College Advisor for Students with Learning Differences

Parent Q&A

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  • College guidance for 16 year old with ASD

    (2 replies)

    Until this year I strongly doubted that my son w Asperger’s would ever want to go to college — he has never been interested in academics, has never gone to sleep away camp and has no extracurricular activities besides playing D&D and MTG. That said, he is now a sophomore and wants to go on to college after finishing high school. I think a gap year, community college or an internship could all be excellent transitional steps but currently my son wants to stick to the typical path. 
    Does anyone have a recommendation for a consultant who is especially talented in helping guide kids w ASD and their families through the process of figuring out post-high school goals?

    We used Rebecca Field: She specializes in college admissions and support for kids with LD, students who are on the spectrum, and any other student making college decisions. She was incredibly helpful and had a good rapport with our son. Good luck with this transition


    I've worked with Jennifer Taylor at Jedted consulting recently, and she has helped me find very good choices for my daughter who needed a residential placement. She's been in the field a long time and knows what's out there very well. I know she works with  kids who have all kinds of issues and diagnoses, and educational needs. I think she would be a really good person to speak with.    Jennifer Taylor: 415-887-8998

  • We have a 17 year old HS senior, who will take the SAT for the first time this November. Our daughter has severe processing issues, and tests very poorly at an IQ of 89. However she is getting B’s and C’s doing online school.

    Our local counsellor, in Fresno, has suggested we apply to a handful of private 4 yr Christian Colleges ( seems to be her bias, since she is a devout Catholic). We would like to look further at a few smaller private schools who would provide our daughter with the academic support, were she to leave Fresno for college.

    We are looking for recommendations for a College Selection Counselor with experience with LD children. Sadly Rebecca Fields has responded saying she is fully booked!

     Hi, I would highly recommend Melissa Masland. Her # is 925 212-8915. She was a great help to our son and our family. Also, if your daughter decides to go the JC route, DVC has a great support program for students with disabilities and learning differences. Their counselors have a parent info program they deliver in the spring to tell you about their program and have a special enrollment day for their DSS kids where they walk them through the enrollment program. 

    Check out Southern Oregon University in beautiful Ashland.  We looked at it a couple years ago for our learning-disabled daughter.  It's a public school, which means it's cheaper, and if you're from California you qualify for a big discount for students from western states.  They have a great program, UCAM -University Coaching and Academic Mentoring (costs extra, but minimal) for LD kids, where they are paired up with a mentor who works with them to make sure they have the support they need not only to do their work, but to keep it organized, and turn things in on time. Our daughter ended up going to Sonoma State University, to be closer to home, but which also has some resources for LD students.  She's very happy there.  

    I just want to warn you off of using the services of Vielka Hoy Consulting LLC. We engaged with this company last summer to help our teenager with college selections, applications and SAT prep as they were recommended by several posters here on BPN. First of all this company prefers to do everything remotely, which did not work well for our teenager. More importantly, multiple times they used shaming and negative reinforcement to try to motivate our teen, sending emails expressing disappointment when our teen didn't complete an assignment in time, or making us feel incompetent about the plans we had already set in motion -- e.g when we said that our teen was planning to take the SAT in the upcoming fall of senior year we got the unhelpful and dismissive reply that they don't usually recommend kids take the SAT in the fall of their senior year and implying we were remiss in our poor planning. Overall the experience made our teen anxious and worried about their college prospects and was not very helpful at all.

    My now-college-freshman attended Bayhill High School in Berkeley, where college counselor Rebecca Field is on staff and whom we met with 2 or 3 times as part of the high school program at Bayhill. We didn't pay for additional college advising.  Rebecca knows a lot about college options for kids with learning disabilities and she gave us some good general guidelines. But we ended up doing most of the research ourselves. Here's what we learned:

    First, you need accommodations for the SAT or ACT. Most people recommended the ACT to us for LD kids.  You will need a recent neuropsych or medical evaluation and it will help to have an advocate such as your child's counselor or advisor, because you might have to fight the college board for the correct accommodation -- we did, and Bayhill's transition advisor Vanessa Brown was a lifesaver intervening with ACT. We also paid for 10-15 hours of ACT prep at a local center we found on BPN, which was really worth it. Our student's grades were not good, but he did well on the ACT which gave him options.

    Now you need a list of colleges. Google "colleges for ____" (fill in the blank with your child's disability). There is a lot of info out there, and you'll start to see some colleges mentioned over and over. We made a list and narrowed it down by location and size of school.  We also looked at acceptance rates and average GPA/test scores of entering freshmen, which you can find online, and we did not consider any colleges that our student probably couldn't get in to. 

    We learned there are basically three categories:  1. Four-year colleges that specifically serve LD kids such as Beacon and Landmark. 2. Small (and expensive) private colleges such as Holy Names in Oakland which, because of their small size, are flexible in terms of what they can do for your kid. Sounds like this is what your counselor was recommending. 3. State universities that offer special programs that you pay extra for. This includes U. Arizona's SALT program and Southern Oregon U's UCAM program.These are less expensive than private colleges and may include a discount for western states (WUE).

