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Author Topic: The mentally retarded attending college?  (Read 13927 times)


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The mentally retarded attending college?
« on: May 17, 2006, 07:24:pm »

Another Barrier Broken

For intellectually disabled kids, college has finally become an option.

Web Exclusive
By Peg Tyre
Updated: 6:02 p.m. ET April 13, 2006
April 13, 2006 - In many ways, Katie Apostolides, an education major at Becker College in Worcester, Mass., is a typical undergraduate. As a freshman, she found it hard to leave her family behind in Pennsylvania and get used to dorm life. Like other new students, she worried that she’d never find close friends. One class—medical terminology—was unexpectedly difficult, and she had to withdraw in order to preserve her grade-point average. Her second year, she says, “has been going better.” She’s used to dorm life now. She’s made friends. The workload is still challenging, but these days, she says, “I take the initiative to go up to teacher and ask for help.”

Apostolides’s troubles may seem ordinary, but she is far from an average college sophomore. She has Down syndrome—a chromosomal abnormality characterized by mild to moderate mental retardation. Profiting from a 30-year movement to keep disabled kids in mainstream school settings, Apostolides, 22, earned a degree from a public high school in Pennsylvania and now, supported by her parents and her own unflagging enthusiasm, is working on a college degree. She’s not the only mentally disabled person attending college these days. In 2001, there were 15 postsecondary programs for intellectually disabled students. In 2006, the number has swelled to 115. Next fall, two colleges in New Jersey—a community college and a four-year university—are launching pilot programs to offer a version of the college experience to such students.

Thirty years ago, mentally challenged kids were relegated to institutions, training programs and group homes. Regarded as unteachable, they were trained to do basic menial tasks instead getting instruction in reading and math. That began to change in the 1970s when activist parents backed by new federal laws began pressing local school districts to “mainstream” intellectually disabled children and provide more community-based resources for them. At the same time, education specialists determined that many cognitively impaired children could learn more—provided they received early, intensive intervention. School districts began devising programs that mixed kids with disabilities into regular schools and sometimes, regular classrooms. “There was a massive shift in this country to supply more inclusion programs for intellectually disabled kids,” says Debra Hart, coordinator for education and transition for the Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts.

Mainstreaming intellectually disabled kids paid off. Today, says Madeleine Will, vice president of public policy for National Down Syndrome Society, kids with intellectual impairments are “functioning better in the world of school, in the home and in the workplace.” Parents who have spent the last 20 years creating educational opportunities for their disabled children say college is the next frontier. Steve Riggio, the CEO of Barnes & Noble, who is underwriting the two new programs in New Jersey, says he hopes his own intellectually disabled daughter, Melissa, now a high-school junior, will benefit. Without well-constructed postsecondary programs, he says, after graduation, “she is facing a life without the opportunities that typical kids receive.”


The goal of many of the programs is to help the children develop the skills they need to live more independently—and that means getting and keeping a job. About 70 percent of intellectually disabled people are unemployed. Lindsey Foley, 20, an intellectually disabled woman from Worcester, Mass., hopes that auditing a computer course at Quinsigamond Community College near her home will help her keep her job at the local YMCA. “I need to learn about computers to get better,” she says. Because she can’t read or write independently, Foley attends class with a tutor. She uses special software that “reads” textbooks and the Internet. When it is time to take a test, she goes to the learning center where a “scribe” reads the test questions aloud and records her answers. So far, her mother, Robin, points out, Lindsey has not failed a test. “Ha!” Lindsey adds with pride. Next year, she says, she hopes to take classes in English and sign language.


