A Bridge to Independence
by Linda Narun, M.A., CCC-SLP

When children are in grade school or younger, parents and teachers more easily recognize the learning differences that exist within them, and readily establish different programs to meet the needs of these students. Generally, we are aware of students in kindergarten and their varying degrees of maturity and readiness to learn. Many schools have introduced "bridge" classes for kindergartners who are not ready for the first grade. Children are given an extra year in the bridge class to acquire information at their own pace. When such a class is not available, the repetition of kindergarten is suggested to give the child more time to develop, both academically and emotionally.

As a child grows older and enters more advanced educational years, like middle or high school, it becomes more difficult to slow the pace of learning. During these years, it is the responsible adults in the child's life who ensure that appropriate accommodations and therapy are provided to the child at school. Not only teachers and therapists, but parents also work very hard at home to help the child be successful in the face of his or her developmental challenges.

As the child matures into a young adult, we become less and less aware of and concerned about developmental issues. We assume that if a child has graduated from high school, he or she has managed to close the learning gaps. While most students are ready to take on the academic and social rigors of college life, some are not. There are a growing number of students who have not been able to develop the self-management skills needed to leave home, to be independent, and to be successful in college. It is everyone's desire that these stu-dents are able to leave the nurturing and supportive arms of their parents and teachers; however, the truth is that while it may still be easy to secure admission into a college, they may not have attained the developmental level to graduate from it.

By helping students understand the developmental issues that stand in the way of successfully "leaving home", they can become mature learners who are ready to take on the challenges of college life. The College Assistance Program (CAP) at the Tarnow Center has been developed to help families and students bridge the "developmental gap" that has not been closed. It offers students the support that is required to be independent and successful. The program offers therapeutic support, tutorials, and coaching to monitor the student's success. CAP uses a collaborative co-management approach and maintains close contact with the students' instructors as well as parents. It is our hope that by the end of the "bridge" program, students will be ready to move farther afield, and enjoy success at the level of their choosing.

The educational portion of the College Assistance Program will be tailored to meet students' individual needs. Some basic aspects of the program will include:

  • A thorough and in-depth evaluation will be done to help professionals at the Center understand the student's learning strengths and weaknesses, their executive functioning level, and how these contribute to the student's ability to be successful. In addition, a thorough knowledge of the student's skills, development, and learning differences will be gained by reviewing past evaluations and reports. This will enable us to develop an individualized treatment plan for the student.
  • A meeting between the student, student's family and Tarnow Center professionals will be held to establish a detailed program of support and to sign a contract for success.
  • Co-management which can include assistance with initiating and maintaining communication with the special services department at the school to establish accommodations as required by the law will be provided. If desired, the co-manager will accompany the student to the ADA office on campus. Until the student is fully capable of working independently with school personnel, a co-manager at the Center will provide assistance. Lastly, legal consultation and advocacy will also be available.
  • Individual tutoring by tutors who will be knowledgeable in specific subject areas will be available. Additionally, information about the student's learning style will be provided to the tutor by the educational therapist so that information can be presented in a manner that will promote learning. Our tutors will be trained by Lynn Ayres, M.Ed. and Linda Narun, M.A., CCC-SLP on how to teach test-taking skills specific to the student's learning needs. Students will learn how to take different tests like, multiple choice, fill in the blank, essay questions, etc.
  • Learning therapy to help students with organizational and study skills is critical to closing the developmental gap. Therapists will work with tutors to direct teaching and to follow progress. Therapy will also assist students to develop strategies to establish educational goals, gain insight into their planning skills, and learn how to execute study plans. In addition, students will learn time management skills, such as the length of time they are able to concentrate, estimate how long an activity or task will take and thus enable them to develop a working calendar. These skills will enable them to keep up with their studies. Assistance from therapists will be ongoing while these skills are acquired.
  • Co-management will include communication with the student's current professors, teachers, and all other professionals who are working with the student to increase everyone's awareness of the student's difficulties and appropriate accommodations, to ensure that everyone is working towards the same goals for the student, and to track the student's progress outside of the Center. Communication will also be maintained with the office of disability services at the student's college to ensure that the student will receive the appropriate assistance and accommodations required to succeed in college.
  • Co-management will assist the student in choosing a major and understanding the role of college in future plans.
  • Parents will be provided with a "report card" of the student's progress in the program.

The frequency of the above services rendered will depend on the student's individual needs based on our multidisciplinary team's evaluation. The student will meet with our team at the Center on a regular basis to get feedback on the progress being made in the College Assistance Program. In doing so, the student will learn to be accountable to his or her self, parents, therapists, and teachers.

Our goal in this program is to use an integrated care approach to help motivated students learn how to succeed in college and fulfill their goals in the educational path of their choice. Ultimately, the success the students achieve must be their own so that they can value their ability to move on to the next phase of their career with confidence.

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