Lawrence B. Taishoff Center Q&A

Lawrence B. Taishoff Center Q&A

What are intellectual and developmental disabilities?

The term “intellectual disability” refers to difficulties with thinking and problem solving, as well as social and practical skills. Historically, this disability has been identified prior to the time a person reaches the age of 18. “Developmental disability” is a broad term that refers to chronic conditions that can be caused by either cognitive or physical impairments (or both) and that may affect communication, mobility or other actions. Developmental disabilities are defined also by age, appearing prior to a person’s 22nd birthday. Autism and Down syndrome are examples of developmental disabilities.

What does inclusion look like in higher education, and why is it important?

The Taishoff Center defines inclusion as the incorporation of students with significant disabilities into general academic courses on campus, across disciplines, departments and schools, with nondisabled peers.

Best practices found at inclusive postsecondary educational institutions include, but are not limited to, the following:

1. Inclusive services with flexible and expanded educational and extracurricular options. Students may choose their courses and are involved in campus activities and organizations, including student organizations.

2. Faculty and academic advisors presume competence of students with intellectual disabilities and set high expectations. They are viewed as contributing members of the university community and are recognized by student affairs departments and organizations, as well as academic departments.

3. Students with intellectual disabilities are able to navigate relationships with disabled and nondisabled peers and take pride in their identity and campus community.

4. As a result of interactions with students with developmental disabilities, faculty change the way they view their teaching and instruction to be more inclusive of all learners with and without disabilities.

5. Students with developmental disabilities participate in regular classes and in typical activities with flexible supports. Segregated classrooms do not exist.

The recent interest in postsecondary education, specifically for this population, is largely due to the practice of including students with disabilities at the elementary and secondary levels over the last two decades (Hart, Grigal, Sax, Martinez & Will, 2006). Fueled by students’ goals to attend college, families are increasingly expecting inclusion to continue in postsecondary settings, with same-age peers. At the same time, enrollment rates for students with disabilities have more than doubled since 1987 (Wagner, Newman, Cameto & Levine, 2005).

As K-12 students with intellectual disabilities continue to be included in increasing numbers, and higher education changes to accommodate those with such disabilities as a greater part of campus diversity, it is likely the number of programs and services necessary to support this population will continue to grow as well.

The ultimate goal is for students to be able to transfer the skills and strategies they acquire in postsecondary education to meaningful employment, economic advancement and community participation, including independent living and social integration outcomes once they exit these programs.

What is the Lawrence B. Taishoff Center for Inclusive Higher Education? How will it differentiate itself as a leader in this field of study?

The Lawrence B. Taishoff Center is a newly created institute housed at Syracuse University’s School of Education and will be a national leader in the research, study and practice of inclusive higher education for students with developmental disabilities. The primary activities of the center will be to conduct research and create demonstration projects related to inclusive education, working with University partners and those across the country to create best practices in this field of study.

The center was made possible by a gift from Capt. Robert P. Taishoff and his wife, Laurie Bean Taishoff, on behalf of the Taishoff Family Foundation.

Who will the Taishoff Center serve?

Through both its academic work and research focus, the Taishoff Center will provide technical assistance to students, educators, administrators, policymakers and parents interested in helping to make higher education more inclusive. The center will also offer public education and advocacy resources for legislation that supports inclusive education.

What types of students are eligible for inclusive higher education programs? What is the admissions process for these programs?

Typically, students with intellectual and developmental disabilities participate in campus activities that have open enrollment procedures, as they are not able to matriculate into traditional higher education programs. Eligibility and admissions criteria vary depending on the campus and specific programs for this population.

Do students in either of these programs receive grades? What are the benchmarks for them to measure their success?

In most instances, students in these programs do not receive grades. Success is defined in a range of ways: program-specific goals, individual goals negotiated with the students, specific outcomes—for example, an experience in higher education may better enable a person to get a job or to live independently or semi-independently.

What services can a student receive with inclusive postsecondary education?

Inclusive services and disability accommodations vary, depending on the campus. Accommodations may be similar to those of other students with disabilities, including tutors, extended time on tests, extended deadlines for assignments, assistive technology and note takers. Additional services provided on an individual basis may include peer mentors and curriculum modifications created in collaboration with faculty and teaching assistants.

Many times, colleges and universities will collaborate with local school districts to provide supports and services, including paraprofessionals, transportation, transition support and reviews of Individualized Education Plan (IEP) objectives. Local disability agencies or vocational rehabilitation offices may also provide receive service coordination, independent living skill instruction, recreational support or employment services.

What types of inclusive education programs does Syracuse University offer?

OnCampus (established in 1999) is a collaboration between Syracuse University and the Syracuse City School District that supports six students with intellectual disabilities. All public school students with disabilities are eligible to receive special educational services until age 21. OnCampus students work on academic and social goals from their IEP within the context of academic courses and social experiences on the University campus with nondisabled peers. Students choose from academic courses across University disciplines, departments and schools. The local school district provides a certified special education teacher who coordinates the program while providing curricular modifications for students and supporting a staff of six paraprofessionals. The University provides a graduate assistant from the School of Education to coordinate partnerships with undergraduate education students, office space and the use of campus facilities.

The Access program (established in 2006) is a collaboration between the private university and an adult service agency funded by public systems, which provides educational support to students after they reach age 21.The adult service agency provides a certified special education teacher who coordinates services for six adult learners in auditing college courses across disciplines. Additionally, six campus mentors serve as paraprofessionals, providing support both in classes and while students navigate the campus.

What is the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 and how has it affected inclusive higher education?

In 2008, Congress enacted the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA), which reauthorized and amended the Higher Education Act of 1965. The HEOA gives unprecedented support to students with intellectual and developmental disabilities and has increased their access to postsecondary education.

The law gives these students access to federal financial aid programs, while also providing funding for research about inclusive higher education. This type of support will only increase the number of students with such disabilities participating in college programs, so the amount and types of services available for this audience is also expected to rise.

Are there other opportunities for financial assistance for these students?

In addition to the support made possible through the HEOA, potential sources for financial assistance include the specific higher education institution, Medicaid Waiver services (see the New York Office for Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities for examples), funding through local school districts through IDEA, VESID (see New York State for examples), and local transitional or adult service agencies.

References Cited

Hart, D., Grigal, M., Sax, C., Martinez, D., & Will, M. (2006). Postsecondary Education Options for Students with Intellectual Disabilities. Boston, MA: Institute for Community Inclusion-UMASS Boston

Wagner, M., Newman, L., Cameto, R., and Levine, P. (2005). Changes Over Time in the Early Postschool Outcomes of Youth with Disabilities. A Report of Findings from the National Longitudinal Transition Study (NLTS) and the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2). Menlo Park, CA: SRI International.