Not every college program offers the same level of inclusion and classroom support. Some colleges run life-skills courses on campus but keep intellectually disabled kids away from their mainstream curriculum. Others offer a hybrid, allowing the students to audit regular classes and supplement their course load with skill-building seminars such as cooking and human relationships. Other colleges allow them to matriculate. When Mercer Community College in New Jersey opens its new program this fall, intellectually disabled students will take some regular classes—working toward a vocational certificate—but they'll also get a special program of motivational speakers and seminars in classroom etiquette and time management. What if intellectually disabled students can’t cut it? “There are plenty of students without special needs who have to take a class repeatedly before they master the material,” says Mercer administrator Sue Onaitis, who is coordinating the program for intellectually disabled students. “We believe that it’s OK for all of our students to try and fail. There’s a kind of dignity there.”

These programs aren’t cheap. Tuition for intellectually disabled kids is usually the same or more than the tuition for regular learners. In some states, local school districts will help defray the costs. If they don’t, parents have to dig deep since intellectually disabled students usually can’t obtain financial aid. Parents may be getting some help soon. Last month, an amendment to the Higher Education Bill was introduced in the House that would provide federal work-study funds for intellectually disabled students who attend college.

John Russo says he’d welcome all the help his son could get. John, 18, has a cognitive disorder that has kept him out of public schools. Though he reads at the fourth-grade level, he’s like other teenagers in many ways—he plays in a band, has shown a flair for design and is dreaming of the day when he can get a driver’s license. Russo believes that postsecondary education will help his son make the crucial leap to the working world. Given the right opportunity, he says, his son had the patience and determination to succeed. “It’s not like he’s never had an obstacle thrown at him,” he says. Overcoming obstacles, he says, is the story of his life.

This seems patently ridiculous to me. College, properly speaking, ought to be for a small subset of the population who have both the high intellect, the desire, and the finances to attend college. With the dumbing down of modern education, and the softening of the courses so that anybody can get themselves a Bachelor's degree in short order, so that those who are, in the true sense, college-formed intellectuals, must have a masters or doctorate, this is just the latest way to exploit well-meaning parents to make money. College is not seen as a privelege, or a specialized field, it is seen as a right, a duty, an absolute necessity if you wish to "succeed" according to the world's standards, or even secure a job. This manifestation of the "everyone must go to college, pay big money, and become a properly indoctrinated communist" mentality is quite par for the course, I'd say. It has a healthy dose of "libertie, egalite, fraternite!" thrown in for good measure.


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The mentally retarded attending college?
« Reply #1 on: May 17, 2006, 07:38:pm »

Unbelievable and cruel.  Of course these individuals will be employed in menial tasks (if they're able to be employed, at all) -- we should have a social system of communal support for these people, considering their limitations (which people refuse to acknowledge), and not some mercenary system that exploits people for profit.


  Mainstreaming intellectually disabled kids paid off.


An incredible statement.


For those of us who teach these individuals in the classroom, I can assure you that it has NOT paid off.  It is cruel and irrational to place them in environments that are ill suited for them, with expectations they cannot possible meet -- so, we just lower the expectations for ALL of the students. 


It is incredibly distracting, disruptive, and time consuming to deal with these individual limitations (from not be able to understand what a pupil is saying, to inappropriate conduct in a classroom, to integrating a child into interactive lessons, to devising a separate grading standard for the student, to dealing with "professionals," that work with the student, to reigning in normal students who are cruel to the retarded student -- the problems go on and on)...


The mentally retarded attending college?
« Reply #2 on: May 17, 2006, 09:11:pm »
Quote from: Immaculata001


It is incredibly distracting, disruptive, and time consuming to deal with these individual limitations (from not be able to understand what a pupil is saying, to inappropriate conduct in a classroom, to integrating a child into interactive lessons, to devising a separate grading standard for the student, to dealing with "professionals," that work with the student, to reigning in normal students who are cruel to the retarded student -- the problems go on and on)...

I am so glad you used the word "individual." I have a dear friend (30+ years now) whose daughter has Down Syndrome. Her child is an absolute joy and very bright. Of course, she has limitations, but I doubt that she is retarded. Rather, there does not exist an accurate way to assess her intelligence.


