The special-needs student In decades past, many students with physical, mental-health or learning challenges didn't even dream of attending...

In decades past, many students with physical, mental-health or learning challenges didn’t even dream of attending college. But that’s changed in recent years, says Seattle college consultant Judy Mackenzie.

If they have the grades and test scores to qualify, special-needs students can and do attend college — the federal Americans with Disabilities Act mandates that schools must accommodate such students. But Mackenzie says the extent and types of assistance available vary greatly among colleges.

Often, such accommodations come at an added cost. For instance, participation in the University of Arizona’s learning-disabilities assistance program, Strategic Alternative Learning Techniques (SALT), runs $2,200 per semester for undergraduates.

Mackenzie’s recommendation: If your special-needs student is interested in particular schools, forget the college guides — they’re too often outdated. Instead, phone and ask lots of questions about accommodation programs at your target colleges to get a better idea of what types of assistance are available, and what they will cost.

— Carol Tice, Special to The Seattle Times