Inclusive Higher Education Programs and Adults with I/DD

May 26, 2022

The right to receive an education belongs to everyone. Thanks to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), perspectives have shifted toward more inclusion in the education system. Many individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) are now entering college armed with far more skills.

Individuals with I/DD now have access to approximately 300 postsecondary programs within the US. The transition takes planning and strategy. More services and supports, including financial, are offered by state agencies like the Parent Training and Information Centers, funded through IDEA.

Depending on the range of one’s cognitive abilities, there are an increasing number of programs designed to help individuals prepare for the demands of college. For those currently attending inclusive secondary schools, there are opportunities for students to connect with internships and focus groups to aid them in making the next step toward enrolling in a postsecondary school.

Organizations like Think College provide valuable resources and information on more than one hundred postsecondary programs that families and advocates can match with individuals’ particular levels and learning needs.

Supporting the Transition to Higher Learning and Beyond

Preparation for entering an inclusive postsecondary program need not be overwhelming. However, questions must first be answered concerning awareness of admission requirements, touring facilities, financial planning, and support. Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams provide professional guidance regarding the adult disability services and supports available. It is vital that hopeful students actively participate in these preparatory stages.

Once the postsecondary program and location are selected, here are a few strategies for helping someone with I/DD maintain their confidence as they move forward:

  1. Encourage open discussion about their disabilities with instructors, especially how they relate to learning needs and coping mechanisms.
  2. Teach and prepare budgets for expenditures like groceries and discuss moderation in shopping (e.g. needs versus wants).
  3. Coach IDD students to live more independently: encourage them to set up their own doctor’s appointments and learn how to navigate public transportation..
  4. Train individuals in money management, including how to open a bank account and use a debit card.
  5. Support self-choice and independent decision-making to build confidence and self-esteem.

While there may be some roadblocks to success, such as struggles with time management, homework requirements, and more, for many, there are undoubtedly big rewards through perseverance including added self-worth, increased independence and social skills, and the confidence to eventually join the workforce.

At ILA, our Direct Support Professionals and Day Habilitation teams remain committed to helping our Individuals reach their full potential. ILA’s Residential and Day Services provide opportunities for Individuals to discover untapped abilities while learning a variety of different skills to help them thrive in the community. For more information, please visit

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