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College for Students With Intellectual Disabilities

Reviewed By Kristin Phillips

How students with intellectual disabilities will further their education after high school has historically not been in question. It is often assumed that these students will attend high school through the age of 21 or 26 and not receive a diploma. Authors Meg Grigal and Debra Hart suggest that it is a commonly held belief that exploring college for these students is a waste of time, and that such students will not get anything out of taking college courses. Grigal and Hart effectively refute this belief throughout the course of their book by challenging assumptions about this student population and exploring how college can indeed be an option.

The first two chapters of Think College! offer historical and legal perspectives on postsecondary education for students with intellectual disabilities. The authors discuss the significant changes that have occurred over the past 30 years in terms of how intellectual disability is defined, how education for these students is conceptualized, and how education for them is accessed. A thorough discussion of federal legislation and policies, such as IDEA, ADA, the Higher Education Opportunity Act, and the Vocational Rehabilitation Act, is included. These first two chapters are quite dense, heavy in quantitative research, and read like empirical articles. While these chapters at first may not appear to meet the needs of readers looking for practical, easily accessible information, the historical and legal context they offer is helpful.

The remaining chapters offer more applicable information. One chapter focuses on identifying students with intellectual disabilities who can benefit from postsecondary education (how to plan, implement, and evaluate services for them) and strategies for overcoming barriers. A thorough discussion is given to logistical postsecondary issues, such as the admissions process, funding, working with faculty, and how to access disability support services on campuses. A chapter devoted to student and family perspectives offers necessary person–centered insight into the issue. Employment and community participation, key factors to take into consideration when examining the issue of postsecondary education for students with intellectual disabilities, are also discussed.

Arguably, the book’s strongest asset is its inclusion of myriad user–friendly resources. Each chapter includes vignettes of real–life examples, such as student and parent narratives and profiles of actual postsecondary special education college programs. An appendix contains several handouts that readers can adapt or refer to, including a student–centered needs assessment, student and parent checklists, emergency contact forms, and the role of the educational job coach. Two particularly helpful resources are a comparison between how service delivery differs between high school and college, and a comparison between IDEA and ADA and how each affects a student.

A possible drawback to this book is its readability. While the book does contain a wealth of user–friendly information, the information is embedded in heavier material. It is likely that the professionals who would benefit most from this information (e.g., high school special education teachers) will be seeking more quickly accessible resources than the book initially delivers, with its small print, lengthy chapters, and academic/research–driven chapters loaded heavily at the beginning of the book.

Overall, Think College! is a very practical resource for any professional working with older students with intellectual disabilities. I admit that I began the book with the assumption that Grigal and Hart challenge—that college for these students is not an option. I came away from the book with my viewpoint changed. The authors were successful in their mission with this reader, and other professionals will likely come away with their opinions on postsecondary options for students with intellectual disabilities changed as well.

Think College! Postsecondary Education Options for Students With Intellectual Disabilities

By M. Grigal & D. Hart

2010, Paul H. Brookes