    We also looked at several CSUs including Sonoma and Humboldt that we heard had good disability support. We did not consider the community college route because our student needed the consistency of the same school for four years, better disability support, and he also needed to get out from under the protective parental wings of the past 18 years and become more independent.

    Once we had a list of about 10 schools we thought would be good, we called the disability offices at each school to ask specifically about the accommodations our student would need. All colleges have disability services as required by federal law, but the support they offer varies widely, and written descriptions are often vague. For example we wanted to know if our student would be able to take a reduced class load, and when we spoke directly with someone in the disability office, the answers varied from "no problem" to "the school requires a minimum of x hours."  Our student was admitted to most of the schools he applied to, and chose Southern Oregon in Ashland. So far their UCAM program has been fantastic, far exceeding our expectations.  Message me if you'd like more details. 

  • My daughter, 19 years old, has diagnosed learning issues (attention, short term memory, anxiety) and has been taking classes at our local community college.  She is interested in transferring to a 4 year college and needs help in finding good fit.  Looking for  recommendations of counselors that specialize in college placement of students with LD.

    We used Rebecca Field: She specializes in college admissions and support for kids with LD. She was incredibly helpful and had a good rapport with our son. Good luck with this transition

    Melissa Masland in Walnut Creek. 925.212.8915

    I don't have a college counselor to recommend, but if you're looking at state schools, we found that Humboldt State provided very good support for my daughter with LD. Their office of disabilities is located in the same building as the library (less stigmak if that is an issue), the counselors were knowledgeable, and they have a relatively comprehensive peer tutoring program (open and easily accessible to all students, not only kids with diagnosed LD).  We found the majority of teachers to be very open to the accommodations and when she had to do a late withdrawal because one particular teacher was a horrible match, the disabilites office signed off (kind of a big deal, they had an early drop date which they were strict about). They were also very open to what I think was an appropriate level of parental support / involvement, which I don't think is always the case. One down-side is that there are very few professional tutors in that area - my daughter was used to working with one here, so had to make the adjustment to peer tutors who don't understand LD.  Good luck with this process!

  • Our daughter is 17, a senior and has an IEP due to a learning disability.  She is interested in starting out at a local community college and then transferring to a 4 year school.  I would appreciate a recommendation of a college counselor that specializes, or has an expertise, with LD kids.  Thank you.

    Rebecca Field, She has lots of experience, located in Oakland. Highly recommend!

    Just in case you haven't discovered this, the community colleges have a webpage for Learning Disabilities:

    There are really helpful instructions and information provided here, plus a contact person at Berkeley City College.

    Here's a link to Peralta Colleges regarding help for disabilities at all of the Peralta Community Colleges:

    I had excellent help and advocacy at Disabled Students both at community college and at my four year college (UC Berkeley), and I highly recommend these departments. You may not need a specialist to help you navigate this, so it might be helpful to start talking to them first. 

    Try Melissa Masland at Masland Education Consulting

Archived Q&A and Reviews

College counselor for senior with ADHD

Jan 2015

Looking for recommendations for a college counselor/coach who specializes in kids with ADHD and learning differences who can help identify appropriate schools as well as guide the application process. We are in San francisco but are willing to meet a quality person anywhere in the bay area. Thanks--
lisa n

Rebecca Field of Rebecca Field Consulting in Oakland would be a terrific fit for your needs! Her resume, experience, and professional certifications and networks (available on the website) are beyond impressive, and even more important is the results she has gotten for years with similarly-situated students, and the personal fulfillment she gets from assisting students and families on their journey. She and I were part of the staff at Orion Academy in Moraga, so I saw first-hand her devotion and skills, and I have remained in awe of her abilities and approach in the years since! I cannot recommend her highly enough; do consider contacting her and exploring the possible fit, it'll be time well spent.

Mark G

College Admissions Counselor for LD Student

April 2012

I am looking for a college admissions counselor experienced in helping students with LDs to assist our family in finding a good college fit for my son. He has ADHD, NVLD and dysgraphia. He is also gifted. Thanks for any recommendations!

We've sent both of our children to Dianne Ruyffelaere ( druyffelaere [at] ), with great results. Our first child had a minor NVLD and with Dianne's help was able to find several schools that appealed to him--and that were great fits--and he was accepted at several, including his first choice! She and my son were able to take the learning disability and make working through that an asset. I think part of what makes Dianne great is that she meets each student where he or she is, and creates the entire college application packet that shows the whole student in a great light.

Dianne can take your child through the entire process, or just bits and pieces of it, whatever works best for you. She helps the student define what he or she is looking for, or needs, in a college, and then narrows down the list via lots and lots of online research into each school--along with her considerable insight into so many schools in the country. You end up with a list of six to ten schools, ranging from safety schools through reach schools, all of which would be a good fit.

