Zach Neff is probably the friendliest guy on campus. He gives hugs and high-fives to everyone he sees. The 27-year-old with Down syndrome even tells his teachers that he loves them.
“I told Zach we are putting him on a hug diet – one to say hello and one to say goodbye,” said Joyce Downing, with the University of Central Missouri, who helped start a program that serves students with disabilities.
Eight years ago, it was hard to find an intellectually disabled student like Neff on a college campus. There were only four schools that allowed students with disabilities like Down syndrome and autism. Now, there are more than 250 universities in the U.S. and Canada that admit students with such disabilities.
“There is a whole generation of young people who have grown up under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act, and to them it (college) is the logical next step,” said Debra Hart, with Think College.
Mentally disabled students are leaving high school more academically prepared than ever, and more students want to take the next step into higher education. Several programs have been created, which allow students with learning disabilities to work with tutors and mentors.
Mentor programs for these students vary. In most cases, the goal is to help the students as they take regular classes with non-disabled students. In addition, instructors may be advised to tweak the integrated classes. For instance, instructors could be told not to rely solely on lectures and, instead, supplement them with more projects so students can work together in groups.
Hart, who helps the mentally disabled get into college, said the increase in student population is largely due to the great demand for higher education. Now, there is federal funding to help these students.
New federal laws that were put into place this fall allow students with intellectual disabilities to receive grants and work-study money. But the earliest that students can expect to receive the funding is sometime next year, because certain aspects of the rules are still being formulated.
Via The Huffington Post