FAQ: Postsecondary Education Options for Young Adults with Significant Disabilities

Posted on September 09, 2012

This is a continuation of the story of Mason. See the article “What Do You Mean by Red Flags? A Parent Perspective on Discovering Their Child’s Disablility” http://essentialeducator.org/?p=1226 or the December 2010 Utah Special Educator Vol. 33 No.2.

It’s been two years since our family began our journey with autism. Mason, information pills our sweet five-year-old boy has grown a lot over the last two years, and as parents, so have we. We have watched him and cheered him on as he has struggled with aspects of the disorder, and we have hoped, prayed, and pulled him along as much as we can. We have tried many different methods with him, some with great success, some as total failures. At the end of the day we usually hit the bed exhausted, and worn out; but with a satisfaction of knowing that we are doing a hard thing, and that our efforts are worth it.

Mason loves numbers, letters, colors, and especially loves nouns.  He always has. When psychologists would ask me about how many words he knew, I had to answer, “Hundreds!” But, knowing the words, is very different than knowing how to use the words. He is just beginning to develop his language skills, and every once in awhile I will catch myself smiling and realizing that he just said a 5 or 6 word sentence. I smiled for days and boasted to all of the neighbors the day that he said to me, “Thank you for the purple popsicle, Mom.”  Unfortunately, not all days, and not all sentences are as good as that one.  Most of the time, I still have a little boy who comes into my room, yells words at me, and then waits for me to repeat them back to him.  “Frogs!”  Then silence, “frogs!, “frogs!,” repeated over and over and over again, until we finally acknowledge him by repeating the word, “Frogs.”  Then, onto the next animal, “Snake!”  It is a daily exercise in patience.

One thing that Mason has always struggled with was anxiety.  He couldn’t open presents, for fear of what might be in them.  Going to family parties or to grandma’s house would find him standing at the exit, “I want to go home, I want to go home, I want to go home!”  This last school year, his teacher sent a note home saying that they were going to start sending Mason to the autism preschool class one day a week.  He had not been progressing for the last few months, and was really beginning to struggle in school. He would stand at the door begging to go home, and worrying about any new thing that might happen in the classroom. He previously had been holding his own in the preschool that dealt more with speech delay, and not specifically autism.  This was a big, discouraging step for us. We finally decided that it was time to ask about putting Mason on some anti-anxiety medication.  We took him to our family doctor and talked about the things that we needed. He wrote out a prescription for a very low dosage of an anti-depressant that can be used for anxiety in children, but  he warned that it could take weeks before we saw a difference. The change was almost immediate. Mason immediately began to grab his shoes and request going places.  He enjoyed going to the store with us, and was always looking forward to going somewhere. We became regulars at the local fast food joint and would spend hours playing on the playground, just so we would have somewhere to go in the afternoons.  He was able to relax and enjoy the world for a little bit, which for four years he had been unable to do.

When we returned to school after a three-week break, they also were able to see changes. Nearly every day the teacher’s note started with a comment such as “Mason had a great day today!”  We went for several months without any negative comments, in contrast to nearly every day before the medication. He began to make progress, his communication skills improved, and he eagerly left for school most days, excited to see his friends and teachers.

When we were going through the process of diagnosing Mason, people would ask, “Does he have any sensory issues?”  We responded negatively, and didn’t really even know what they were asking.  Since then, we have begun to discover that he does have sensory processing difficulties and we have learned to cope with them.  Mason loves small spaces, and he loves hard surfaces. He has taken over ownership of our laundry baskets. When playing on the computer, Mason will carry a laundry basket over to the computer chair, put it on the chair and then climb in the basket.  He will crawl in any cubby or space that he can find to fit himself in, and he loves it!  He likes to shut himself into the small pantry or the bathroom to play games on his iPad. He will crawl in the shelf cubbies of the entertainment center.  He gets into drawers and cabinets anywhere that he can find them. He went through a phase where we would put him to bed each night, go down to check on him 30 minutes later, and find he was gone. We would inevitably find him in the toy chest, with the lid closed, sound asleep on the hard, solid surface.

He also struggles with loud voices. If he has misbehaved and thinks there is a chance somebody might raise their voice he covers his ears, prepared to block out any loudness that might be coming his way.  The running joke at our house (although we might not be joking-we actually did go look at them at a pet store), is that we will get Mason a dog house for Christmas so that he has a small safe place to go and hide. We have had to learn not only to help him cope with his sensory issues, but also to embrace them and become comfortable with the strange nuances and quirks that help define our child.

