Monthly Archives: December 2011

More Students With Disabilities Heading to College

Education Week – December 13, 2011

Postsecondary options expanding

When Andrew Van Cleave thought about what he wanted to do after high school, this son of two university graduates came up with the same answer many his age come up with: go to college.

Until the past decade, though, college wasn’t much of an option for students, including Mr. Van Cleave, who have significant intellectual impairments. This month, the 24-year-old, who has an intellectual disability and ADHD, became one of the first graduates of a two-year program at Vanderbilt University designed for students with severe cognitive disabilities. He starts a job next month.

Vanderbilt’s Next Steps program is one of many created for this group of students in the last 10 years. The programs have grown in number from about 15 in 2002 to almost 170 now, as tracked by Think College, a Boston organization that does research about this new breed of programs and offers guidance about them for professionals, families, and students.

The growth is due in part to changes in federal law that have increased the expectations of such students in elementary and secondary school.

“We’ve had now 30 years of access for students with disabilities to go to school, and they’re coming out of that system with a different expectation: Their education should continue,” said Eric Latham, the executive director of Pathway, a college program for students with intellectual disabilities at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Earlier this year, a national study found that six years after high school, students with disabilities were less likely than peers to have attended any college—55 percent compared with 62 percent, though that includes students with all types of disabilities. Among people with intellectual disabilities, the rate of employment is just 9 percent.

The push for creating college opportunities for students with disabilities has also come from parents and advocacy groups, said Stephanie Lee, a senior policy adviser for the National Down Syndrome Society, based in New York.

She is one of those parents: About 10 years ago, Ms. Lee’s daughter, Laura, who has Down syndrome, asked her mother if she would attend college at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania like her brother. When Ms. Lee researched what options her daughter had, she found “there was very little out there.”

The only real choices were for Laura to stay in high school until she was 21, which federal law allows some students with disabilities to do, or work in a sheltered environment for less than minimum wage, mostly with other people with disabilities.

Ms. Lee, who previously worked for the U.S. Department of Education’s office of special education programs, approached administrators at George Mason University, in Fairfax, Va., about creating a program for Laura and similar students. They said yes.

“I was very nervous about dropping my daughter off at this big university campus. It turned out better than I ever could have expected,” Ms. Lee said. The program, called Mason LIFE, or Learning Into Future Environments, now serves more than 40 students and has a vocational-internship option

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Why Bullying May Never End

Education Week Blogs, December 8, 2011

By Peter DeWitt on December 6, 2011 9:18 AM

“It’s like hearing the same song too many times on the radio. After a while people turn the station.”

The word “bullying” is used on a daily basis. We usually hear it for the first time when we’re watching the news in the morning as we get ready for work or school. There are sad stories from around the nation about children who are being bullied by their peers. The media often focuses on the worst stories of bullying because those are the ones that make the headlines. However, there are millions of more stories happening every day that hopefully will not have the same tragic endings but they are just as serious.

Bullying is targeted behavior on the part of one or more people toward one person. Bullying does not just happen in schools, it happens in neighborhoods where children live, the workplace, on television and even at home from a parent, sibling or another family member. As viewers, we are actually exposed to bullying by the turn of a channel. It involves one victim and one or more bullies. It can be from student to student, or adult to student and adult to adult.

………..

The following questions come to mind where bullying is concerned:
• How can we teach children to be an upstander (bystander who intervenes) when the adults around them won’t stand up?
• How often have you seen an adult talk about another adult or child on Facebook? If you have, how many “friends” comment negatively about the situation that they really know nothing about?
• How often, as an adult, have you not intervened in a situation because you didn’t want the bully to make you or your child the next victim?
• How often as a teacher or administrator, have you asked the victim to change their behavior so they will not be bullied?

Bullying is quite a popular word. 24/7 media focus on the worst cases, which is important because it provides viewers a glimpse into how, even the smallest of bullying issues, can end. However, this constant focus on the part of the media, although important, can lead many adults and children to take the issue less seriously. It’s like hearing the same song too many times on the radio. After a while people turn the station.

If we’re going to talk about bullying, then we need to make sure that we are focusing on real bullying issues and it will take more than just the school system to tackle this problem. Bullying is an issue that takes parents, schools and the media, and given the amount of mixed messages all of those groups send students, we may never see an end to the problem.

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