For Families: Introduction

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Should I even think about college for my son or daughter?

Over the past twenty years or so, options for students with intellectual disabilities (also referred to as cognitive disabilities, cognitive impairments, or formerly mental retardation) to attend college have been gradually expanding. Historically, students with intellectual disabilities (ID) have been excluded from higher education, and expected instead to stay in high school until age 21 and then get a job or move to a sheltered workshop. As the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and inclusive education practices helped to create higher expectations for students with disabilities, students started asking “Why can’t I go to college?”

The possibility of college is becoming a more common conversation. As family members of individuals with ID, you may not know about all the possibilities or be hesitant to encourage sons and daughters to consider attending college, at least initially. Weighing the risks against the benefits, you end up with all kinds of questions about safety, supports, funding, transportation, and courses. While these are important questions to ask, such thoughts may create more concern than creativity, and you may lose sight of the many benefits of going to college.

But the benefits of college for people with intellectual disabilities are many—development of academic and personal skills, independence, self-advocacy, self-confidence, and new friendships. Being part of campus life, taking classes, joining student organizations, and learning to navigate a world of high expectations leads to the development of skills and confidence needed for successful adulthood. As a parent, keeping college in the mix of possibilities says that you believe in your son or daughter’s potential for success.

To hear the true stories of five students with intellectual disabilities who went to college, from the perspective of their parents, listen and watch the Think College Webinar: Family Perspectives. (you may need to download Adobe Connect to your computer to watch this video). They share lots of helpful advice!

This infographic video shares key facts about college...Read more

This Think College Insight Brief discusses the philosophy behind offering postsecondary education opportunities to students with intellectual disabilities.Read more