As the summer draws to a close, millions of eager students are preparing for their Freshman year of college. For some, it will be a year of many firsts; the first time away from home, the first experience of having a roommate, and being tasked with managing their own workload without the peering eyes of Mom and Dad looking over their shoulders. And let’s not forget the first time existing on cafeteria food. But for students with developmental disabilities, the challenges are even greater and more diverse.
If going to college with a developmental disability sounds unusual, it is. But, not nearly as unusual as it used to be. According to Think College, a federally funded coordinating center at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, there are 265 work-readiness college programs for students with disabilities, compared to only 25 in 2004. That’s a huge jump! These programs offer certificates, not degrees, but they allow students the opportunity to soak in the college environment while preparing for a career. And they work!
One such program, called, Inclusive U, at Syracuse University, helps students with disabilities learn the skills necessary to become employable. They do this by focusing on practical applications like:
- What to wear to a job interview (many mainstream students could use this too!)
- What type of things are okay to talk about at work
- How to make friends, and keep them
- How to make decisions, both big and small
Inclusive U encourages students to pick their own courses, and to get involved in campus activities, to empower young adults and help them build a greater sense of self. The idea is that the more immersed in college culture students are, the better they will do.
Generally, the notion that students with disabilities should be included in mainstream schools is accepted. Fifty years ago, however, it was not. It wasn’t until the 1975 legislative act, now called The Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), that people started sending their children to schools with non-disabled individuals. Before that, parents mostly kept their kids at home, or in institutions, where the chances for learning important social skills were scarce.
Knowing what we do now, about developmental disabilities, we are extremely thankful for programs like Inclusive U, where students can focus on things like which sporting events they want to attend, or which clubs they want to join, just like any other kids. Along with organizations like, College Living Experience, and HDS Foundation, these programs pave the way for young adults to be prepared to take on a career. As we all know, having meaningful work is a key factor in both happiness, and self-esteem. Plus, the more that individuals with disabilities are included in everyday workplace environments, the more the awareness of the general public will improve. It’s definitely a win-win.
If you would like more information on attending college, or any school, as a student, or parent of a student, with a developmental disability, contact us. We are here to help!