College Opportunities for Young Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

people standing in front of sign that says hofstra university

Despite the challenges that individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDDs) often face, there are a growing number of college opportunities and vocational training. In the 2021-2022 school year, 310 higher education programs at more than 200 campuses across the United States were available to support young adults with IDDs.

In addition, vocational and day programs offer valuable alternatives for those who may not be interested in traditional academia. Overall, there are many options for individuals with IDDs to continue learning and developing new skills after high school.

The Higher Education Landscape for Young Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Access to higher education for young adults changed drastically in 2008, thanks to the reauthorization of the Higher Education Opportunity Act. The law not only gave students with disabilities access to federal aid and specific grants, but the legislation allowed universities to customize and pilot programs targeted at students with IDDs.

There was also funding made available for Think College, which is dedicated to expanding and improving inclusive higher learning options for people with IDD. The schools include public and private universities, and most programs result in a certificate of completion. 

Examples of Inclusive Education Programs in the State of New York

Referring to the Think College website, there are close to 30 postsecondary education programs for students with intellectual disabilities in New York state. The search feature on the site is an excellent way to research and discover school options that are geographically desirable and meet your academic and social needs. Not every school with programs available is on here, but it is a valuable source to start from.

Here are a Few Examples of University-Based Inclusive Education Programs in the NY Area

1.     The Melissa Riggio Higher Education Program

Through a combination of efforts from AHRC New York City, The City University of New York, and the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, the Melissa Riggio Higher Education Program was created and is available to people over 21 with IDD. It is a fully inclusive higher education program where students with IDD attend college classes, engage in student life on campus, and have the assistance of peer mentors throughout. Campuses are located in all five boroughs.

2.     Community Mainstreaming Associates Collaboration with Hofstra University

Along with Hofstra University, CMA offers classes for young adults with autism and developmental disabilities. Weekly classes take place on the Hofstra campus, allowing for inclusive interactions with peers and taking advantage of resources available on campus that focus on career goals and interests.

3.     Bridges to Adelphi

This program provided at Adelphi University is dedicated to the needs of their neurodiverse students. The students receive individualized academic, social, and vocational support services through individual, group, and peer mentors. This support system is in place to help students overcome any issues that may affect their academic, social or vocational success while upholding the University’s academic integrity, standards, and expectations. 

4.     Molloy Opportunity For Successful Transition (MOST) Program

Molloy University’s program is designed for adults 22 – 27 years of age that are developmentally disabled to afford a college experience and attend classes to increase their social and academic skills. The courses cover health, wellness, budgeting, literacy, citizenship, and occupations. It is a two-year program that, in the end, will help them to transition into employment.

Vocational and Day Programs

University- and college-based programs may not be suitable for all young adults with IDDs. For those with different talents or requiring more support, day programs, vocational training, and supported employment may be more suitable.

Many of these programs are focused on practical skills like searching for a job and preparing for an interview. They don’t stop when the contract is signed but continue with practical coaching. This type of supported employment benefits people with disabilities as well as their employers. Employers become eligible for tax credits and benefit from lower training costs.

The Continued Focus and Development are Encouraging 

There needs to be more colleges and universities participating in every state so that as many individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities can lead fulfilling and purposeful lives.

However, seeing the progress nationwide and the potential for even more is inspiring. Just this past year, in the state of Massachusetts, a law was passed that will require all of the state’s public college campuses to offer accommodations for young people with developmental disabilities to take classes as nondegree-seeking students and take part in extracurricular activities as well. This law will have many lasting benefits, including improved chances of employment.

Hopefully, this is something this will take place in every state.

Contact Community Mainstreaming today to find out how we can assist you or a loved one with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and any needs you may have.