Choosing a college program that will support your learning disability

Three people looking at a computer in a corporate office

It’s time for high school juniors and seniors to begin searching for and applying to college. With 300+ college programs specifically designed for students with intellectual or developmental disabilities (I/DD), there’s no reason to think you or your student shouldn’t advocate for the opportunity to attend college.

Whether you’re looking at colleges for yourself or helping a loved one choose a program, here are some tips to keep in mind.

Talk about it together

What are your life and career goals? How do you imagine life after college? What do you want to learn? What will you need to learn? We always recommend the principle: Nothing about us without us. So, parents and students should both participate in the conversation and the decisions.

Research programs for students with I/DD

There are numerous resources available online to help you discover the best program for you or your child. Consider proximity, available supports, a curriculum that supports your life goals, the college experience and more. Here are two of our favorite resources.

  • is the only directory of programs for students with intellectual disability to help you find the right college program.
  • provides a list of 20 great colleges for students with learning disabilities.

Investigate program offerings

College programs for students with I/DD generally provide supports, result in a certificate instead of a degree, and are located at a university, college or community college.

However, there’s a lot to research as they’re different in more ways than they’re the same.

  • On-campus or off-campus housing
  • Program lengths from one to four years
  • Types and amount of support
  • Exclusive classes to fully integrated programs
  • Varying admissions process
  • Faith support
  • And more

Consider presumed competence

Unlike some high school education experiences, college programs should always presume competence. That is, they should believe the student is capable of thinking, deciding and acting. They should set expectations and encourage students to meet those expectations with appropriate supports.

Learn more about presumed competence in educational settings from one mother’s experience in the most recent blog post.

Lastly, October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. As we’re thinking about going to college and preparing for the working world, we must also advocate for employers to hire college graduates and others with I/DD.