The State of the Art Conference is a two-day conference devoted to the topic of postsecondary education (PSE) for individuals with intellectual disabilities. Recognizing the critical importance of this emerging field, CDSPG became a sponsor for this year’s conference. Yvonne Hu-Cotto and Claire Holmes, along with her son Charlie, represented CDSPG and were able to network with professionals and advocates from across the nation.
The Education Committee is planning to do a seminar on this topic in 2016 so stayed tuned for more information.
Article by Claire Holmes, CDSPG Education Advisory Committee Member
Attending George Mason University's State-of-the-Art Conference on Postsecondary Education and Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities was a wonderful experience for Charlie and for me. We each came away with our own ideas about opportunities for Charlie's future. Like any 16 year old, Charlie thinks of his future as being a long way off, while I am realizing that his "future" is around the corner!
I have asked Charlie what his favorite part of the conference was, and he didn't hesitate: meeting the self-advocates who were there as presenters. Because of their shared interest in baseball and sports in general, Charlie connected right away to one self-advocate in particular who was there to win an award, Max Orland.
Max gave an inspiring speech about his educational path, which led him to a college experience at the University of Delaware. He lived independently, pursued college-level coursework and enthusiastically participated in sports-related employment experiences, all with individualized levels of support. He talked about his own mentors and role models, and by the time his speech was delivered, he became a new role model for Charlie.
They spent some time getting to know each other during some of the conference downtime, and Charlie hopes to keep in touch with Max. Max currently lives in Massachusetts and he works at a Vineyard Vines store where he is a top seller. He’s had internships with sports teams, including the Boston Red Sox. (Favorite AL East MLB teams was the one area of NON-agreement in their conversations.)
As for me, the major take-aways were these:
- Person-centered planning is an essential transition planning process. As parents, we will continue to work with teams as our children develop (and maintain) their life’s paths.
- Starting early is key to helping our kids discover and develop their talents and passions.
- There is now enough data to show effectiveness of inclusive higher education programs for individuals with intellectual disabilities.
- Employment outcomes for people with intellectual disabilities are much higher if they have pursued some level of post-secondary education.
- Levels of independence are higher among individuals with intellectual disabilities if they have pursued post-secondary education.
- There is a very wide range of offerings in these programs. Very few of them require a high school diploma. Some offer a residential component and some do not. Supported employment and internship opportunities are featured in most programs.
- Maryland does not currently offer as wide a range of post-secondary educational opportunities as many other states. CDSPG can be an advocacy voice to shape Maryland’s future in the realm of inclusive higher education for individuals with intellectual disabilities.
Think College is the National Coordination Center on PSE programs. Visit its website for a wealth of information.
The Helen Keller Institute at George Mason University organizes this annual conference.