Parents & Supporters

For parents, family members, and other adults supporting students.

parent and student on campus

The first year of college is a significant time of transition for you and your student: there are increased responsibilities, opportunities, and challenges for students to embrace as they embark on this new journey. For many families it can be the first time your child is leaving home and moving toward independence, and it is bound to evoke exhilaration and some anxiety. 
While this is an exciting time for students, you may have a variety of questions and concerns as you send your student with disabilities off to college. We understand that families play a crucial role in their student's continuing development and education. We want to welcome you to Seattle University and let you know we see our role as one of partnering with students and parents as they begin this journey and learn to navigate the university system. 

High School versus Higher Education

Disability Laws

The laws that govern disability accommodations in the K-12 setting are different from those that govern college-based disability accommodations. In high school some students receive special education accommodations under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), but when students arrive to college they are served under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The accommodations available at college may be similar to those a student received in high school, but a greater level of independence is expected of college students, and college-based accommodations may not be identical to those offered in the K-12 setting. A student’s high school 504 Plan does not transfer to the university. 

The responsibilities towards students with disabilities in higher education institutions are very different from those of high schools. High schools are required under IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) to identify the educational needs of a student with a disability and provide a free and appropriate education.IDEA also allows for curriculum to be modified to meet the student’s educational goals and needs. Higher education is significantly different. 
Higher education institutions are required to provide appropriate academic accommodations to ensure that a student with a disability is not discriminated against and has access. Bold: The university is responsible for ensuring equal opportunity to participate, but the student is responsible for their achievement. The responsibility for action shifts from the school to the student. The student is responsible for disclosing their disability to the institution and making specific accommodation requests each quarter. Also, fundamental elements of programs or course curricula cannot be modified. 

Your college student is considered an adult by faculty. Your student is expected to assume responsibility for meeting their class requirements, deadlines, and professional communications. They are also responsible for proactively seeking assistance from their professors and on-campus resources when necessary. This may be most challenging if your student had 1:1 instruction and extensive individual learning support or attention in high school.

If your student received accommodations in high school, they should be ready to talk at their Access Planning Meeting  about those accommodations, whether they were effective, and if they’re requesting similar accommodations at Seattle U. While many prior disability accommodations may transfer, some high school accommodations may not be reasonable in a university setting. 

  • Testing Example: If your student received extended testing time in high school, and their disability-related needs support the continuation of this accommodation in college, it is likely that a similar accommodation can be arranged here at SU. The process they will go through to access this accommodation may be a little different, but they may still receive extended time for exams.  
  • Flexible Deadlines Example: Since the start of the pandemic, many students received flexible assignment due dates in high school. However, for universities on the quarter system, this is not typically a reasonable accommodation. Factors we consider to make a determination include: the structure of your student’s  academic program and/or individual courses, and the time in the quarter the extension is requested. Disability Services will work with your student to put together a plan that includes reasonable accommodations and using other campus resources to strengthen skills, such as organization and time management. 


Students with Disabilities Preparing for Postsecondary Education

Your Role at the University Level

The transition to college presents unique challenges and opportunities for you and your student with disabilities. Your student becomes their own advocate, responsible for arranging their accommodations and communicating their learning needs to faculty and staff while seeking out additional resources as needed. Your role shifts from advocate to mentor as your college-aged student advocates for themselves. This can be a big shift.  

Resources for Parents and Supporters

Resources located on and off campus that may be particularly helpful as you support your student with disabilities.

One of the most striking changes for you is the difference in privacy standards related to your student’s education in the university setting versus K-12 school. It’s important for you to keep in mind that in order for the university to share any information about a student’s academics, disability accommodations, or other aspects of their college experience, the student must give explicit, written permission. The DS team knows that the transition is often a team effort but we’re mindful that the college-age adult is the one who must direct the accommodation requests and notices. 

Release of Information 


It is common for students with disabilities to try college without disability accommodations. They may have developed additional management skills as they went through high school and are asserting their growing independence. This desire is commendable and speaks to your student’s transition into adulthood. Students with disabilities are not required to disclose to SU that they have a disability unless they are requesting accommodations. A significant number of SU students have disabilities but do not require accommodations. Your student may fall into this category. Students can self-identify to Disability Services and request accommodations at any point in their college career, including their final quarter.

We strongly encourage students who may need accommodations to contact our office as early as possible so that they can be prepared in case they need them. However, we are happy to start working with them at any time. It is important to note that accommodations are not retroactive.

In order to receive services from our office, students must self-identify as having a disability and request their own accommodations. Under FERPA, the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act, our office may not set up accommodations for a student based on a family member’s request, regardless of their student’s disability status.

You may not apply for accommodations on behalf of your student. However, if you want to support your student in making this request, we encourage you to assist them in filling out a Disability Service application or joining them on a Zoom appointment our staff. 

During high school, you may be accustomed to arranging supports and accommodations and tracking daily activities and assignments for your student. Once the adult child is at college, you may suddenly feel out of the loop and powerless to provide support. Below are a few key strategies to assist you and your student as you make this transition.  

While Your Student is in High School 

  • Progressively reduce your level of hands-on support so that your student gets used to handling their own schedule and keeping track of workload and assignments. 
  • Progressively increase your student’s level of responsibility when it comes to the developmental tasks of adulthood, including setting up appointments (all kinds) and making decisions about accommodations and disability-specific services. 
  • Help your student become comfortable talking with teachers about their learning and accommodation needs independently. This might mean practicing discussions with your student first as they gain confidence. 
  • Make sure that your student attends and participates in any meetings at school where their disability and accommodations are discussed. 

Once Your Student is in College 

  • Encourage your student to take advantage of the many resources for academic and other supports at SU. 
  • Gently coach your student as they follow the application process for DS accommodations. See our See our Applying for Accommodations page for more information. 
  • Allow your student to try different approaches to challenges, even if you disagree. If the outcome is not what your student hoped for, help them reflect on what happened and brainstorm what other options might be available next time. For example, if your student received extra time on exams in high school but opts not to request this in college classes, explore whether they think the college exam grades are accurately representing their understanding of the material – or if exam performance might be better with the “extra time” accommodation in place.

Please reach out

If you have questions about accommodations for your prospective or current student

Kim Thompson

Senior Director of Disability Services

Profile photo of Kim Thompson