UC Davis Offers Program for Intellectually Disabled

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by Mary Chapman |

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Applications are being accepted for an innovative new four-year college program at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) for students with intellectual disabilities such as fragile X syndrome.

The program is said to be the first of its kind in California and is a collaboration of the MIND Institute and the UC Davis Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. The deadline for applications is June 4. Students must pay tuition and room and board.

The Redwood Supported Education to Elevate Diversity (Redwood SEED) Scholars program, which is funded partly by a five-year $2.1 million U.S. Department of Education grant, initially will admit a dozen students, who will join other freshmen this fall.

To qualify, students must be 18–23 years old and have a neurodevelopmental condition. In addition to fragile X, such conditions may include autism, Down syndrome, or traumatic brain injury.

“This is monumental,” said Beth Foraker co-director of Redwood SEED Scholars, in a press release. “This is an opportunity for students with intellectual disability to experience the social and educational growth that a fully integrated college experience can provide.”

Foraker, who has a 21-year-old son with Down syndrome, said she’s long envisioned such a program. “It’s the most exciting thing I’ve ever been a part of,” she added.

While the students won’t be eligible to receive a degree, they will have the opportunity to partake in a typical college experience. For instance, they’ll be able to take classes, live on campus, participate in social activities, join organizations, and, if possible, pursue employment or an internship as part of the program.

The course curriculum will be a mixture of traditional UC Davis classes and tailored courses that focus on issues that are particularly pertinent to the students, such as independent living.

The students will be supported in part by undergraduate students who will serve as peer mentors, assisting with schoolwork, social activities, and health and wellness.

“These undergraduates are incredibly engaged and realize that the relationships they’ll develop with these students will be symbiotic, and will benefit all involved,” said Foraker, who is currently training next year’s mentors.

Most adults with intellectual disabilities are unemployed and many have low incomes, according to UC Davis. They have limited post-secondary options, particularly when it comes to four-year programs.

“We hope this is the seed that grows to include similar programs at many other California colleges and universities,” said Leonard Abbeduto, director of the MIND Institute and Redwood SEED Scholars co-director. “This is about civil rights. It’s about diversity, equity, and inclusion. These students deserve an opportunity to gain the skills to engage in meaningful employment, and this program will provide that.”

Applicants will be interviewed and must provide their most recent individualized education program in addition to other educational documents. They also will need recommendations from two people. The nonrefundable application fee is $100.

Successful applicants will likely be notified in July. Those who are not admitted to the program will receive feedback from the application team about how to bolster their application if they wish to apply in the future.

For more information, email [email protected], or call 916–703–0269.

Fragile X syndrome, which affects roughly one in 4,000 males and one in 8,000 females, is associated with cognitive impairment, learning and behavioral challenges, and several physical features.