She will then work with your student on the essays -- yay! That part is just great. She helps your child find his or her voice and find the story he or she wants to tell. Plus, she keeps things on track and on deadline! I cannot say enough good things about her, and would be happy to talk to you about her if you'd like. You can e-mail her at druyffelaere [at] Good luck! Nancy

She doesn't specialize in working with LD students, but Tami Uecker (tami [at] was a wonderful college counselor for our son with LD issues. Also a bright kid, but one who really needed to find the right academic and social environment to thrive. She did a huge amount of research to locate colleges that fit his academic profile, that provided learning support services and that he could get into. He is now a thriving freshman at a small liberal arts college and he and we couldn't be happier. Tami has a very positive attitude, and she works with a student's strengths rather than trying to get them to change their weaknesses. For example, our son had very mediocre SAT scores, but she found schools where that didn't matter as much. I couldn't recommend her more highly. Carrie

I am the mother of a daughter diagnosed with ADHD, memory retention problems, and math dyscalculia. She is graduating from the IB program at BHS this June. BHS wouldn't help her at all, no accommodations, because her grades ''were too good,'' despite her D in AP Chemistry and Cs in math. I suggest you contact Wendy E. Morrison who helped my daughter tremendously. Wendy is positive, enthusiastic, respectful of her students, and full of up-to-the minute knowledge about schools and new developments in their admissions policies and preferences. You will want a college counselor who is accessible. I can't emphasize this enough. Wendy's response time was always less than one day. My daughter came away from two years of Wendy's college advising with self-respect, self confidence, and optimism. My daughter was admitted to her first choice: UC Berkeley, as well as several small liberal arts colleges. Without Wendy's knowledge of esoteric details in the UC application process, I don't believe my daughter would have been admitted. My daughter is thrilled and I give all the credit to Wendy. She is located in Kensington (510) 384-5962. DW

Recently, I desperately needed a college consular and with nowhere to turn, I came to the BPN which has always been invaluable as I raised my three children. I choose, from recommendations on this site, Wendy Morrison in Kensington. wendy [at] She is the light at the end of the rainbow when it comes to guidance and assistance. I have no words to express how this lady worked for me to turn a personal nightmare into a dream come true. She assisted a total stranger (me) immediately, and worked tirelessly to achieve my goal. Honestly, she had to hold my hand the whole way through. She was straightforward and honest about the situation and assessed its merits and/or weaknesses from every angle. Both my husband and I are college educated but knew we needed a professional in the field. We certainly found one in Wendy. My family of five is indebted to her. A forever Grateful Mom

You could try Rebecca Field: She has worked with students with learning differences at Orion Academy and Bayhill High school. Jan

College counselor for student with dyslexia

Nov 2007

My dyslexic daughter is a junior in high school. Does anyone have a recommendation for a college counselor who is good with kids with learning disabilities? anon

I'm a college counselor with Classroom Matters, the tutoring and academic support center in Berkeley.

Students with learning differences (LD) should keep four general ideas in mind when considering colleges.

First, by federal law, every college in the country has programs and services for LD students. UC's, community colleges, Harvard. All of them.

Second, you are unique and complex - not just ''LD.'' So consider colleges based on other factors - majors, location, extracurriculars, campus life, etc. - but also see if the LD services fit your specific needs.

Third, unless LD has had no impact on your academic performance in high school, disclose it in your application - and, more importantly, say what you have done to overcome any limitations it created for you.

Finally, don't rely on general advice. Call colleges directly. Call Admissions. Call the Disability Office. Tell them your situation and ask about procedures and policies.

Jane McClure, McClure & Associates, in San Francisco, specializes in finding the right college for kids with learning disabilities. She often speaks at events in the east bay. Leslie

Try Ellen Lerner, MS. She has been doing college advising for a while now, and has been an educational therapist for kids with learning disabilities. Her # is 510-652-7222 and her e-mail address is: Lerner8910 [at] Hope that helps! - Deb Deb

Two things to consider: PHP (Parents Helping Parents) is a wonderful support service for parents of LD students. They have a very informative website and address the issue of LD and college specifically. It is easy to call and reach a person.

Secondly, not all college disabilities services are created equal. This was a major part of our son's college search. We learned that by law every college/university must accomodate demonstrated learning disabilities, but not all colleges have the same quality of services. Be on the look out for the term, ''Comprehensive'' program. You can ask if the college has a ''Comprehensive'' program. It is often a fee based program that includes a seamless relationship between disabilities (accomodations by law) and the student and the faculty. It may include weekly meetings with a personal advisor, accountability, organizational specialist, reading specialist, counselling, etc. Check out the program at the University of Denver: It is a model program that has now celebrated its 25th year of the Learning Experiential Program for LD and ADHD students. Best to you! l 

College Advisor for ADD kids

Feb 2006

We are looking for a college advisor who has expertise and experience helping with applications and selecting colleges for ADD kids (whose academic record is not steller). Thanks for any suggestions. worried mom

I recently saw an excellent presentation by Jane McClure, of Jackson, McClure and Mallory on College Admissions for LD and ADD Students. Her office is in San Francisco, (415) 421-4177. She has particular expertise with LD/ADD students who make up 40% of her clients. She provided a lot of information about the various levels of LD support available at different schools. She also recommended a book called ''Colleges that Change Lives'' which highlights some lesser known schools that can provide a great experience for the not-straight A kids. There is also another college catalog with LD focus but I don't recall the name of it. Jocelyn