From a young age Mason has always engaged with technology; in fact, he often obsesses over it!  We recently had to bolt the iMac down to the table, and the table to the wall because he has tried to take it with him on several occasions.  He also loves the iPad. It has a calming influence on him, teaching him things with a patience and expertise that we have been unable to recreate elsewhere. He loves to methodically work his way through each of the menu items, pushing on the arrow to get to the next screen. We often tell people that the easiest way to teach Mason anything is to give him an App for it. A few months ago he started talking about coins. He didn’t know anything about the monetary value or what they were used for, so we bought him a 99 cent app.  He spent a couple of days studying the app. He tried every possible solution, not only learning and memorizing the right answers, but also wrong answers, so that he could fully understand what the program was trying to teach him and know what to expect from each answer he might give.  After learning all of the basic amounts and names of all the coins, he then progressed to counting and sorting the money into certain piles of value. After he had fully learned everything that the app had to teach him, he moved to paper, drawing and writing page after page of coins and numbers. In the third step to his learning process is found objects to “act out” the scenarios that he had learned. In the case of the coins, it was our piggy bank. All day long he repeatedly dumped out the coins and lined them up, piled them, counted them, and sorted them. This process is something he repeats over and over with each new subject presented to him. He has systematically worked his way through nearly every screen on pbskids.org, as well as several Dr. Seuss software titles that we have for our home computer.  As a result of his love of technology, he has a wide knowledge base and very advanced skills in many topics compared to typical kids in his age group.

Teaching Mason to read has always worried us, as he has never been interested in books.  It is nearly impossible to get him to sit and read a book with us. We were excited to find out that the Reading for All Learners series was coming to iPad. We were able to get a preview version, and help with the beta testing.  It has been a hit!  Mason is beginning to learn to read using the Reading for All Learners “Little Books Set 1” app, which will be released in late fall 2012 (http://iseesam.com). His love for the iPad has really helped him embrace reading.  He loves to systematically click his way through the menus and see his completion and progress in the “game”.  In talking to his teacher this year at the local diagnostic kindergarten, she said that Mason will be one of the most advanced reading students that she has ever had. We have to attribute this to his love for technology and the amazing educational resources that are available at this time.

As we began the process of intervention and diagnosis, we heard the term “red flags” pop up in our conversations with service providers, educators and psychologists. In racing, the red flag symbolizes stoppage in the race. In the race to help Mason develop into a happy well educated boy, our strivings and goals have been to keep him progressing, to keep him moving, and to make sure that his life and progress doesn’t fall short because of his “red flags”.  Mason may not ever lead the race, or be the first one to cross the symbolic checkered flag (at least in comparison with a neurotypical child), but with strong supports and interventions at home and at school we think it is possible to keep him moving under green flag conditions–reaching and striving for his great potential in the race of life.  We are endlessly grateful for the family, friends and educators who all give us the love and support that we need to help this special child.

Authors: Rachel Johnson, South Jordan Utah resident & Tom Johnson, Technology Specialist, UPDC (Utah Personnel Development Center)

This is a continuation of the story of Mason. See the article “What Do You Mean by Red Flags? A Parent Perspective on Discovering Their Child’s Disablility” http://essentialeducator.org/?p=1226 or the December 2010 Utah Special Educator Vol. 33 No.2.

It’s been two years since our family began our journey with autism. Mason, stomach our sweet five-year-old boy has grown a lot over the last two years, this and as parents, stomach so have we. We have watched him and cheered him on as he has struggled with aspects of the disorder, and we have hoped, prayed, and pulled him along as much as we can. We have tried many different methods with him, some with great success, some as total failures. At the end of the day we usually hit the bed exhausted, and worn out; but with a satisfaction of knowing that we are doing a hard thing, and that our efforts are worth it.

Mason loves numbers, letters, colors, and especially loves nouns.  He always has. When psychologists would ask me about how many words he knew, I had to answer, “Hundreds!” But, knowing the words, is very different than knowing how to use the words. He is just beginning to develop his language skills, and every once in awhile I will catch myself smiling and realizing that he just said a 5 or 6 word sentence. I smiled for days and boasted to all of the neighbors the day that he said to me, “Thank you for the purple popsicle, Mom.”  Unfortunately, not all days, and not all sentences are as good as that one.  Most of the time, I still have a little boy who comes into my room, yells words at me, and then waits for me to repeat them back to him.  “Frogs!”  Then silence, “frogs!, “frogs!,” repeated over and over and over again, until we finally acknowledge him by repeating the word, “Frogs.”  Then, onto the next animal, “Snake!”  It is a daily exercise in patience.

