Students with disabilities transitioning from secondary school to college

For most students, the transition between secondary school and college is the first time they are asked to make a decision to secure their future career.

This transition may be more difficult for secondary school students with disabilities, social maladjustments or learning difficulties and for college students with disabilities, who may encounter obstacles specific to their situation, especially regarding:

  • the requirements of college programs of study
  • the requirements of internships
  • the increase in complexity and size of the workload
  • the conditions for accessing adapted services at college

Services provided to secondary school students

All secondary school students, including those with disabilities, social maladjustments or learning difficulties, can access a variety of support services This hyperlink will open in a new window. to prepare for their transition to post-secondary studies.

Support for the transition

In secondary school, specialists (psychologists, psychoeducators, guidance counsellors, special education teachers, speech therapists, people providing spiritual care and guidance, recreation staff, etc.) help and provide structure for students. They ensure that students are provided with conditions conducive to learning and support them in:

  • their educational path
  • their orientation process
  • looking for solutions for difficulties that students may encounter

In Secondary Cycle 2, services and tools are provided to students by different stakeholders in order to ensure students are well-prepared for the transition to college. The following are some examples of the support offered to students:

Educational and professional orientation services

Guidance counsellors This hyperlink will open in a new window. (information in French) can provide personalized support to students who are in the process of making educational and professional choices. Specifically, they can help students recognize their strengths and use them to adapt to change. Guidance counsellors plan a variety of group activities. For example, they can organize guided visits to colleges, as well as career exploration days, in cooperation with colleges.

Academic and Career Guidance Content (ACGC)

The Academic and Career Guidance Content This hyperlink will open in a new window. is intended to introduce themes related to orientation for students from Elementary Cycle 3 to the last year of secondary school. This content meets more general needs regarding educational and professional orientation.

For example, one of the required elements covered at the end of Secondary Cycle 2 directly deals with the theme of preparing for the transition to college. This content can be offered to students in class, either by guidance counsellors or by teachers.

Psychology services

Professionals who provide psychology services This hyperlink will open in a new window. (information in French) in secondary schools can help, especially with managing stress and/or anxiety, and they can provide psychological help with preparing for the transition.

Education consultants

Education consultants can serve as agents during the transition to post-secondary studies, particularly in an advisory role for teachers. Consultants can also act as resource persons in contact with colleges, such as for transferring the files belonging to some students with disabilities.

School administrators

Administrators are responsible for creating individualized education plans adapted to the needs of students and are responsible for the organization of services within their institutions. Administrators can plan to create transition plans for some students who may encounter more serious issues in the transition to college.


Teachers are the first line of contact with students. They can respond to students’ questions and concerns about the transition and direct them to the appropriate services.

Remedial teachers

Remedial teachers This hyperlink will open in a new window. (information in French) can help students to be better prepared for the academic requirements of college studies by intervening individually or with groups. For example, they can provide support in the development of reading or note-taking strategies during periods dedicated to classes on the use of digital tools.

Individualized education plan

The individualized education plan This hyperlink will open in a new window. is created in collaboration with parents and students, based on an evaluation of the abilities and needs of the student. Furthermore, the school principal must ensure that the plan is implemented and periodically evaluated, as well as provide regular follow-up with parents.

This process is primarily intended to assist students with disabilities or who are experiencing difficulties with progressing in the development of competencies leading to their educational success. Students are not required to have a specific diagnosis to have an individualized education plan.

When necessary, a student’s individualized education plan can be revised before the student transitions to post-secondary studies. Once the student sends the plan to a college, the resource persons there can consult it and take the information into account when determining the measures to put in place to support the student as soon as they start college. It is important to remember that a copy of the completed individualized education plan is provided to the student and parents each year and it is included in the student’s special needs file. This file also contains copies of the student’s evaluation and follow-up reports that were written throughout the student’s time in elementary and secondary education.

Any student can be issued copies of the documents in their special needs file at any time in order to send them to the disability services centre at the college they have chosen.

Differentiated instruction

“Differentiated instruction is an approach that is put into practice through interaction between teaching, learning and evaluation. It consists in adjusting teaching to the diverse abilities, needs and interests of students of different ages, backgrounds, aptitudes and skills, thus enabling them to make optimal progress in developing the competencies targeted by the Québec Education Program This hyperlink will open in a new window. (QEP).”

Three forms of differentiated instruction allow student learning to be supported: pedagogical flexibility, adaptation and the modification of expectations associated with the QEP. These three forms are complementary and are implemented to support students’ progression of learning. In certain situations, an individualized education plan will be created.

In college, the requirements of the programs of study are the same for all students. It is important for students to be informed of the different educational measures that are available at the college, which will not necessarily be the same as those provided in secondary school.

Last update: March 22, 2023


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