College Students with Disabilities & Special Needs

Parent Q&A

Select any title to view the full question and replies.

  • College and Nut Allergies

    (2 replies)

    How are kids with food allergies managing at college?

    At the risk of sounding like a nervous mother, I'm reaching out to see how kids with nut allergies dealt with being in college and eating dorm food and the like. As my daughter approaches the time to start applying for colleges and I start thinking about what all to consider, I wondered if parents of kids with allergies could enlighten me about if there was anything to consider with college choices. My daughter has a tree nut allergy that used to be mild, but has gotten more severe when she reached high school (our allergist told us that that can happen in the teen years). She obviously carries an Epi-Pen and knows to go to the hospital if she has a reaction. We're all clear on that kind of thing. But I wonder how careful the dormitories are with alerting students about ingredients contained in the cafeteria food. 

    Has anyone had experience dealing with this with their child? Any advice is appreciated.

    For whatever university you select, I highly recommend that she complete the required paperwork to inform the Disabilities department of her allergies, so she can get housing, dining and academic accommodations as needed. Our youngest daughter did so only after struggling for a year to manage her escalating food allergies. By way of context, she was born allergic to dairy, eggs and nuts. At age 5 she “outgrew them,” but continued to be a “picky” eater. She carried epi pens but never needed to use them. In high school she suffered a concussion and had many, severe headaches for months. In retrospect we think they were due to both the fall and her escalating allergies. She (and we) thought she could manage a shared double room and eating in the dining hall (both required for freshmen), but that was not to be the case. Currently she has many life-threatening food allergies as well as oral allergy syndrome. She has had many adverse reactions (for which Benadryl helped but caused her to have to sleep for long periods) and had to go to the ER twice in the last year. She now has a university private room in a two-bedroom apartment with kitchen (at the same rate as her shared double room in one of the dorms). Feel free to contact me through the moderator if you want to talk further about any of this. 

    Lots of information here:

    Good luck!

Archived Q&A and Reviews


College-bound teen with rheumatoid arthritis

March 2010

My 17-year-old daughter, who was recently diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, will be heading off to an East Coast college this fall. She now has trouble with small motor skills and with lifting/carrying heavy objects (she's lost upper body strength now that she no longer has full use of her hands). She also isn't supposed to use alcohol because the drugs she's on put a heavy load on her liver. We're figuring out day-to-day accommodations at home but I'm wondering what kinds of challenges she'll have to navigate when she's on her own at college. She won't be able to carry stacks of books from class to class, keys and light switches can be problematic, and I'm worried how the winter cold will affect her. If you are or have been in a similar situation (with a college-bound child with RA, lupus, MS, or any other chronic condition that affects energy and mobility) I'd really appreciate hearing from you.

Hi I had a few suggestions for you. I am not sure who her pediatric rheumatologist is but they should be able to give you some of the information. Off the top of my head from dealing with other disorders in college.
1. she needs to contact the disability office asap for accomodations
2. she may need to be on a first floor of a dorm if it is a walk up. A letter from your doctor to the housing office or disability office will help.
3. does she need a special bathroom? does she need assistance with dressing and bathing? That depends on the degree of arthritis.
4. how does she do with cold and severe heat? She may need a dorm with air conditioning
5. may want a dorm near the gym because exercise is important with JRA
6. Disability office can help with providing note takers if she is unable to write or type fast enough. Sometimes they provide tapes of the class.
7. can she do lab science? PE requirement? etc
8. may be able to deduct cost of computer for college since essential for her health status.
9. electric blanket?
10.she may need driving to classes from security with flares. Most schools have this with a golf cart sort of thing. I would also suggest you log on to College Confidential website and ask the exact same question in the Parents cafe discusion section.
Pediatric Subspecialist