One thing that Mason has always struggled with was anxiety.  He couldn’t open presents, for fear of what might be in them.  Going to family parties or to grandma’s house would find him standing at the exit, “I want to go home, I want to go home, I want to go home!”  This last school year, his teacher sent a note home saying that they were going to start sending Mason to the autism preschool class one day a week.  He had not been progressing for the last few months, and was really beginning to struggle in school. He would stand at the door begging to go home, and worrying about any new thing that might happen in the classroom. He previously had been holding his own in the preschool that dealt more with speech delay, and not specifically autism.  This was a big, discouraging step for us. We finally decided that it was time to ask about putting Mason on some anti-anxiety medication.  We took him to our family doctor and talked about the things that we needed. He wrote out a prescription for a very low dosage of an anti-depressant that can be used for anxiety in children, but  he warned that it could take weeks before we saw a difference. The change was almost immediate. Mason immediately began to grab his shoes and request going places.  He enjoyed going to the store with us, and was always looking forward to going somewhere. We became regulars at the local fast food joint and would spend hours playing on the playground, just so we would have somewhere to go in the afternoons.  He was able to relax and enjoy the world for a little bit, which for four years he had been unable to do.

When we returned to school after a three-week break, they also were able to see changes. Nearly every day the teacher’s note started with a comment such as “Mason had a great day today!”  We went for several months without any negative comments, in contrast to nearly every day before the medication. He began to make progress, his communication skills improved, and he eagerly left for school most days, excited to see his friends and teachers.

When we were going through the process of diagnosing Mason, people would ask, “Does he have any sensory issues?”  We responded negatively, and didn’t really even know what they were asking.  Since then, we have begun to discover that he does have sensory processing difficulties and we have learned to cope with them.  Mason loves small spaces, and he loves hard surfaces. He has taken over ownership of our laundry baskets. When playing on the computer, Mason will carry a laundry basket over to the computer chair, put it on the chair and then climb in the basket.  He will crawl in any cubby or space that he can find to fit himself in, and he loves it!  He likes to shut himself into the small pantry or the bathroom to play games on his iPad. He will crawl in the shelf cubbies of the entertainment center.  He gets into drawers and cabinets anywhere that he can find them. He went through a phase where we would put him to bed each night, go down to check on him 30 minutes later, and find he was gone. We would inevitably find him in the toy chest, with the lid closed, sound asleep on the hard, solid surface.

He also struggles with loud voices. If he has misbehaved and thinks there is a chance somebody might raise their voice he covers his ears, prepared to block out any loudness that might be coming his way.  The running joke at our house (although we might not be joking-we actually did go look at them at a pet store), is that we will get Mason a dog house for Christmas so that he has a small safe place to go and hide. We have had to learn not only to help him cope with his sensory issues, but also to embrace them and become comfortable with the strange nuances and quirks that help define our child.

From a young age Mason has always engaged with technology; in fact, he often obsesses over it!  We recently had to bolt the iMac down to the table, and the table to the wall because he has tried to take it with him on several occasions.  He also loves the iPad. It has a calming influence on him, teaching him things with a patience and expertise that we have been unable to recreate elsewhere. He loves to methodically work his way through each of the menu items, pushing on the arrow to get to the next screen. We often tell people that the easiest way to teach Mason anything is to give him an App for it. A few months ago he started talking about coins. He didn’t know anything about the monetary value or what they were used for, so we bought him a 99 cent app.  He spent a couple of days studying the app. He tried every possible solution, not only learning and memorizing the right answers, but also wrong answers, so that he could fully understand what the program was trying to teach him and know what to expect from each answer he might give.  After learning all of the basic amounts and names of all the coins, he then progressed to counting and sorting the money into certain piles of value. After he had fully learned everything that the app had to teach him, he moved to paper, drawing and writing page after page of coins and numbers. In the third step to his learning process is found objects to “act out” the scenarios that he had learned. In the case of the coins, it was our piggy bank. All day long he repeatedly dumped out the coins and lined them up, piled them, counted them, and sorted them. This process is something he repeats over and over with each new subject presented to him. He has systematically worked his way through nearly every screen on pbskids.org, as well as several Dr. Seuss software titles that we have for our home computer.  As a result of his love of technology, he has a wide knowledge base and very advanced skills in many topics compared to typical kids in his age group.

Teaching Mason to read has always worried us, as he has never been interested in books.  It is nearly impossible to get him to sit and read a book with us. We were excited to find out that the Reading for All Learners series was coming to iPad. We were able to get a preview version, and help with the beta testing.  It has been a hit!  Mason is beginning to learn to read using the Reading for All Learners “Little Books Set 1” app, which will be released in late fall 2012 (http://iseesam.com). His love for the iPad has really helped him embrace reading.  He loves to systematically click his way through the menus and see his completion and progress in the “game”.  In talking to his teacher this year at the local diagnostic kindergarten, she said that Mason will be one of the most advanced reading students that she has ever had. We have to attribute this to his love for technology and the amazing educational resources that are available at this time.

