Using External Support Providers

Kevin Nealer of AHEADD, one of a growing number of support providers that can work with students on the spectrum, has been kind enough to write a guest post about why an outside provider might be useful.


As students approach their junior and senior years of high school, they and their families begin to discuss the possibilities of pursuing post secondary education. These possibilities are different for each student and regardless of which type of education is chosen the student deserves the right to have the greatest chance of success in that setting. Over the past ten to fifteen years a variety of support programs have been developed to ensure that these students have the greatest chance of success in their post secondary endeavors.

These programs differ on a variety of levels and differ in the amount of support that is given to the student. Each student upon leaving high school should be aware of the learning strategies and supports that help them to be successful in the academic setting. If the student has a learning difference they need to be aware of the accommodations that they have received in high school and why these accommodations have opened the opportunity to success.

For students with learning differences the search for a post secondary education opportunity is amplified as they also begin to look into the educational support side of each option. SpectrumU does an excellent job in defining the four options (standard college menu, standard offerings plus, unified model, and specialized programs) of support that can be offered within a university. If the post secondary education institution of your choice does not offer a full variety of supports, consider an external support program.

Students turn to external support programs when…

  • The school of their choice does not offer the level of support they need
  • They feel that the support their school offers is too intensive
  • They need a liaison between them and their parents to help foster independence
  • They want an additional advocate for them on campus
  • They want help getting connected with others on their campus and in the community
  • They feel that the transition to post secondary education would be more successful with additional supports

Services provided by external support programs vary in their intensity and supports provided. It is important that the student and their family address the individual needs in order to achieve success. Having a team to support the student is imperative and each team will look different based of the needs of the student. Start by developing a team within the university and then fill in with external services as needed. If you are looking for a less intensive service then AHEADD may be a good option for you. AHEADD provides the opportunity for the student to be supported, while giving them the opportunity to grow in their independence, gain important self advocacy skills, and to connect socially with students on their campus and the surrounding community.

Please visit or email if you have additional questions.


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