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College options for students with intellectual disabilities: Think College!

by Mary Mazzoni on February 21, 2013

Think that college isn’t an option for students with intellectual disabilities?

Think again!

The Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 has fueled a surge of innovative programs around the country.

College-based Comprehensive Transition Programs (CTPs) offer students with ID diverse opportunities to learn academic, career, and independent living skills as they prepare for employment.

Students enjoy the benefits of college life, engage in mentoring and social experiences with peers, and build self determination and self advocacy skills.

The Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI) of the University of Massachusetts is the National Coordinating Center for approved Transition Postsecondary Programs for students with intellectual disabilities.

ICI’s user-friendly “Think College” website is a treasure-trove of information, resources, and links to college programs. Explore the possibilities!

ReThinking College

Why is college a great option for students with intellectual disabilities?

This video will get you thinking.

It’s just one of a growing collection of Think College videos that are sparking conversations among students, parents and professionals across the country.

Resources for families

You’ll find helpful articles and a free interactive learning module at the Think College Family Resources page.

Link to upcoming and archived Think College webinars on various topics here.

The Publications page continues to grow – including short fact sheets, practice briefs, personal stories, an e-letter, and a book.

Resources for students

The Student section of the site features insights and tips from college students with intellectual disabilities. There’s also an interactive learning module called Think College Island, with links to interest surveys and planning tools for middle and high school students.

Find college programs

Compare key features of various college programs for students with intellectual disabilities using Think College’s user-friendly Search Tool.

Partnerships and standards

No programs in your area? Partner with a local college and school district to create one! Think College has a wealth of resources to get you started!

The Becoming a CTP section has links to guidance documents, checklists, learning modules and applications.

You can learn about Standards for Inclusive Higher Education here, and find resources on diverse related topics here.

Remember – win-win partnerships among parents, self advocates and educational institutions create opportunities that would otherwise not be possible. Start the conversation in your community!

What about costs?

A variety of funding schemes have been used to make college-based Comprehensive Transition Programs (CTPs) a reality across the country. Check out the learning modules, links, and articles in the Paying for College section of the site.

Eyes on the prize

What are your child’s dreams for the future?

Even if high school graduation is years away, its wise for your teen to look at options so he or she can make informed choices. Consider visiting several programs and asking about ways your child can broaden interests and develop skills to prepare for a CTP experience and eventual employment.

Your turn

Have you considered college as a possibility? Do you know any young people with intellectual disabilities who are enrolled in a college program?

What are your thoughts as you begin to think about the possibilities?

We’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Want to spread the word about college programs for students with ID?  Please share this post. Thanks!

(You may also be interested in our free planning tools for transition to postsecondary education.)

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Marcella R April 29, 2013 at 7:36 pm

I had no idea there was such a program. With what I know of colleges today, I never anticipated my special needs daughter going to college. I have been soooo discouraged with the schools here in Colorado that I thought the only thing available realistically was a trade school or apprenticeship. I am very intrigued with the forward thinking and new possibilities for my daughter post-high school and for others like her. EXCITING & REFRESHING!


Mary Mazzoni May 27, 2013 at 10:41 am

Marcella – I agree with you – it is exciting and refreshing to see innovative opportunities that are being developed around the country.
Sometimes – when we collaborate with other parents, local advocacy organizations, school districts, and local postsecondary schools – and gain insight from sites like Think College – we can develop new local opportunities.
This takes a lot of effort – but we can sometimes meet kindred souls – and the effort can bring unexpected rewards.
Thanks so much for writing. I wish the very best for you and your daughter.


Pixie Schrimpf May 5, 2014 at 12:52 pm

Thank you! I am having difficulty typing this through the tears. I never thought there was an option for our daughter. I can have hope again that she may find a life of joy and some success.


Mary Mazzoni June 9, 2014 at 2:50 pm

Thank you so much for your heartfelt comment, Pixie. Blessings and best wishes to you and your daughter.


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