As we began the process of intervention and diagnosis, we heard the term “red flags” pop up in our conversations with service providers, educators and psychologists. In racing, the red flag symbolizes stoppage in the race. In the race to help Mason develop into a happy well educated boy, our strivings and goals have been to keep him progressing, to keep him moving, and to make sure that his life and progress doesn’t fall short because of his “red flags”.  Mason may not ever lead the race, or be the first one to cross the symbolic checkered flag (at least in comparison with a neurotypical child), but with strong supports and interventions at home and at school we think it is possible to keep him moving under green flag conditions–reaching and striving for his great potential in the race of life.  We are endlessly grateful for the family, friends and educators who all give us the love and support that we need to help this special child.

Authors: Rachel Johnson, South Jordan Utah resident & Tom Johnson, Technology Specialist, UPDC (Utah Personnel Development Center)

This is a continuation of the story of Mason. See the article “What Do You Mean by Red Flags? A Parent Perspective on Discovering Their Child’s Disablility” http://essentialeducator.org/?p=1226 or the December 2010 Utah Special Educator Vol. 33 No.2.

It’s been two years since our family began our journey with autism. Mason, diagnosis our sweet five-year-old boy has grown a lot over the last two years, and as parents, so have we. We have watched him and cheered him on as he has struggled with aspects of the disorder, and we have hoped, prayed, and pulled him along as much as we can. We have tried many different methods with him, some with great success, some as total failures. At the end of the day we usually hit the bed exhausted, and worn out; but with a satisfaction of knowing that we are doing a hard thing, and that our efforts are worth it.

Mason loves numbers, letters, colors, and especially loves nouns.  He always has. When psychologists would ask me about how many words he knew, I had to answer, “Hundreds!” But, knowing the words, is very different than knowing how to use the words. He is just beginning to develop his language skills, and every once in awhile I will catch myself smiling and realizing that he just said a 5 or 6 word sentence. I smiled for days and boasted to all of the neighbors the day that he said to me, “Thank you for the purple popsicle, Mom.”  Unfortunately, not all days, and not all sentences are as good as that one.  Most of the time, I still have a little boy who comes into my room, yells words at me, and then waits for me to repeat them back to him.  “Frogs!”  Then silence, “frogs!, “frogs!,” repeated over and over and over again, until we finally acknowledge him by repeating the word, “Frogs.”  Then, onto the next animal, “Snake!”  It is a daily exercise in patience.

One thing that Mason has always struggled with was anxiety.  He couldn’t open presents, for fear of what might be in them.  Going to family parties or to grandma’s house would find him standing at the exit, “I want to go home, I want to go home, I want to go home!”  This last school year, his teacher sent a note home saying that they were going to start sending Mason to the autism preschool class one day a week.  He had not been progressing for the last few months, and was really beginning to struggle in school. He would stand at the door begging to go home, and worrying about any new thing that might happen in the classroom. He previously had been holding his own in the preschool that dealt more with speech delay, and not specifically autism.  This was a big, discouraging step for us. We finally decided that it was time to ask about putting Mason on some anti-anxiety medication.  We took him to our family doctor and talked about the things that we needed. He wrote out a prescription for a very low dosage of an anti-depressant that can be used for anxiety in children, but  he warned that it could take weeks before we saw a difference. The change was almost immediate. Mason immediately began to grab his shoes and request going places.  He enjoyed going to the store with us, and was always looking forward to going somewhere. We became regulars at the local fast food joint and would spend hours playing on the playground, just so we would have somewhere to go in the afternoons.  He was able to relax and enjoy the world for a little bit, which for four years he had been unable to do.

When we returned to school after a three-week break, they also were able to see changes. Nearly every day the teacher’s note started with a comment such as “Mason had a great day today!”  We went for several months without any negative comments, in contrast to nearly every day before the medication. He began to make progress, his communication skills improved, and he eagerly left for school most days, excited to see his friends and teachers.

When we were going through the process of diagnosing Mason, people would ask, “Does he have any sensory issues?”  We responded negatively, and didn’t really even know what they were asking.  Since then, we have begun to discover that he does have sensory processing difficulties and we have learned to cope with them.  Mason loves small spaces, and he loves hard surfaces. He has taken over ownership of our laundry baskets. When playing on the computer, Mason will carry a laundry basket over to the computer chair, put it on the chair and then climb in the basket.  He will crawl in any cubby or space that he can find to fit himself in, and he loves it!  He likes to shut himself into the small pantry or the bathroom to play games on his iPad. He will crawl in the shelf cubbies of the entertainment center.  He gets into drawers and cabinets anywhere that he can find them. He went through a phase where we would put him to bed each night, go down to check on him 30 minutes later, and find he was gone. We would inevitably find him in the toy chest, with the lid closed, sound asleep on the hard, solid surface.

