College for Those with Intellectual Disabilities


ANN ARBOR, Mich. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Years ago, students with intellectual disabilities rarely went to college. However, opportunities for those students are on the rise with nearly 300 commuter and residential programs available around the country. And for many students, they are a path to greater independence. Ivanhoe has the details.

The pure joy on Aidan Silverton’s face when he was accepted to Clemson University is something his mother never thought she’d get to see. That’s because Aidan has Fragile X, a genetic disorder that causes learning challenges.

“It was nice to know that, oh, Aidan too, will go on like many typical students and have a college experience,” said Jennifer Silverton, Aidan’s mother.

And while that experience included typical activities like football games, a visit with the basketball team, and a formal dance. It also taught important life skills like doing laundry, learning to cook, and even holding a job at a bowling alley. For Aidan, the entire experience was …

“Awesome, awesome,” Aidan shared.

For many like Aidan, services are widely available during early childhood development. But not as they move into adulthood. Residential college programs offer a bridge to more independence.

“But if they can live outside their previous home with their family, that offers, and work somewhat in the community, that can be a real victory for them,” explained Peter K. Todd, MD, PhD, Professor of Neurology at University of Michigan and Co-Director of the University of Michigan Fragile X Clinic.

Now that he’s graduated, Aidan will enjoy a bit more time at home with his dog, and family, before moving to a congregate residential home in Atlanta. And though he’ll never be able to live on his own …

“At the end of the day, it really is what’s best for him and he still learned a ton,” smiled Jennifer.

Clemson life is one of 98 residential college programs in the U.S. for students with intellectual disabilities. Guidelines for admission to programs vary by school. There are also grants available to some families as well.  has a complete database of all programs and requirements.

Contributors to this news report include: Hilary Rubin, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor; and Kenneth LaPlace, Videographer.

REPORT #2900

 BACKGROUND: Learning disabilities are disorders that affect the ability to understand, or use spoken or written language, do mathematical calculations, coordinate movements, or direct attention. Although learning disabilities occur in very young children, the disorders are usually not recognized until the child reaches school age. Research shows that 8 to 10 percent of American children under 18 years of age have some type of learning disability. Learning disabilities can be lifelong conditions, and in some people, several overlapping learning disabilities may be apparent. Other people may have a single, isolated learning problem that has little impact on their lives.


CAUSES AND TREATMENT: A family history of learning disorders increases the risk of a child developing a disorder. Poor growth in the uterus, exposure to alcohol or drugs before being born, premature birth, and very low birthweight have been linked with learning disorders. Psychological trauma or abuse in early childhood may affect brain development and increase the risk, as well as head injuries or nervous system infections might play a role in the development of learning disorders. The most common treatment for learning disabilities is special education. Specially trained educators may perform a diagnostic educational evaluation assessing the child’s academic and intellectual potential and level of academic performance. Once the evaluation is complete, the basic approach is to teach learning skills by building on the child’s abilities and strengths while correcting and compensating for disabilities and weaknesses. Other professionals such as speech and language therapists also may be involved. Medications may be effective in helping the child learn by enhancing attention and concentration, while psychological therapies may also be used.

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INCLUSIVE POSTSECONDARY EDUCATION: There are approximately 265 non-degree programs on university and college campuses across the country offering students with intellectual disabilities an opportunity to take college classes, engage in career development and independent living activities, and participate in the social life of the campus. The benefits of postsecondary education for students with intellectual disabilities almost always outweighs the challenges regarding safety, access, support, and transportation. There are also many positive outcomes in the development and growth of academic, work and personal skills, independent living, friendships, and self-advocacy. Research shows these students are employed post-graduation at significantly higher rates with higher average wages. Think College is a national organization dedicated to developing, expanding, and improving inclusive higher education options for people with intellectual disability. They support evidence-based and student-centered research and practice by generating and sharing knowledge, guiding institutional change, informing public policy, and engaging with students, professionals and families.

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* For More Information, Contact:

Noah Fromson, Public Relations


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