I saw this young lady, 9 years old, do something I haven't seen another child do and I daresay some adults could not. At the Last Gospel, she had begun to walk back to the choir, where she is allowed to sing the recessional if she has behaved well. (She always gets to, she is very well behaved.) As she heard the ET VERBUM CARO FACTUM EST, she turned around to genuflect, got back up and took her place. I know that children with DS are excellent at mimicking, but this was over and above. When she was 3 she was out shopping with her dad (not Catholic) and they saw a picture or Our Lady. The little girl knelt before the image and prayed. I could go on, but you get the idea.


I doubt that my friend would ever send her daughter to college, but I do think that life-long learning is possible for a child with DS. When she was a baby, the therapists/specialists told my friend what to expect and the little Miss has proven the specialists wrong at every turn. Those of us who are blessed to know her wonder if she might have a vocation.

S.A.G. ~ Kathy ~ Sanguine-choleric. Have fun...or else.

Adoramus te, Christe, et benedicimus tibi, quia per sanctam crucem tuam redemisti mundum.
To listen to the hymn-

"I am convinced that the crisis of the church which we are living through today was largely caused by the disintegration of the liturgy."              
- The former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger

"Their cold stares remind me of the neo-cons that just sign up to FE - they are fish, but they are dead." ~ Marty


The mentally retarded attending college?
« Reply #3 on: May 17, 2006, 09:52:pm »

       I go to a college, and let me tell you, there are a rather high number of people there who are wierd. I do not mean outright retarded, but "out-to-lunch," in a big way. One of these fellows in my class was just arrested for indecent behavior with children. Just a bunch of odd, odd people where I go. One fellow will walk around campus knocking on every metal pole which he can find. Wierd stuff.....

I promise not to put anything here which might help us question our mind-forged manacles, inspire us, or help us in any way at all.

N.B.: I will not be posting on this site again until the Christmas octave. Have a good Advent.


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The mentally retarded attending college?
« Reply #4 on: May 18, 2006, 06:01:am »
Get outta there man those places aren't healthy.


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The mentally retarded attending college?
« Reply #5 on: May 18, 2006, 07:59:am »
A basic human right is for all people to receive a degree level education actual ability is not important didn't you get the memo? just because someone is "intelectually challenged" is no excuse to discriminate against them by denying them this right to receive a doctorate.

This crap has really gone to far, most forms of education have become totally worthless when it comes down to what matters, getting a well paid challenging job they simply dont come up to requirements.


The mentally retarded attending college?
« Reply #6 on: May 18, 2006, 10:17:am »

As I have stated on this blog before my son has Down's Syndrome. He is 16 yrs old.


I think this is absolutely ridiculous and another example of parents gone haywire. Yes I want the most for my son, but for heaven's sakes, he is disabled! He is mentally retarded! Some might take offense at that but that is what he was born with but his heart is loving and I think that God especially listens to his prayers. Yes, these evil (and I no longer want to say ignorant or "well-meaning") educators will teach my son and others like him all that he "needs to know" about sexuality, etc. The University life as stated above should be for a small percentage and not the majority.


My son, by the grace of God and the kindness of our pastor, Fr. Patrick Perez, is an altar server at Our Lady Help of Christians Chapel. He knows his Latin, he knows the responses. It is not always perfect but it is not too bad. He was just confirmed this past April by His Lordship, Bishop de Mallerais. He is now a soldier of Christ. He had to know his Catechism and he had to pass the test, which he did 100% correctly, to be confirmed. These things are more important than any sham education.


I am grateful for the struggles that parents before me had to go through to give their disabled children an opportunity other than an institution; however, parents have to realize their is a limit. I believe if it is carried too far there will be a backlash. We do not have an unlimited supply of resources and we have parents who want and expect everything and than we have the death-merchants advocating the murder of the handicapped either through abortion or euthanasia because they have no quality of life. When will these two opposites collide? When the money runs out?



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