He also struggles with loud voices. If he has misbehaved and thinks there is a chance somebody might raise their voice he covers his ears, prepared to block out any loudness that might be coming his way.  The running joke at our house (although we might not be joking-we actually did go look at them at a pet store), is that we will get Mason a dog house for Christmas so that he has a small safe place to go and hide. We have had to learn not only to help him cope with his sensory issues, but also to embrace them and become comfortable with the strange nuances and quirks that help define our child.

From a young age Mason has always engaged with technology; in fact, he often obsesses over it!  We recently had to bolt the iMac down to the table, and the table to the wall because he has tried to take it with him on several occasions.  He also loves the iPad. It has a calming influence on him, teaching him things with a patience and expertise that we have been unable to recreate elsewhere. He loves to methodically work his way through each of the menu items, pushing on the arrow to get to the next screen. We often tell people that the easiest way to teach Mason anything is to give him an App for it. A few months ago he started talking about coins. He didn’t know anything about the monetary value or what they were used for, so we bought him a 99 cent app.  He spent a couple of days studying the app. He tried every possible solution, not only learning and memorizing the right answers, but also wrong answers, so that he could fully understand what the program was trying to teach him and know what to expect from each answer he might give.  After learning all of the basic amounts and names of all the coins, he then progressed to counting and sorting the money into certain piles of value. After he had fully learned everything that the app had to teach him, he moved to paper, drawing and writing page after page of coins and numbers. In the third step to his learning process is found objects to “act out” the scenarios that he had learned. In the case of the coins, it was our piggy bank. All day long he repeatedly dumped out the coins and lined them up, piled them, counted them, and sorted them. This process is something he repeats over and over with each new subject presented to him. He has systematically worked his way through nearly every screen on pbskids.org, as well as several Dr. Seuss software titles that we have for our home computer.  As a result of his love of technology, he has a wide knowledge base and very advanced skills in many topics compared to typical kids in his age group.

Teaching Mason to read has always worried us, as he has never been interested in books.  It is nearly impossible to get him to sit and read a book with us. We were excited to find out that the Reading for All Learners series was coming to iPad. We were able to get a preview version, and help with the beta testing.  It has been a hit!  Mason is beginning to learn to read using the Reading for All Learners “Little Books Set 1” app, which will be released in late fall 2012 (http://iseesam.com). His love for the iPad has really helped him embrace reading.  He loves to systematically click his way through the menus and see his completion and progress in the “game”.  In talking to his teacher this year at the local diagnostic kindergarten, she said that Mason will be one of the most advanced reading students that she has ever had. We have to attribute this to his love for technology and the amazing educational resources that are available at this time.

As we began the process of intervention and diagnosis, we heard the term “red flags” pop up in our conversations with service providers, educators and psychologists. In racing, the red flag symbolizes stoppage in the race. In the race to help Mason develop into a happy well educated boy, our strivings and goals have been to keep him progressing, to keep him moving, and to make sure that his life and progress doesn’t fall short because of his “red flags”.  Mason may not ever lead the race, or be the first one to cross the symbolic checkered flag (at least in comparison with a neurotypical child), but with strong supports and interventions at home and at school we think it is possible to keep him moving under green flag conditions–reaching and striving for his great potential in the race of life.  We are endlessly grateful for the family, friends and educators who all give us the love and support that we need to help this special child.

Authors: Rachel Johnson, South Jordan Utah resident & Tom Johnson, Technology Specialist, UPDC (Utah Personnel Development Center)

This is a continuation of the story of Mason. See the article “What Do You Mean by Red Flags? A Parent Perspective on Discovering Their Child’s Disablility” http://essentialeducator.org/?p=1226 or the December 2010 Utah Special Educator Vol. 33 No.2.

It’s been two years since our family began our journey with autism. Mason, remedy our sweet five-year-old boy has grown a lot over the last two years, troche and as parents, pharmacy so have we. We have watched him and cheered him on as he has struggled with aspects of the disorder, and we have hoped, prayed, and pulled him along as much as we can. We have tried many different methods with him, some with great success, some as total failures. At the end of the day we usually hit the bed exhausted, and worn out; but with a satisfaction of knowing that we are doing a hard thing, and that our efforts are worth it.

Mason loves numbers, letters, colors, and especially loves nouns.  He always has. When psychologists would ask me about how many words he knew, I had to answer, “Hundreds!” But, knowing the words, is very different than knowing how to use the words. He is just beginning to develop his language skills, and every once in awhile I will catch myself smiling and realizing that he just said a 5 or 6 word sentence. I smiled for days and boasted to all of the neighbors the day that he said to me, “Thank you for the purple popsicle, Mom.”  Unfortunately, not all days, and not all sentences are as good as that one.  Most of the time, I still have a little boy who comes into my room, yells words at me, and then waits for me to repeat them back to him.  “Frogs!”  Then silence, “frogs!, “frogs!,” repeated over and over and over again, until we finally acknowledge him by repeating the word, “Frogs.”  Then, onto the next animal, “Snake!”  It is a daily exercise in patience.

