementing an arsenal of study strategies that allow you to tap into your significant learning and processing strengths.
And when should you begin thinking about these things? NOW! It doesn’t matter whether you are in Grade 9 or Grade 12. If you are failing to plan, you are planning to fail, and it’s never too early to start the process of knowing and understanding yourself, both as a human being and as a student. Armed with the right kind of information, you will be able to walk confidently into the future you have imagined for yourself, and seize the success that is waiting there. So start learning and planning now as you consider your future, and make your transition from high school as smooth as possible.