WMU expert tells PBS audience University has resources to help vulnerable students transition to college

Contact: Chris Hybels

Video of "A World of Difference: Embracing Neurodiversity," S3, E9 | Ask The Experts | LD and Mental Health
KALAMAZOO, Mich.—The transition from high school to college can be difficult for any student. For those with learning disabilities, it can be even more challenging as they navigate their care to be successful emotionally and academically, says Western Michigan University's Dr. Wanda Hadley.

Dr. Wanda Hadley

Hadley, an associate professor of educational leadership in higher education, discussed where students and families can find resources to help at college as a panelist on Beacon College's educational show, “A World of Difference” which premiered on PBS on May 6. During the "Ask the Expert" segment, Hadley was asked questions about the challenges students face, the red flags parents should be looking for and how to find a therapist for their children with learning disabilities.

"We find that students with disabilities in general are much more vulnerable when they transition from high school to college and then when they transition out of college into graduate college or the work environment," says Hadley, a licensed counselor who was director of counseling and disability services at a number of universities. "When they are in high school, their academic progress is overseen by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA). That legislation requires the schools to identify the students, provide them oversight through individual education plans (IEPs) and academic and emotional support. When students move to college, they are no longer overseen by IDEIA, they are then covered by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)."

Beyond discussing the challenges of the transition, she also provided information on how to make the transition easier for high school students. 

"I always advise families, students, college admissions counselors and high school counselors to better prepare students to come to college by doing some transitioning planning. Visiting colleges and sitting in classes may be better help students find a university that best fits their needs. It's not a random decision, doing a little bit more soul-searching about majors and careers and understanding how classes and careers all connect. The first thing they should do once they are accepted at a university, that sometimes students don't do, is to identify themselves to the office for students with disabilities (OSD). The university cannot reach out and do anything for them if they don't identify themselves," says Hadley.

She also stressed the importance of reaching out to the university's resources for students with disabilities. According to Hadley, campus accommodation and resources like Western's Disability Services for Students can play a huge role in the student's journey through college.

"Most universities have resources for students with disabilities that can be instrumental to their success and retention on campus and finding out the things they need to do. If they can do that early on, they really do themselves a favor," she says.

Hadley was joined by Dr. Mellisa Boduch, lead learning specialist at Beacon College, and Dr. Holly Schiff, clinical psychologist at Jewish Family Services of Greenwich, on the panel which was hosted by Darryl Owens, associate vice president of communications and engagement at Beacon College.

This was her second appearance on the show, with the first being in 2021.

Stream the episode on PBS' website and watch the full "Ask the Experts" segment on YouTube


“A World of Difference” celebrates and supports families who are navigating the journey of learning differences. The show is produced by Beacon College, America’s first accredited college dedicated to educating students who learn differently, and airs on PBS. Episodes examine issues related to learning disabilities through conversations with experts, viewer Q&As and interviews with successful adults who overcame learning differences. 


Disability Services for Students at Western Michigan University strives to make education accessible and remove barriers to student success. For information about eligibility, resources and services, visit the Disability Services for Students webpage.

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.