Do Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Have Access to Higher Education?

Think College is the coordinating center for the Transition & Postsecondary Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities (TPSIDS). The TPSIDS program is located at the University of Massachusetts-Boston Institute for Community Inclusion. Think College develops, expands and improves comprehensive higher education options for individuals with disabilities. The program distributes resources related to higher education for individuals with autism as well as those with other intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Postsecondary education offers students with intellectual disabilities more than simply the routine of attending class or even learning the content provided through a course. Although both of these elements are significant, there is a bigger picture that concentrates less on which classes these students take and more on the potential outcomes a student with ID is afforded due to his or her opportunity to participate in the college experience.

The College Experience

The College Experience encompasses much more than just attending college classes: The College Experience refers to a wide range of experience possibilities including social and academic. Some of these students may choose to seek employment as well. College gives students with intellectual disabilities an opportunity to explore, identify and define their personal goals as they relate to adult learning, social connections, and employment.

Think College Grants Are Making a Difference

The results of the first round of Think College grants are promising: The program reports that there was a 27 percent reduction in the graduates who needed financial assistance through Social Security disability. Also, researchers at Think College state that, in general, approximately 15 percent of people with ID have paid employment; whereas, Think College program graduates reached 40 percent paid employment. Furthermore, many graduates chose to continue working toward other academic pursuits.

The Think College Inclusion Oregon (TCIO) Project

All over the nation, children with intellectual disabilities have been integrated into society (including their local schools). Some of the college officials at PSU state that programs like the Think College Inclusion Oregon (TCIO) Project will prompt society to discontinue the automatic write-off of individuals with intellectual disabilities, considering them, ‘not college material.’

For the 2016-2017 school year, Portland State University (PSU) intends to open a program dedicated to students with intellectual disabilities. This program provides students with ID the tools they need to attend college, including coaching and support. Initially, the program will serve five students; however, PSU expects that eventually 35 students will take part in the five-year grant. These students will participate in college courses with non-disabled students. They may hold part-time jobs and reside on the PSU campus as well.

Variations in Daily Routines Are Expected

In order to assist students with ID, some variations will most likely take place. Ann Fullerton is a professor of special education at Portland State University’s Graduate School of Education. Fullerton states that courses may be audited or revised to provide students with intellectual disabilities credit for a typically non-credited course, writing assignments may be modified and peer tutors may be implemented to assist these students: These tutors will review key concepts and terms with the student prior to the start of each class.

Susan Bert, senior instructor at Portland State’s College of Education, says that students will be included in the college campus community in ways that coincide with the things they like to do and/or are interested in. These students will participate in college courses with non-disabled students. They may hold part-time jobs and reside on the PSU campus as well.

Syracuse University’s InclusiveU Program at The Lawrence B. Taishoff Center for Inclusive Higher Education

Syracuse University has received a $2 million grant to continue development on its InclusiveU program: The initiative of this program is to increase the access that students with intellectual and developmental disabilities have to higher education. According to Beth Myers, who is the director of the Taishoff Center, the hope is that the InclusiveU program will pave the way for other universities to create such programs. Myers states that there is a small body of researchers looking into best practices.

InclusiveU’s grant is funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s program, Transition & Postsecondary Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities.  This $2 million grant will provide funds for the development of programs and research for nationwide use of the InclusiveU program. Once students are accepted into the program, they are permitted to take two courses each semester. Students will attend Syracuse University from two to four years.

InclusiveU Creating Universally Designed Instruction Models

InclusiveU takes principles of inclusive education and universal design at the elementary, and secondary levels, and changes them to apply to higher education. Assisting faculty with creating designs for their classes that allow every student to learn ensures that professors can reach the maximum diversity of users.

Students Brief Professors

Just like all other students, the students with intellectual and developmental disabilities have their strengths and weaknesses. InclusiveU helps students with IDD by giving them the opportunity to speak with their professors, essentially briefing the professor on his or her specific needs in the classroom.

Peer-to-Peer Project

InclusiveU students can participate in SU’s Peer-to-Peer Project. This project partners one or more matriculated students with a student enrolled in the InclusiveU program. The matriculated students improve the engagement and social skills of students in the InclusiveU program.

Internship Programs

InclusiveU students do not earn college credit; however, they do earn a certificate of completion. Once a student is attending his or her final year at SU, he or she may choose to participate in Project SEARCH as opposed to completing another year of courses. Students participating in Project SEARCH will spend their final year performing three internships. These internships are completed on Syracuse University’s campus and each internship lasts for 10 weeks.

When provided with the opportunity, access and support they need, students with ID who are receiving transition services in the college setting can have a fantastic outcome. People with intellectual disabilities who attend college have been able to attain greater independence by securing better, more lucrative jobs than their peers without a college education do.

Trina McMillin

Trina brings to Relias a wealth of knowledge and personal experience related to the medical field, dental issues, mental health, and physical therapy techniques. She has worked in various positions over her career which includes being a phlebotomist, laboratory assistant and medical transcriptionist.

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