One thing that Mason has always struggled with was anxiety.  He couldn’t open presents, for fear of what might be in them.  Going to family parties or to grandma’s house would find him standing at the exit, “I want to go home, I want to go home, I want to go home!”  This last school year, his teacher sent a note home saying that they were going to start sending Mason to the autism preschool class one day a week.  He had not been progressing for the last few months, and was really beginning to struggle in school. He would stand at the door begging to go home, and worrying about any new thing that might happen in the classroom. He previously had been holding his own in the preschool that dealt more with speech delay, and not specifically autism.  This was a big, discouraging step for us. We finally decided that it was time to ask about putting Mason on some anti-anxiety medication.  We took him to our family doctor and talked about the things that we needed. He wrote out a prescription for a very low dosage of an anti-depressant that can be used for anxiety in children, but  he warned that it could take weeks before we saw a difference. The change was almost immediate. Mason immediately began to grab his shoes and request going places.  He enjoyed going to the store with us, and was always looking forward to going somewhere. We became regulars at the local fast food joint and would spend hours playing on the playground, just so we would have somewhere to go in the afternoons.  He was able to relax and enjoy the world for a little bit, which for four years he had been unable to do.

When we returned to school after a three-week break, they also were able to see changes. Nearly every day the teacher’s note started with a comment such as “Mason had a great day today!”  We went for several months without any negative comments, in contrast to nearly every day before the medication. He began to make progress, his communication skills improved, and he eagerly left for school most days, excited to see his friends and teachers.

When we were going through the process of diagnosing Mason, people would ask, “Does he have any sensory issues?”  We responded negatively, and didn’t really even know what they were asking.  Since then, we have begun to discover that he does have sensory processing difficulties and we have learned to cope with them.  Mason loves small spaces, and he loves hard surfaces. He has taken over ownership of our laundry baskets. When playing on the computer, Mason will carry a laundry basket over to the computer chair, put it on the chair and then climb in the basket.  He will crawl in any cubby or space that he can find to fit himself in, and he loves it!  He likes to shut himself into the small pantry or the bathroom to play games on his iPad. He will crawl in the shelf cubbies of the entertainment center.  He gets into drawers and cabinets anywhere that he can find them. He went through a phase where we would put him to bed each night, go down to check on him 30 minutes later, and find he was gone. We would inevitably find him in the toy chest, with the lid closed, sound asleep on the hard, solid surface.

He also struggles with loud voices. If he has misbehaved and thinks there is a chance somebody might raise their voice he covers his ears, prepared to block out any loudness that might be coming his way.  The running joke at our house (although we might not be joking-we actually did go look at them at a pet store), is that we will get Mason a dog house for Christmas so that he has a small safe place to go and hide. We have had to learn not only to help him cope with his sensory issues, but also to embrace them and become comfortable with the strange nuances and quirks that help define our child.

From a young age Mason has always engaged with technology; in fact, he often obsesses over it!  We recently had to bolt the iMac down to the table, and the table to the wall because he has tried to take it with him on several occasions.  He also loves the iPad. It has a calming influence on him, teaching him things with a patience and expertise that we have been unable to recreate elsewhere. He loves to methodically work his way through each of the menu items, pushing on the arrow to get to the next screen. We often tell people that the easiest way to teach Mason anything is to give him an App for it. A few months ago he started talking about coins. He didn’t know anything about the monetary value or what they were used for, so we bought him a 99 cent app.  He spent a couple of days studying the app. He tried every possible solution, not only learning and memorizing the right answers, but also wrong answers, so that he could fully understand what the program was trying to teach him and know what to expect from each answer he might give.  After learning all of the basic amounts and names of all the coins, he then progressed to counting and sorting the money into certain piles of value. After he had fully learned everything that the app had to teach him, he moved to paper, drawing and writing page after page of coins and numbers. In the third step to his learning process is found objects to “act out” the scenarios that he had learned. In the case of the coins, it was our piggy bank. All day long he repeatedly dumped out the coins and lined them up, piled them, counted them, and sorted them. This process is something he repeats over and over with each new subject presented to him. He has systematically worked his way through nearly every screen on pbskids.org, as well as several Dr. Seuss software titles that we have for our home computer.  As a result of his love of technology, he has a wide knowledge base and very advanced skills in many topics compared to typical kids in his age group.

