College Students with Down Syndrome Study Fashion, Public Speaking, and More

Brandon Gruber, a college student with Down syndrome, with a dress he designed.

A new generation of students with Down syndrome are enrolling in college courses across the country. And their programs of study are anything but stereotypical.

Instead of being limited to "life skills" courses, which are a more standard offering for young people with intellectual disability, these students are delving into fashion design, American Sign Language, public speaking, and a variety of other topics.

Brandon Gruber's experiences at Cabrillo College have included interning for a congressman, and designing clothing.

Tell me more about your fashion design.

Brandon: Right now I’m just focusing on women’s fashion – skirts, dresses. Someday I would like to do some men’s clothes. They probably need more of it. I make clothes with my own artwork... I sew, too.

An article profiling several of these students appears on the website for the A&E reality show Born This Way. The show follows 7 young adults with Down syndrome as they explore careers and relationships and pursue their goals.

For an increasing number of young people with disabilities, college is one of those goals.

“Some of them want to go because they’re focused on a job and want to have a career,” says Wendy Harbour, who works for the National Center for Students with Disabilities.

“Others go because they really love learning or they think it sounds like fun and they want to have a good time. One of the biggest reasons I hear is that everyone else at their [high] school or in their family is going to college. They want to go, too.”

View photos and read more about some of the other students with Down syndrome who are pushing themselves to reach new heights.