BY LAUREN AGORATUS, M.A.
EMPLOYMENT & TRANSITION ANNUAL ISSUE
Unfortunately, post-secondary education isn’t commonly thought of as an option for students with special needs. Yet only one percent of students eligible for special education have significant intellectual disabilities,1 and there are now postsecondary options for students with cognitive disabilities, too.
One of the best resources for students with special needs is Think College found at http://www.thinkcollege.net/. It is important to note that although IEPs (Individualized Education Programs) and IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) are no longer applicable after high school, all colleges must follow the non-discrimination mandates under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as well as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (see Resources.) At ThinkCollege.net students will also find listings of college programs for students with intellectual disabilities. Even though the ThinkCollege.net website focuses on students with intellectual disabilities, there is great basic information on applicable laws, and tools to help students with all types of disabilities.
Other resources include the Career & College Readiness & Success Center, as well as the National Transition TA Center, where families and self-advocates can learn how to facilitate systemic change. The National RAISE Transition Technical Assistance Center is funded by the US Department of Education Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services-Rehabilitation Services Administration to provide support to the 7 RSA-funded Parent Information and Training Centers around the country. These centers provide information, training, technical assistance and support to assist youth/young adults with disabilities and their families to: (1) access innovative, supportive information on the Rehabilitation Act; (2) receive support in navigating multiple programs and service systems; (3) learn tools and strategies to actively participate in the development of useful, relevant, and meaningful plans for independence; and (4) become collaborative leaders with transition professionals to help youth impacted by disability achieve their goals.” Find them at www.raisecenter.org/rsa-parent-centers/.
MODEL COLLEGE PROGRAMS FOR STUDENTS WITH INTELLECTUAL DISABILITIES
One program for students with intellectual disabilities that started in 2005 is the college DREAM program (Developing Real Expectations for Achieving Mastery.) Students attend college and experience a combination of special classes such as Career Exploration with job shadowing, balanced with classes with typical peers in math, college level reading, computer technology, etc. There are supports as needed from class “mentors” who are experienced students. Mentors help with class notes, including organization of homework assignments and project deadlines. In addition, there are peer tutors, students who have previously taken the class, available for support.
WHAT ALL STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES SHOULD KNOW ABOUT THEIR RIGHTS IN COLLEGE
Students with disabilities need to know that they do not have to disclose their disability to the college. There are no IEPs, no annual goals, etc. and professors will not know who in their class has a disability. All colleges must follow the non-discrimination mandates under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as well as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.However, it may be beneficial for students to speak with the special services department at college if they think accommodations would be helpful. Modifications aren’t required, but accommodations are. (Note that, if students do not disclose their disability, they are not entitled to accommodations).
Examples of some accommodations could include:
• extra time • use of a calculator
• distraction-free testing • recording devices for class notes
• printouts rather than handwritten homework
Accommodations are based on each student’s individual abilities and needs. If eligible, the student would get a listing of accommodations needed which they could share privately with each professor every semester.
HELP WITH TRANSITION TO COLLEGE
If families and students have concerns about transition to adult life, including post-secondary education, they can contact the Parent Training and Information Center in their state. The National Center for Parent Information and Resources has a section on college and career readiness. There are also Centers for Independent Living in every state that help individuals with disabilities with independent living skills.
Post-secondary education is possible for students with disabilities. Families can help their children self-advocate and begin transition activities early using the IEP process (age 16 nationally, but in some states like NJ transition starts at age 14.) Parents and students with disabilities can prepare ahead of time to smooth the way for transition to post-secondary education.•
Special thanks to Susan Onaitis, Ph.D., Counseling Specialist, Office of Special Services at Mercer County Community College, for reviewing information on the DREAM program.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Lauren Agoratus, M.A. is the parent of a child with multiple disabilities. She serves as the Coordinator for Family Voices-NJ and as the central/southern coordinator in her state’s Family-to-Family Health Information Center, both housed at the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network (SPAN) at www.spanadvocacy.org
HIGHER ED : POST-SECONDARY RESOURCES
Differences between high school and college
Information for Families: Online module
COLLEGE & CAREER READINESS & SUCCESS CENTER
NATIONAL TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE CENTER ON TRANSITION
(Resources for Access, Independence, Self-Advocacy and Employment) Technical Assistance Center
CENTERS FOR INDEPENDENT LIVING