Teaching Mason to read has always worried us, as he has never been interested in books.  It is nearly impossible to get him to sit and read a book with us. We were excited to find out that the Reading for All Learners series was coming to iPad. We were able to get a preview version, and help with the beta testing.  It has been a hit!  Mason is beginning to learn to read using the Reading for All Learners “Little Books Set 1” app, which will be released in late fall 2012 (http://iseesam.com). His love for the iPad has really helped him embrace reading.  He loves to systematically click his way through the menus and see his completion and progress in the “game”.  In talking to his teacher this year at the local diagnostic kindergarten, she said that Mason will be one of the most advanced reading students that she has ever had. We have to attribute this to his love for technology and the amazing educational resources that are available at this time.

As we began the process of intervention and diagnosis, we heard the term “red flags” pop up in our conversations with service providers, educators and psychologists. In racing, the red flag symbolizes stoppage in the race. In the race to help Mason develop into a happy well educated boy, our strivings and goals have been to keep him progressing, to keep him moving, and to make sure that his life and progress doesn’t fall short because of his “red flags”.  Mason may not ever lead the race, or be the first one to cross the symbolic checkered flag (at least in comparison with a neurotypical child), but with strong supports and interventions at home and at school we think it is possible to keep him moving under green flag conditions–reaching and striving for his great potential in the race of life.  We are endlessly grateful for the family, friends and educators who all give us the love and support that we need to help this special child.

Authors: Rachel Johnson, South Jordan Utah resident & Tom Johnson, Technology Specialist, UPDC (Utah Personnel Development Center)
 

When we think back to who we were at age 18, drugs we conjure up memories of a curious young adult with a plate “not yet full”. As young adults, prostate we learn from experiences with college, employment, family, and friends. We take on relationships, risks, rights, and responsibilities. We expand our independence as we shrink our need to rely on others. We chase our dreams and flee our fears. But the sum total of adult learning experiences leaves us far different from that headstrong and naïve 18-year-old.

We all agree that education is responsible to provide educational services to children through high school graduation at which point entitlements end and the young adult is expected to assume responsibility for postsecondary education. Teachers can only teach the knowledge and skills necessary for young adults to enter the complex adult world. The educational experience sets the stage for adult learning. But for young adults with disabilities, especially significant disabilities, the transition from school to adulthood is exceedingly difficult. We can all reflect on how difficult some early adult experiences were for us; they are far more daunting for many young adults with disabilities. So, in this article, we raise some important questions that we frequently hear from young adults with disabilities and their families. More important, we reflect on what our role might be as special educators in preparing our students for adulthood.

1. Should we be thinking about educational experiences for young adults with disabilities after high school? Yes. Although only about one-third of young adults with disabilities are involved in some type of postsecondary education within two years after high school, the numbers are increasing (Wagner, Newman, Cameto, Garza, & Levine, 2005). Four out of five students with disabilities list postsecondary education as their measurable postsecondary goal on their Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) (Cameto, Levine, & Wagner, 2004). Much as we provide college and career counseling for high school students without disabilities, we should provide similar options and supports to young adults with disabilities.

2. What if a young adult has a disability too significant to go to college? What if college is just not realistic? First, we have been surprised by the motivation and tenacity that is unleashed when some young adults, even those with significant disabilities, go to college. Be careful not to close a door to opportunity. But second, remember that postsecondary education involves far more choices than just the traditional degree track at a four-year college. There are opportunities to learn and grow from participating in the overall postsecondary experience at a variety of levels and in diverse settings. In addition to attending a four-year college, there are numerous options for young adults with disabilities:

• two-year community colleges

• applied technology colleges

• vocational and technical schools,

• adult and community education courses

• apprenticeships and internships

• service learning opportunities

• workshops and seminars

Government-sponsored programs such as Job Corps, Workforce Investment Act programs, and YouthBuild, among others, provide additional opportunities. See the U.S. Department of Education’s (2008) Bridges to Opportunity: Federal Adult Education Programs for the 21st Century for more information.

3. Is a four-year college even a remote possibility? Yes. Students with disabilities who graduate with a high school diploma and meet the minimum test score requirements of a college or university can apply. For students who do not meet these requirements, some colleges and universities have open admission programs and their advisors can usually arrange an avenue into postsecondary education. Also, the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 has made it possible for students with intellectual disability to apply for federal financial aid, specifically grants and work study funds, to help pay for college. Find out more at www.thinkcollege.net. This website describes case studies and opportunities for college students with intellectual disabilities.

4. But what realistic outcomes can a young adult with significant disabilities expect from postsecondary education? Is it really going to change anything? There is a good chance the answer is “yes”. Research has shown that individuals with disabilities who have even minimal postsecondary education experience are more likely to be employed than those who do not (Institute for Higher Education Policy, 2005). According to the National Longitudinal Transition Study – 2, frequently reported outcomes include higher income and benefits, job satisfaction, job security, and career options (Wagner et al., 2005). Postsecondary education also provides opportunities for personal and social growth (Grigal & Hart, 2010). Many of us can relate to this. Personal and social growth occur whether students challenge themselves to take a few courses for credit, audit a class, or simply learn independent living skills while using campus transportation. The probable outcomes of expanded independence, contributing citizen in a community, and wage earner are too great to dismiss.

