What help is available for a 21 year old struggling with community college?

My son just turned 21 and has not made much progress with college. In preschool, he was diagnosed with borderline auditory processing disorder and received some language therapy, but he did fine in K-10, so we did not seek any further help. But he stopped doing schoolwork in 11th grade and ended up doing poorly. So he initially decided to go to a community college, away from home, to study outdoor education leadership, which seemed like a great plan. He did gain some great skills, but during his one year there he did not complete the academic classes required to be on track for a 2 year degree or transfer. After a semester off, working and traveling, he came home and is going to SF City College, but has been struggling. He is unable to keep up with a full time courseload, falls behind in one class or another and has to drop it. We encouraged him to quit his job this semester, but he had still not kept track of what he needs to do in each class, dropped a class and may be falling behind in another. He also says he is a slow learner, which is puzzling. He is smart, independent, extremely outgoing, social justice minded. Everyone he meets, of any age, likes him and remembers him -- and often, wants to offer him a job ( just not one that pays well enough to afford to live on his own in the bay area). He is fantastic with kids and would like to be a teacher, but I am wondering how he is going to get through college at this rate. Should he have testing to see if he has a learning disability? Can he get this at Kaiser? What help is available for community college students if he is diagnosed with a processing disorder or executive functioning disorder? Or without such a diagnosis? Should we just figure he will mature and get through college at his own pace? I feel very conflicted about continuing to support him financially at 21 if he is not in school full time really focusing on getting thru school. 

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I have a kid like this. He did eventually make it through 2 years of community college and then he transferred to a UC and (eventually) graduated!  So don't give up! My son took only one class per semester until he felt confident enough to go up to 2 classes, and then 3 or 4 classes at a time. Before that he had repeatedly dropped out midway through the semester.  We supported him while he took minimal classes trying to get his bearings. He was older than 21.  It took a few years but he did make it through. Be aware that there are counselors at the community colleges, and your son should talk to them. It does take patience and persistence. It might be a hassle to make an appointment and he might have to wait for a while. Ask your Kaiser primary care doc for a referral. If you have the funds to pay for a neuropsych evaluation for him it would probably be worth it. 

I'm a community college professor and happy to talk with you if you contact me directly. 

He should get assessed and they may be able to do some of it right on campus. If he has a documented disability then there should a center on campus to help with accommodations (e.g tape recording lectures, note takers, longer time for exams, etc.,) depending on his diagnosis. Also, only about 10% of students finish community college in 2 years. So, his path is fairly typical. Does SF City College use Canvas for the course management system? Do his instructors input all the due dates into the calendar feature? They should have a syllabus that has the due dates of the exams and major assignments.  It sounds like entering those things in some calendar system right at the start of the semester would be helpful. The counseling department at SF City college has some student success classes where they will teach study skills, etc. (https://www.ccsf.edu/en/student-services/student-counseling/WelcomePage_...). 

It sounds like he might like a school like Prescott College. It is a liberal arts school in Arizona. You can get a degree in Adventure Education and teaching credentials. They typical resident student sounds a lot like your son. 

I would recommend having him tested.  Both at community college, and at UC (based on our experience), he will have support available to him, which can include taking a slightly lighter course load.  Many kids are taking 5 years now for a Bachelor's, with and without the support needed based on learning issues.  Best of luck to him

Your son sounds like a wonderful person.  I encourage your son to contact the disabled students center at City College http://www.ccsf.edu/en/student-services/student-counseling/dsps.html.  He should ask for a learning disability evaluation, as what you describe about his childhood challenges lead me to believe a learning disability could be a big part of the problem.  If he is found to have a learning disability, City College can help support him with learning help and accommodations (he would likely do best with a reduced courseload, for example).  Kaiser does not do learning disability testing.  Best of luck to your son. 

My son has Auditory Processing Disorder, and , yes, he needed extra time on tests and accommodations. I fought to keep him an IEP through 12th grade, and took the last IEP to his community college where he has accommodations now too. Auditory processing Disorder is such a subtle thing, it is hard to pick up on it. But after reading about it, I see his struggles now. When I tell him, for example, three instructions in a row, he may remember two. I would definitely read up on it and recommend having your son tested. It is expensive though...

My husband is like this. He's now a college-degreed, gainfully-employed, almost 40-yo with an awesome wife and daughter. (You'll have to take my word on the wife!) My husband dropped out after a year of college when he was 19, worked some dead-end jobs that just barely paid his rent (or sometimes didn't) and started over taking community college classes in the evenings when he was 26. We met during his community college days, and got married shortly after he got his bachelor's at 30. All that to say, be patient. Some people are not equipped to attend college full-time at 18, 20, 22, or 24, and that's ok.

What does he want to do, and does it involve going to college right now? Does he want to work for awhile and go back later, if at all? He's 21, and he needs to take the lead on this. You're totally within your rights to not support him financially if you don't want to, but be straight with him about what his options are, and know that it's his responsibility to make his own choices.

Also want to say that there are lots of ways to teach that don't involve being a credentialed teacher with a college degree in a classroom. Outdoor education, if that's a passion of his, can be done as a career without a degree. Many other vocational type teaching is the same. I know two wonderful arts educators with careers that have kept them working consistently who don't have bachelor's degrees. They don't make much money, but you know as well as I do that having that college degree is no guarantee of making any more money, especially once you factor is student loan payments.

My son is 21 and started CCSF with an IEP right after high school. I have navigated the system (and the archaic website) and can share what I've learned. I see that others have recommended testing, which is how your son will be able to qualify for services. Once he does, he can make an appt at the DSPS office (another poster included the link). They offer standard supports and accommodations, but it's up to the student to make use of them. My son was given materials to arrange a notetaker, but he's never followed through, which is unfortunate because he misses a lot in class. They also referred him to an academic counselor who helped him plan out several semesters' worth of classes.

He's only been able to handle two per semester, and I've made my peace with that. He's super bright and engaged, but he doesn't really like school and never has. I am pushing him to get the AA degree and will continue supporting him as long as he's in school and working part time. A couple of things that have helped along the way: a little gem called the Metro Transfer Academies, a "school within a school" that offers a handful of general ed classes each semester. I think it started as a program for health majors but now it's open to anyone. One or two tutors sit in the classroom so they know the curriculum. It's just a more accessible entry point for those who may not do well with transitions or get easily overwhelmed. There's a short application to join the program. You can email metroacademies [at] ccsf.edu or go to https://www.ccsf.edu/en/educational-programs/learning-community/StudentR.... Here are the spring offerings:


Another thing I've done is help my son pick classes based on the teachers. I know educators loathe ratemyprofessors.com, but it has been a valuable tool to find instructors who were either a better fit for my son, or just better in general.  Another benefit of being connected to DSPS is that he gets priority registration every semester. That's a golden ticket right there. He just has to make an appointment with DSPS once each school year to maintain his status.

Finally, I believe CCSF has a good child development program; your son might take a class or two. http://www.ccsf.edu/en/educational-programs/school-and-departments/schoo...

So that's it! Good luck and feel free to contact me if you have questions.