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How to Help Your Child Seek Out Support for Common Problems in College

By Rae Jacobson, MS

College students with learning and thinking differences may need support for a variety of issues. A college contact list can help your child keep track of important people on campus. But these tips can help her know who to contact and how to get the specific support she needs from them. 

For Academic Questions and Concerns

The place to go: Academic advisor/Academic offices

The time to go: Whenever she faces challenges in school or with a professor who’s not responsive.

The way to approach it: Explain to your child that the academic office can direct her to the best person to help. But she can also go straight to her advisor. In either case, she should be clear about what she needs help with. When she meets with her advisor, she should have specific questions to ask or a request to make. For example, “I’m having trouble getting my algebra professor to return my calls or emails. Would you be able to help me make contact with him?”

For Unresolved or Serious Academic Problems

The place to go: Course instructor

The time to go: Whenever your child has a question, needs to discuss or wants help with coursework.

The way to approach it: Let her know it’s best to approach instructors during their office hours, when they’re less likely to be rushed. When they meet, she should go in with a clear idea of what she needs. For example, she could say, “Sometimes it’s hard for me to hear you when there’s background noise. Would it be OK if I taped the lecture?”

For Problems With Accommodations

The place to go: Office of Disability Services

The time to go: Any time she needs help that relates to her learning or thinking differences.

The way to approach it: Encourage your child to explain what accommodations she needs and to be specific about the trouble she’s having. For instance, “My art history professor doesn’t understand that I need extra time on tests, even though he has my documentation.” That way, the office will know who needs to be contacted and how to provide support while things are being worked out.

For Problems With Roommates

The place to go: Resident advisor (RA)

The time to go: Any time your child is having problems with her roommate—like disagreements over other people staying over—that can’t be solved one-on-one.

The way to approach it: Tell your child to explain her specific concerns and ask how to handle the situation. If she’d like the RA to step in, she should make that request clearly: “I’ve already tried talking to my roommate about picking her garbage up off the floor. Would you be able to talk to her?” Your child can also request a peer mediation. And if she thinks more help is called for, she can ask the resident director to step in.

For Emotional or Mental Health Problems

The place to go: Counseling Center

The time to go: Any time your child is stressed out or depressed, or having other emotional difficulties. Let her know it’s OK to talk to a counselor any time—she doesn’t have to wait for a crisis.

The way to approach it: Encourage your child to be honest and open about her problems and needs. The counselor needs to know exactly what she’s experiencing. University counseling is totally confidential (unless the student is in immediate danger). And let her know that if she doesn’t feel good about the first counselor, it’s fine to request someone else.

For Problems With or Questions About Health or Medication

The place to go: University Health Services

The time to go: When your child has questions about her medication or how to practice safe behavior, or when she’s just plain feeling sick.

The way to approach it: Your child should be ready to explain her question or illness and provide any required information (typing or writing it down may help). Encourage her not to be embarrassed about asking questions and disclosing personal information. As with counseling, health services are confidential. The professionals should be helpful and nonjudgmental.

Watch as an expert explains how your child can build a support network in college.

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