New KU program tailored for those with intellectual disabilities

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Starting in the fall, a handful of students whose intellectual disabilities normally would exclude them from college will be able to attend classes at the University of Kansas.

The KU Transition to Postsecondary Education for Youth with Intellectual Disabilities program will look much like similar offerings at the K-12 level, where youths with disabilities such as Down syndrome or autism will be mainstreamed, the Lawrence Journal-World reported.

“We want to make sure that they are fully included in all aspects of KU life,” said Mary Morningstar, associate professor in the school’s department of special education.

The university is getting a $1.5 million, five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education to develop and launch the program.

Three other Kansas colleges have programs for students with disabilities, Morningstar said, but they are not fully inclusive. Morningstar expects five to eight students to enroll in the program in the fall, with more in following years.

The ultimate goal, she said, is the same as it is for any University of Kansas student — for participants to exit the program with paid jobs.

Parents of young adults with disabilities have been asking Morningstar for a program like that for a decade, she said.

“There is a drop-off when students graduate from (high) school,” she said. “If you have an intellectual disability, you don’t have a lot of options … the expectation is that you don’t go to an adult center. The family’s expectation is that their young adult is going to continue to learn and grow and be a contributing member of society.”

Students in the program won’t be full time or seeking degrees, but instead will earn different recognition. Morningstar said the goal is to fit them into existing campus offerings as much as possible.

Students are expected to participate in class but may have modified assignments such as listening to a book on tape instead of reading. They also may have personal adult support.

And, like other students, participants will be responsible for finding a way to pay for their education.

“You do what you do when you’re planning for any one of your children to go to KU,” Morningstar said. “You look at financial aid, and you look at out-of-pocket payment, and you look at getting a part-time job.”

 

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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