New University Program for Students with Intellectual Disabilities

Jan 12, 2011
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The University of Tennessee in Knoxville (UT) has a program starting in the fall of 2011 where students with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities and autism will be able to attend. The program will allow them to hold campus jobs, audit courses, and possibly live in the dorms. At the end of the two year program, the student will graduate with a vocational certificate, but the education and training during the program will be helpful in moving them on to full time jobs (on or off-campus) and living independently.

The program is funded through the student’s tuition to the program but also through a grant from the Transition Program for Students for Intellectual Disabilities from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Postsecondary Education. The program is funded for another four years but then after that, the school hopes the program will be self-sustaining.

UT is one of only 27 programs in the U.S. receiving a portion of the funding that is intended to involve students with disabilities in postsecondary education. This specific program will be modeled after one at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN, that was started in 2009. If this one is successful, it could be implemented at other four-year and two-year colleges across the state of Tennessee. UT plans to enroll eight students the first year and increase by four each year, with the goal of serving 80 students during the five years funded by the grant.

To be eligible for this new program, students only have to be high school graduates with a special education degree and be in their 20s. Not only will students get to take non-graded traditional college courses, but they will also get to take more specialized independent study courses such as career development, self-advocacy, problem solving, communication, interpersonal social skills, and even managing finances, cleaning their homes, navigating transportation systems and other skills that can assist with independent living.

Students will also be encouraged to participate in campus activities and the hope at UT is that the students will be embraced campus-wide, creating social and other participation in events. Although they’ll commute initially, in time students may be able to live on campus.

Supposedly there are about 200 programs similar to this one nationwide. I found information about the one at UT Knoxville and the one at Vanderbuilt University but I think a centralized location of all of these programs could be really helpful for someone, especially for the individuals and families who may benefit and be looking for something like this. Does anyone know how to find the others?

Author: Blythe



  • Sbonne2

    That’s a great resource Madalyn, thanks for sharing it. I plan to pass that along!