Parent Roles

Transitioning from high school to college is challenging by itself, and the challenges could be more and different for students with disabilities.  College students are considered responsible adults by faculty and staff.  They are expected to assume responsibilities for meeting their class requirements and behave professionally.  In this section, some tips and hints on how to support students as their parents are provided.

How Parents Can Help:

  • Encourage students to utilize available services on and off campus.
  • Encourage students to renew their academic accommodations each semester.  In the beginning of each semester, students need to sign an Accommodation Letter to request their accommodations.   Without the students’ signature on the letter, accommodations are not in effect.  Accommodations are not retroactive.  Students who have requested, and been approved would receive services and accommodations only from that date of completed process forward.
  • Encourage students to see the DSS Office staff when there are problems receiving requested accommodations, or other issues related to their disabilities. 
  • Encourage students to self-advocate.  They need to speak up for themselves to be their own best advantages.
  • Encourage students to ask questions, and communicate with their instructors. 


Even if students signed a release of information with the DSS Office and for FERPA, DigiPen staff and faculty, including the DSS Office, communicates primarily with students.  In the K-12 level, parents may have been the primary contacts to communicate with teachers and the school district in regard to students.  At the post-secondary level, students need to be in charge of communication with faculty and staff.  DigiPen faculty and staff do not work with parents in place of students. 

If parents wish to discuss concerns about their students, they are welcome to do so.  However, the DSS Office will not share specific information regarding students unless students requested the specific information to be shared with their parents. 

In addition, DigiPen faculty and staff, including the DSS Office, will not contact parents when students are having difficulty in class.  Students are responsible to seek assistance when they have issues with their academic progress. 

DSS Contact Information

Please email with questions and concerns.

Kay Widmer
Disability Support Services Coordinator
9931 Willows Road NE
Redmond, WA 98052
Direct: (425) 629-5015

Requesting Accommodations

Only students can request accommodations through the DSS Office.  Parents cannot request students’ accommodations. Parents should encourage their child to contact the DSS Office if they believe s/he needs reasonable accommodations to assure equal access to education and learning. 

General Differences Between High School and College

At the post-secondary education level, the systems and processes, including disability services, are very different from at the K-12 level. Some important points are listed below.


High School Post-secondary
1 Usually follow a school-directed schedule and proceed from one class to another. Individual students must manage their own time and schedules.
2 General education classes dictated by state/district requirements. Class based on field of study; requirements may vary.
3 Typically a school year is 36 weeks long; some classes extend over both semesters.

Summer classes may be offered but are not used to accelerate graduation.
Academic year is divided into two separate 15-week semesters (Fall and Spring) plus a week for final exams.

Some courses are offered during summer sessions, and summer classes may be used to accelerate graduation.
4 Class attendance is usually mandatory and monitored carefully. Attendance policies may vary with each instructor. (Note: Lack of attendance may impact performance.)
5 Classes generally have no more than 30 - 35 students. Classes may have 100 or more students.
6 Textbooks are typically provided at little or no expense. Textbooks and supplies can be expensive. (Note: An anticipated range for a full-time student is about $1000 per year.)
7 Guidance is provided for students so that they will be aware of graduation requirements. Graduation requirements are complex and vary for different fields of study. (Note: Students are responsible for monitoring their progress and seeking advice.)
8Modifications that change course outcomes may be offered based on the student’s IEP. Modifications that change course outcomes will not be offered. (Note: Modified high school courses may not be accepted in the admission process.)


High School Post-secondary
1 Grade and check completed homework. Assume homework is completed and students are able to perform on a test.
2 May remind students of incomplete assignments. May not remind students of incomplete assignments. It's their responsibility to check with their instructor to see if requirements are being met.
3 May know students’ needs and approach students when they need assistance. Are usually open and helpful, but expect students to initiate contact when assistance is needed.
4 May be available before, during, or after class. May require students to attend scheduled office hours, or make appointments.
5 Have been trained in teaching methods. Have content knowledge but not necessarily formal training in teaching methods.
6 Often provide students with information missed during absence. Expect students to get information from classmates when they miss a class.
7 Present material to help students understand what is in the textbook. May not follow the textbook. Lectures enhance the topic area. (Note: Students need to connect lectures and textbook.)
8 Often write information on the board or overhead to be copied for notes. May lecture nonstop. If instructors write on the board it may be to support the lecture, not summarize it. (Note: Good notes are a must!)
9 Teach knowledge and facts, leading students through the thinking process. Expect students to think independently and connect seemingly unrelated information.
10 Often take time to remind students of assignment and test dates. Expect students to read, save, and refer back to the course syllabus. (Note: Syllabi are a way of knowing exactly what is expected of students - when assignments are due, and how they will be graded.)


High School Post-secondary
1 Study time outside of class may vary (maybe as little as 1-3 hours per week per class). Generally need to study at least 2-3 hours outside of class for each hour in class.
2 Instructors may review class notes and text material regularly for classes. Review class notes and text material regularly. (Note: use the time between classes carefully.)
3 Expected to read short assignments that are discussed and retaught. Substantial amounts of assigned reading and writing may not be directly addressed in class. (Note: It’s up to students to read and understand assigned material or access support.)


High School Post-secondary
1 Frequent, covering small amounts of material. Usually infrequent (2-3 times a semester).

Maybe cumulative and cover large amounts of material. (Note: Students need to organize material to prepare for tests.) Some classes may require only papers and/or projects instead of tests.
2 Make-up tests are often available. Make-up tests are seldom an option and may have to be requested.
3 Test dates can be arranged to avoid conflicts with other events. Usually, scheduled tests are without regard to other demands.
4 Frequently conducts review sessions emphasizing important concepts prior to tests. Faculty rarely offer review sessions; if so students are expected to be prepared and to be active participants.


High School Post-secondary
1 Given for most assigned work. Maybe not be provided for all assigned work.
2 Good homework grades may assist in raising overall grade when test grades are lower. Tests and major papers provide the majority of the grade.
3 Extra credit options are often available. Generally speaking, extra-credit options are not used to raise a grade.
4 Initial test grades, especially when low, may not have adverse effect on grade. First tests are often “wake up” calls to let students know what is expected. (Note: Watch out! They may account for a substantial part of final grade. Contact instructor, academic advisor, or student accessibility personnel if you do poorly.)
5 Graduation requirements may be met with a grade of D or higher. Requirements may be met only if the student’s average meets the departmental standards. (Note: To graduate, students need 2.0 or higher GPA for undergraduate programs and 3.0 or higher GPA for graduate programs.)
6 Services may include specially designed instruction, modifications, and accommodations based on the IEP. Reasonable accommodations and modifications may be made to provide equal access and participation.
7 Individual student needs based on the IEP may be addressed by program support for school personnel. No formal program support for school personnel is provided.
8 Progress toward IEP goals is monitored and communicated to the parent(s) and the student. Students are required to monitor their own progress and communicate their needs to instructors.
9 Schools assist in connecting the student with community support agencies if identified as a transition need according to the IEP. Students are responsible for making their own connections with community support agencies.

Other Factors to Consider

High School Post-secondary
1 State and/or district policies may determine eligibility for participation in extracurricular activities. Postsecondary institution policies may determine eligibility for participation in extracurricular activities.
2 Parents typically manage finances for school-related activities. Students are responsible for money management of basic needs and extra spending money.
3 Parents and teachers may provide support and guidance in responsibilities and setting priorities. Students are responsible for setting their own priorities.

Tables adapted from: SMU A-LEC Home pages and OKC Community College Accessibility Handbook