Info for Survivors – School

Meet Raygan - Leukemia warrior

Info for Survivors – School

Meet Raygan - Leukemia warrior

Learning Problems

Studies indicate learning problems are often associated with cancer and its treatment. The issues vary due to the type of cancer and treatment received and some problems don’t arise until years after treatment.

Common learning problems include the inability to:

  • Actively participate in a conversation and detect social cues
  • Sustain attention
  • Remember visual information rather than auditory
  • Sequence information
  • Comprehend material that is read (although reading the actual words is often not a problem)
  • Perform handwriting quickly and accurately
  • Copy information
  • Complete tasks in a timely manner
  • Keep up with new material
  • Perform math calculations (e.g., multiplication, division)
  • Process new information
  • Plan and organize

Areas which seem to be unaffected by cancer treatment include:

  • Learning and remembering information that is heard
  • Understanding the application of math concepts
  • Verbally communicating the understanding concepts and new material
  • Recalling information accurately, if provided enough time
  • Creativity

National organizations serving persons with disabilities are listed in the Helpful Links menu.

Additional information can be found here:

Learning Disabilities throughout Life

Learning disabilities do not disappear in adulthood. Having a learning disability doesn’t mean you are unable to learn, it just means you may just need to adjust the way you learn. Successfully living with a learning disability means understanding your disability, being able to communicate this understanding to others and becoming your own advocate. Advocating for yourself is critical to your future education and/or employment success.

Learning how to describe your disability is the first step in becoming your own advocate. To do so, you should identify:

  • The history and characteristics of your learning disability
  • The type of environment that maximizes your ability to work or learn. (Be flexible and identify as many strategies as necessary to create the best possible environment.) For example, if you are an auditory learner (that is, you learn what you hear), you may want to bring a tape recorder to lectures so you can replay them.
  • Your own academic and personal strengths and vulnerabilities.

As you grow older, you will discover that everyone has learning differences and you will appreciate being able to talk honestly about your own challenges.

Additional information can be found here:

Your Legal Rights

Some of the laws governing elementary and secondary education do not apply to higher education. However, under both the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, colleges and universities receiving federal money are required to provide reasonable modifications, accommodations or auxiliary aids that enable qualified students to have access to, participate in and benefit from the full range of educational programs and activities that are offered to all students on campus. The laws also apply to admission testing. It is important that you are familiar with the laws and how they apply to you.

  • Rehabilitation Act of 1973-Section 504. If you have a physical or mental impairment (a cancer diagnosis is considered “other health impaired”) that substantially limits a major life activity, Section 504 upholds your rights to equal access to educational services. This law applies to any college or university that receives federal money. For more information, visit the Department of Labor’s 504 website.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This act guarantees the civil rights of persons with disabilities. For more information, visit the ADA homepage.
  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This act guarantees free and appropriate public education and governs the provision of special educational services * Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). This act ensures that written records are kept confidential and available only to those with a legitimate interest in them. These records cannot be shared without the student’s permission.
  • Click here for a list of special-education resources by state.

Additional information can be found here:

Preparing for College

Deciding on a College When You Have a Disability
When you are selecting a college, make a list of questions and requirements that you have for the school. Before making a visit, consider the following:

  • Your comfort level in describing your disability and advocating for your own needs
  • What accommodations you require
  • Services and supports that are already in place at the college
  • The college’s location
  • Reputation of the college’s academic program

Here are some useful questions to ask:

  • Does the school have an office and full-time staff (Student Disability Services or SDS) to serve students with disabilities?
  • If so, how long has the SDS program been running?
  • Are counselors and staff specially trained in working with learning disabilities?
  • Is it likely services will be discontinued before you finish college?
  • Do they have an ADA/504 Coordinator?
  • Whom should your parents contact if they have questions during the school year?
  • Who counsels students during registration, orientation and course selection?
  • Is tutoring available, and if so, are the tutors professors or students?
  • Is tutoring automatic, or must it be requested?
  • Does the college have an established grievance policy?
  • Has it published a notice of nondiscrimination?
  • Does the college faculty receive any disability-awareness training?
  • How do you request classroom accommodations?
  • Does the college offer early enrollment, which will give you more time to meet with professors and learn class locations?
  • Can you take additional time to graduate?

Paying for College
The federal government offers financial-aid packages to help families meet educational expenses. The majority of financial aid programs are based on the financial needs of the student and include the expectation of some financial support from your parents.

In order to receive financial aid, you must complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), available through your high-school guidance counselor. Forms can also be obtained at or by calling 1-800-4FED-AID. These forms need to be filled out early and accurately. If you have a learning disability, your vocational rehabilitation counselor or your Social Security case manager will help you apply for financial aid.

Financial aid applications require families to estimate their cost of expenses. Under certain circumstances, costs related to a student’s disability may be included in these expenses. Other costs may include:

  • Special equipment and its maintenance. Some of this equipment, such as batteries for hearing aids or an adapted computer, may have been covered by your high school, but now becomes your responsibility.
  • Services for personal use or study, such as readers, interpreters, note takers or personal-care attendants
  • Transportation, if traditional means are inaccessible
  • Medical expenses not covered by insurance that relate directly to your disability

Where applicable, you must list expenses that are covered by insurance or other agencies.

Survivors may also receive assistance under Social Security Income and/or Social Security Disability Insurance. Most states also offer some sort of student assistance. Your high school guidance counselor should have this information. (Also, see Resources for information on specific scholarships.)

Additional information can be found here:

Considering Vocational Rehab

Every state offers vocational rehabilitation services for disabled individuals. Contact numbers for Vocational Rehabilitation Services can be found in the government pages of the phone book or on your state’s Web page (www. your state’s Initially, these programs were developed for the visually impaired, deaf, a person with a prosthetic, and war veterans. Their services have been expanded to include a more comprehensive group. Although the structure and location of the program varies state to state, the fundamental purpose and goals of the programs are the same.

Cancer survivors must prove their eligibility for services. First, a current disabling condition must be documented. It may not be enough to have a history of cancer treatment. Similar to Social Security qualifications, a survivor must prove that his condition poses functional limitations. A person is eligible for services when his disability—physical, emotional or mental—interferes with obtaining or maintaining employment.

Although state vocational rehabilitation offices work primarily toward getting people employed, these offices are also essential in the college application process.

If you qualify for vocational rehabilitation, your counselor will review your educational plans in terms of job potential. This will help guarantee that the field you are choose is a match for your talents and strengths. If you qualify for vocational rehabilitation under the amended Rehabilitation Act, you must apply for educational financial aid.

Vocational rehabilitation can provide funding to help with:

  • Tuition
  • Room and board
  • Transportation/commuting expenses
  • Books and supplies
  • Out-of-class reader services for people who are blind or have learning disabilities; interpreter services for people who are hearing impaired; and/or individually prescribed aids and devices
  • Telecommunications, sensory and other technological aids and devices
  • Other goods and services that help an individual with a disability become employed

After qualifying for vocational rehabilitation, the survivor will meet with a trained, qualified rehabilitation counselor for a comprehensive work evaluation. The counselor will serve as both an advocate and job coach. They will work with you to develop an individualized, written rehabilitation plan which may include work evaluation, work adjustment, training, college tuition, on-the-job training, job coaching and a variety of other services leading to eventual employment. Participation is voluntary, but the employment goal must be shared by the rehabilitation counselor and the survivor. When the process fails, the law requires an independent Client Assistance Program to advocate for the survivor.

Working with your college’s financial aid office and the vocational rehabilitation office makes this a lengthy and time-consuming process. Contact both offices early in your application process.

Additional information can be found here: