College is Now an Option for All: Preparing and Expanding Opportunities for Students with ID Go to College!
If the start of the school year 2021-22 is any indication, the opportunities for students with Intellectual Disabilities (ID) to attend college is going to continue to expand. Currently, there are 310 (as compared to 260 in 2019) higher education programs ~ in 49 states at more than 200 campuses ~ being offered. And, of the nearly 22 million students enrolled in colleges and universities in the U.S., more than 11% report some form of disability; with more than 5,500 students (6-7%) with intellectual disability. Thanks to laws like the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) of 2008, there is a growing body of resources and accessible funding making a college education more attainable. We can definitely say: inclusive higher education for students with ID is here to stay!
Now, it is our turn as parents to learn all we need to know to improve our special child’s chances of getting accepted into the college of his/her choice; just as we would do for our “neurotypical” children. If you have been through this before, or you are going through it now, you know it takes a great deal of time and effort ~ and you can be sure, there are “special” things you can do for your special needs child. So, let’s get started learning our lessons with our children!
#1: Early Years: Embrace a Mindset of Possibilities and See Your Child in College
Imagine your “future” college student…think about who and how he or she would need to be in order to benefit from an inclusive higher education experience; allowing those thoughts and ideas to guide your parenting.
Create a “family attitude” that recognizes the potential of your special child early, and promotes their full participation in all of life so they can achieve as much independence as possible.
Recognize the ever-changing role required of you to move from a nurturer and protector, to an encourager of learning, risk-taking and discovering, to a motivator of progress and independence to the greatest degree possible.
Be willing to let your child learn by taking chances and making mistakes. Let them make their own decisions and have a say in their life activities.
Immerse your special child in inclusive life activities in school, in the community and with family; helping them experience the real world, teaching them responsibility and self-advocacy, and learning the role of work/career as part of life.
#2: Middle and High School: Get Started with the Transition Process
Have a discussion with your child to see what they desire out of their college experience. What are their interests? What classes do they want to take?
- Tips for Parents to Help Students Think about College
- Differences of Support between High School and College
Work with your child’s team – educators, therapists, and vocational rehab counselors – to incorporate IEP goals with college in mind… keeping the dream alive!
- Transition Goals and Activities for Inclusive Post-Secondary Programs
- 20 Powerful Strategies to Prepare for Inclusive Postsecondary Education
#3 Beginning of High School, or Latter Years of High School…Find the Right College
Read through Self-Advocate’s Guide to Choosing a Post-Secondary Program: A step-by-step document written specifically for students with intellectual/developmental disabilities.
Complete Think College Learn: A complete and easy way for parents and students to learn about the possibilities to attend college including: descriptions of college options, differences between college and high school, the changing role of families once students are in college, ways to navigate those differences changes, ways to prepare for college, how to choose the right college, how to apply to college, and how to pay for college.
Learn all about Conducting a College Search: in this detailed guide from Think College This comprehensive guide outlines the questions to ask and the answers to consider when choosing the right college program, along with an interactive database that outlines ten important categories describing more than 310 inclusive post-secondary programs: admissions, fees, tuition and financial aid, inclusion with campus community, academics, housing, supports, program administration, communication with parents, career development and program outcomes.
#4: Keep a Positive Mindset: “I know my child will be in the perfect college at the perfect time.”
Being a parent, you have always had to “trust” that all things with your child/children will work out in time…and this experience is no different.
Remember: There is no reason to do this on your own! Create a team with interested teachers, therapists, guidance and vocational rehab counselors, other parents, and guardian angels.
Here are 10 tips to Help Prepare Your Child for College written by two professors from an inclusive post-secondary program. They thoughtfully answer this question: “What can we do to increase the chance our child will be admitted?”