Last year, Think College—the national organization dedicated to improving inclusive higher education options for people with intellectual disability (ID)—awarded NW Disability Support a capacity grant to do regional work through our West Coast Think College Coalition, develping and expanding inclusive college options in the Northwest. The funding supported continuing the work which, in partnership with Portland State University, led to Oregon’s first inclusive higher education program. There are currently very few choices available for college-bound students with ID in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and northern California as compared to other areas across the country. Some of the available local programs segregate students with disabilities and do not give them the opportunity to participate in the same courses as students without disabilities, or are only open to students with select diagnoses considered high-functioning.
In September 2017, we held a two-day regional training for about 40 youths, parents and professionals. The youth voice—including those with disabilities and their non-disabled peer supporters—collectively asked, “Why not me?” when discussing college dreams for individuals with ID. Parents and professionals learned how to amplify the youth voice, work together to advocate for more post-secondary programs, and support the dream to make inclusive college a reality.
In April 2018, supported by a City of Portland grant, we hosted a one-day regional training called Opening Doors to Inclusive College Options. Over 70 youths, parents, and professionals explored inclusive post-secondary best practices and collaborations. Again, the voices of the youths sent a strong and proud message: “We should not have to fight to get into college.”
We believe that college should be an option for everyone who is interested in pursuing it. Recent findings show that individuals who completed TPSID-model (Transition and Post-secondary Program for Students with Intellectual Disability) programs at college and university campuses had higher employment rates, higher satisfaction with their social lives, and some were living on their own with roommates or a significant other. Read the results of the study at thinkcollege.net.
As the Think College hub in the Northwest, we provide support and assistance to youth, parents, professionals, and inclusive college advocates through resources, information, and a support network. Having post-secondary options for students with ID is a new and growing movement and you can join us to be part of it. It is work that I am personally invested in, as my teenage daughter wants to go to college, but there are no options available to her in SW Washington.