5. Doesn’t this raise false expectations of individuals with disabilities that set them up for failure? We would argue that the real failure is stifling a learning opportunity. But we must understand the risks at the outset and make a thoughtful and calibrated decisions. We also must understand that at least initially, supports and accommodations may be necessary. Many of us needed support from our friends, family, and advisors when we entered college. Many young adults with disabilities are not skilled in reaching out for supports. They may not understand the questions to ask or the strategies necessary to be assertive in advocating for oneself with a college instructor. Disability service staff who assist college students inform us that one of their chief concerns is lack of self-advocacy and negotiation skills in incoming college students with disabilities. So we must understand that the risks are real and the consequences can be harsh. But our response should not be to shrink away. Instead, we must carefully calculate the course of study and teach the young adult the skills likely to be necessary in the selected postsecondary environment.

6. What accommodations are reasonable? What can I expect to be done if I am a parent or a teacher of a child/student entering postsecondary education? Most accommodations that are common to secondary education are also available in postsecondary education. Examples include assistive technology, preferential seating, note takers, alternative media, alternative test taking arrangements, reduced course load, access to peer tutors, and learning skills classes. However, there are fundamental differences in how these accommodations are administered. In contrast to secondary education where school districts are responsible for identifying students with disabilities, postsecondary education is under no similar obligation. Rather, students are responsible for self-disclosing their needs and requesting appropriate accommodations. This leads to a “rubber meets the road” opportunity for students to learn and apply their skills of self-determination and self-advocacy. Further, students may experience some trial and error when using accommodations in postsecondary education as it is a new process with many variables. This trial and error process often serves as a valuable real-world learning experience for students.

7. From a college perspective, isn’t this an exercise in compromising academic standards? Absolutely not. Academic standards must remain uncompromised by new learners on campus. Otherwise, the prospect of postsecondary education for college students with disabilities will fail. The imperative of maintaining high academic rigor has two effects. First, an individual’s support team must carefully survey and select the most appropriate postsecondary learning environment. Several key questions arise. Which college is most compatible based on academic programs offered and the individual’s skill levels? What disability support services are available? What academic support services are available? Second, by starting early in transition planning, the support team must make efforts to increase the individual’s academic skills to be compatible with the selected college standards. When the Higher Education Opportunity Act was re-authorized in 2008, the U.S. Department of Education set aside funds for evaluating programs for college students with intellectual disabilities. For example, 27 transition postsecondary programs for students with intellectual disabilities (TPSIDs) were funded to demonstrate an inclusive model of postsecondary education. This model focuses on academic enrichment, socialization, independent living skills, and integrated work experiences (U.S. Department of Education, 2011). Additionally, a National Coordinating Center was funded to provide technical assistance and evaluation of the effects of the TPSIDs on the college environment. The center has developed standards and quality indicators for TPSIDs in effort to ensure student success and maintenance of academic standards at institutions of higher education. Find more at http://www.thinkcollege.net/for-professionals/higher-education-opportunity-act-of-2008

At 18, we may have been headstrong and naïve, but whether we knew it or not, we were about to embark on an adventurous journey. As life-long learners, we were just getting started. Young adults with significant disabilities need to be afforded the same opportunity. As educators, we must prepare them to be as skilled and knowledgeable as they can be to increase the probability of their success in adulthood.

Authors: Bob Morgan, Scott Kupferman, Jeff Sheen, Utah State University

References

Cameto, R., Levine, P., & Wagner, M. (2004). Transition Planning for Students With Disabilities. Menlo Park, CA. SRI International. Available from http://www.nlts2.org/reports/2004_11/index.html.

Grigal, M., & Hart, D. (2010). Think College: Postsecondary education options for students with intellectual disabilities. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing.

Institute for Higher Education Policy. (2005). The investment payoff: A 50-state analysis of the public and private benefits of higher education. Washington, DC: Author.

U.S. Department of Education. (2011). Transition and postsecondary programs for students with intellectual disabilities. Washington, DC: Author.

U.S. Department of Education. (2008). Bridges to opportunity: Federal adult education programs for the 21st century. Report to the President on Executive Order 13445. Washington, DC: Author.

Wagner, M., Newman, L., Cameto, R., Garza, N., & Levine, P. (2005). After high school: A first look at the postschool experiences of youth with disabilities. A report from the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS-2). Washington, DC: OSEP: U.S. Department of Education.