Pilot Program Expands Options for Students with Intellectual Disabilities

Students with intellectual disabilities have few options when it comes to postsecondary education opportunities. Nationwide, approximately 121 postsecondary programs are available for individuals with intellectual disabilities.

The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) is launching the first such postsecondary program in the state of Tennessee, aided by a three-year grant from the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities.

“The council made a commitment … to develop a pilot project on the campus of a Tennessee college or university for postsecondary students who have an intellectual disability and did not receive a high school diploma,” says Wanda Willis, the council’s executive director. “Continuing education programs like this are increasingly available on college campuses across the country.”

After an initial planning year, Vanderbilt will accept its first students in January 2010 for the two-year day program. Each year eight young adults will take a mixture of undergraduate, life-skills and technical courses, as well as participate in campus extra-curricular activities with Vanderbilt undergraduates. Regular Vanderbilt undergraduate courses will be offered, life-skills courses with internships will be provided, and technical courses will be available through the Tennessee Technology Centers.

“Key components of the Vanderbilt program will foster the development of independent living and employment skills,” says UCEDD Co-Director Elise McMillan. “As with nearly all of our programs at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center, the postsecondary education program we develop will include research, training and service.”

McMillan, who is a senior associate in psychiatry, and Robert Hodapp, professor of special education and UCEDD director of research, are lead faculty members on the grant. The UCEDD also is a part of the Administration on Developmental Disabilities’ National Training Initiative on Postsecondary Education for Students with Intellectual Disabilities. The initiative is led by the Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts. Other participating universities are the University of Minnesota, UCLA, the University of Hawaii, Ohio State University, and the University of South Carolina.

Explore Story Topics