Students with intellectual disabilities have so many more options today when it comes to higher education than were once available. A model called Transition and Postsecondary Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities (TPSID) was created in 2010 to ensure such programs are funded and carried out in institutions of higher learning. The funding for TPSID grants are awarded by the US Department of Education. Through TPSID, financial backing is offered expressly to postsecondary institutions or consortia of institutions of higher education to support the unique needs of students with intellectual disabilities.
Institutions that are given TPSID funding are chosen through a Request for Proposal (RFP) process. Grants are awarded to specific schools with an investment in expanding their reach to effectively open their doors to students with intellectual disabilities. Such schools must prove that they are building a foundation that is inclusive and evidence-based. In addition, they must foster creative community learning models in an effort to accommodate the distinct needs of students in this demographic. Such institutional programming must provide effective tools to transition the implicated students to a postsecondary model that meets them where they are.
In effect, as a result of TPSID grant awards, intellectually disables students can achieve a certificate or postsecondary degree that is sponsored by an institution of higher learning. The participating schools may include technical schools, career-learning sites, and traditional post-secondary institutions. Approval by the US Department of Education enables such institutions to receive the funding. The grant application must lay out a five-year plan for providing provisions for intellectually disabled students that incorporate a number of factors.
College can feel isolating for anyone, especially students with intellectual disabilities. TPSID aims to bridge social and academic gaps, ensuring that students in this demographic have options that can include gainful employment upon graduation. Socialization is heavily stressed in all of the coursework and student life activities.
Colleges for special needs students and colleges for students with autism are few and far between, making inclusion models such as these paramount when connecting any student with any disability to a traditional institution of higher learning. There are many aspects of this type of inclusion that are often overlooked, especially when considering student life activities and involvement.
It is important for postsecondary schools to step up their advocacy resources and comprehensive inclusive programming before bringing students with intellectual disabilities onto campus. TPSID ensures that funding is given to higher education institutions who take this model seriously. One aspect of such provisions include thinking holistically about how to support this population in all aspects of their academic and social experience during their time on campus and beyond. Independent living skills must be stressed in a sustainable manner. A lot of the programming geared towards independence highlights self-advocacy skill-building and career-centered learning.
A critical component of a postsecondary education specifically tailored to students with intellectual disabilities must include planning for the future. Incorporated into a curriculum must be employable skills that are realistic and sustainable. This may include different forms of integrated work experience and career training. Other aspects of career training include communication skills, time management, financial literacy, and living a healthy lifestyle.
Another important aspect of this TPSID includes ensuring student-centered planning is employed when creating coursework for each participant. This might require professional development for faculty members who work with students with special needs. Their role is to create individualized curricula that are relevant to the students’ circumstances and goals.
Participation with a coordinating center is part of the TPSID funding. The coordinating centers are put in place to offer programmatic support for participating students as well as technical assistance towards postsecondary and transition programming. Transition planning specifically refers to a formal process that includes independent living skill-building and transitioning into adulthood There is a cooperative agreement that lasts five years in connection to the grant.
In essence, the critical aspects of TPSID programming include:
- Effectively providing services to students who have intellectual disabilities
- Creating a safety net which highlights support services for intellectually disabled students. This must encompass not only academic coursework but also social activity inclusion. Extra-curricular activities and engaging with the wider institutional community are included.
- The program must work in collaboration with a community organization or local educational agency that supports special education and provides resources under IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act)
- Enacts a sustainability plan that moves beyond the grant period
- Offers students a relevant credential upon completion of the program
TPSID has made it possible for students with intellectual disabilities to have agency in their academic and professional careers.