Recommendations to High School Teachers as Students with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Transition to Higher Education

The Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA, 2008) was enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress in 2008. The HEOA created new opportunities from the original Higher Education Act (HEA). With the updated policy, students with intellectual disabilities (ID) can attend post-secondary education programs and learn alongside their neurotypical peers, as well as take specialized classes to further develop functional and adaptive skills. Comprehensive Transition Programs (CTPs) allowed students with ID to be eligible for federal financial aid for the first time. The policy has shed new light on the partnership between higher education and the federal government.

Transitioning from high school to college can be a big jump for a lot of students and families so it is imperative to understand strategies to make the transition as smooth as possible. The first recommendation is to practice self-advocacy skills. There will be support put in place within these CTPs, but there will not be as much support as in a high school classroom, so it is important that students know when to ask for support whether that is in an employment or academic setting. Some professors may be informed about accommodations and modifications for specific students from full-time staff associated with the inclusive post-secondary program (IPSEs), but others may not which is where the importance of self-advocacy comes into play. Working on practical skills will allow students to feel more comfortable when entering a large college campus. Most colleges have established bus routes that students can take advantage of for getting to and from places such as a class, a university sporting event, restaurants, etc. Learning the bus routes and the associated app can be a tough skill but learning it will provide much more freedom to the student as they adjust to college life. An area of emphasis for IPSE programs is for students to gain competitive integrated employment (CIE). There are a lot of skills that go along with maintaining a job such as time management, social skills, communication, etc. The more students practice these skills before college, the better off they will be. All these skills are reinforced at IPSE programs, but if these skills can be introduced in high school, students with IDD will continue to thrive on college campuses.