Pharos-Tribune

November 8, 2013

THEIR VIEW: An opportunity for special needs to go to college


Pharos-Tribune

---- — For many parents of children with special needs, it’s hard to hear their child might never get a diploma or go to college. Franklin College aims to change that.

A new partnership between the college and Special Services Johnson County will allow students with special needs who have attended four years of high school to move on to college like other students their age. Students in the program will spend one to two years at the college, taking one college course a semester, and work in the community.

The college emphasizes the importance of universal respect for its students, and having students with special needs in classes with college students, learning right beside them, will help teach that everyone deserves to be treated the same and have the same opportunities, according to David Brailow, Franklin College vice president for academic affairs.

And students coming from the high schools will have the chance to branch out and learn about something they might never have had the chance to, he said.

Ten to 12 students in special education classes will get the chance to take certain core courses at Franklin College each semester. Some students will work at the college, and others will work at local businesses such as restaurants or social service agencies.

The students will not receive credit for the classes and will attend as auditors or guests, Brailow said.

Families won’t have to pay for the courses, which are being paid for with a Center Grove Education Foundation grant. Only students from Franklin and Center Grove high schools will be able to participate this semester. Students from all Johnson County school districts will be able to apply for the program next year.

The goal is to make students in the program employable, Special Services Johnson County transition coordinator Megan Horsley said. Having a job is a requirement, and by the end of their time at the college they should have the ability to keep a position and get to work on their own. Not all students will be able to participate. Only those who are ready to move on, based on teacher and parent opinions, will be able to participate, she said.

In high school, students’ schedules are carefully organized by staff members. When they turn 22, they leave high school and, without any transition, have to start working and taking care of themselves, Franklin schools special education director Mindy Staton said.

The students are ready to move beyond high school but still need some preparation for living independently, she said. In the college program, they’ll be more independent while still having guidance from program coordinators and teachers. Students will be in charge of getting themselves to class and work and filling their time between classes and work. The responsibility will help students prepare for when they leave school and have to manage their own time and schedules.

Program coordinators are trying to set up a way for students studying education at the college to mentor students in the program.

The program offers a valuable next step for these students as they move from the structured world of school to the much-less-structured real world. We commend the college and Special Services Johnson County. The program has the promise of filling a gap in these students’ lives and will help them become more productive members of the community.

— Daily Journal, Franklin

THE ISSUE THEIR VIEW