nefe-45018-12262-s5-0020300Planning and Funding Your Child’s Education—Post-Secondary Schools Part 1

Post-secondary school is an all-encompassing term for a variety of education programs one attends after graduating from high school. Close to 30 percent of Americans with disabilities, compared to about 38 percent for all Americans, acquire some post-secondary education, usually through vocational schools or two-year programs. Only 12 percent (see Disability Statistics: Online Resource for U.S. Disability Statistics (2008 American Community Survey Data Set). Cornell University. graduate from a college or university, compared to over 17 percent  for all Americans.

(for above, see Disability Statistics: Online Resource for U.S. Disability Statistics (2008 American Community Survey Data Set, Cornell University. Retrieved from on September 26, 2010); (see U.S Census Bureau. 2006-2008 American Community Survey 3-Year Estimates.); Retrieved from on September 26, 2010); (see U.S Census Bureau. 2006-2008 American Community Survey 3-Year Estimates.)

Your advocacy efforts and the self-determination of your child in pursuit of a post-secondary education will help your child become the person he or she aspires to be.

Planning—Creating Paths to Income

In 2000, Jim Langevin, a quadriplegic, became the first individual with a disability to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Since the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law in 1990, employers have come to know the unique talents of individuals with disabilities, and the value they bring to a working environment. 

Even though approximately half of disabled workers are unemployed  (as of this writing: see Barbara T. Mates. “Twenty Years of Assistive Technologies” American Libraries: The Magazine of the American Library Association. September 14, 2010. Retrieved from on September 26, 2010), if you consider the advocacy efforts over the last 20 years of many organizations for improving workplace conditions, career opportunities for individuals with disabilities are likely to continue to broaden. 

Your child can choose from several paths to income, depending on his or her abilities and career goals.

Vocational or Technical School

These schools offer great flexibility in the pursuit of an education or career. A great starting point for students not yet prepared to work towards a four-year degree, vocational and technical schools prepare students for specific job skills. Coursework is usually completed over an 18-month or two-year period. Programs can be offered by stand-alone vocational or technical schools or offered by community colleges. Upon successful completion, students earn certificates that may qualify them for jobs. Certificate options include:

  • Information technology
  • Accounting
  • Medical coding
  • Construction management
  • Plumbing
  • Electrical engineering
  • Air conditioning and refrigeration
  • Auto mechanics
  • Interior, fashion, or graphic design
  • Cosmetology
  • Hospitality and tourism

College Programs

These programs offer undergraduate-level coursework at colleges and universities. Students may earn a college degree, also referred to as a Bachelor’s Degree, typically a four-year program, or an Associate’s Degree, typically a two-year program.

Social Stigmas—To Ask or Not Ask for Accommodations

This can be a sticky point with your child, who might be happy to be rid of “special education” labels upon graduation from high school. Yet having proper learning academic and test accommodations can become an important element in post-secondary education success, and ultimately, in work and independent living. 

In any post-secondary learning environment, it is up to your child to request needed accommodations. Those requests can be made through a school’s Disability Support Services (DSS). It is also your child’s responsibility to:

  • Find out what procedure must be followed to request or order an accommodation.
  • Provide documentation of the disability and the need for an accommodation. Each school has its own documentation requirements.

Should your child hesitate to disclose his or her disability in order to request needed accommodations, you might suggest that doing so is part of self-advocacy and self-determination in getting supports necessary for success in school and beyond.

For more information on your child’s rights to accommodations in post-secondary schools, see Post Secondary Education .

Students with Intellectual Disabilities—Why College?

One reason for pursuing post-secondary education that remains the same across all groups of individuals: qualify for higher paying jobs. In 2009 Think College!, stated in its Fast Facts publication that individuals with intellectual disabilities (ID) who completed a post-secondary program earned 73 percent higher weekly income than their peers who did not complete such a program (see Alberto Migliore, John Butterworth, and Debra Hart. “Fast Facts.” Think College! No.1, 2009. Retrieved from on November 22, 2010.). 

Your child with ID may have many reasons to attend college. Beyond the ability to qualify for higher paying jobs, attending a post-secondary education program can help improve other areas of your child’s well-being: independence, community involvement, confidence and self-esteem, and the ability to solve problems without mom or dad’s assistance.

Through the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA), a growing number of  post-secondary programs are available to students with intellectual disabilities:

Find Post-Secondary Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities

Think College!, a project of the Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts Boston, provides resources for students with intellectual disabilities (ID) who want to attend college. They include information on:

  • Entrance requirements.
  • Academic and learning programs suited for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
  • Types of instruction for ID groups only.
  • Specialized degrees or certificates.

Find out what post-secondary programs are available for your child with ID. Contact Think College!

Call 1-617-287-4300 (Voice) or 1-617-287-4350 (TTY)
Visit (Search through the Think College! database to find post-secondary programs for students with intellectual disabilities)
Institute for Community Inclusion
University of Massachusetts Boston
100 Morrissey Boulevard
Boston, MA 02125