Higher Education Options for Young Adults with Learning Disabilities. (Education 2002)

Article excerpt

"There are truly opportunities to achieve the dream of a college education [for students with disabilities]," Deborah Brodbeck, President of Beacon College, Leesburg, FL.

Two schools have uniquely positioned themselves to help challenged students and their families achieve a college education. They are Beacon College in Leesburg, FL, and Landmark College in Putney, VT.

Every fall semester, high school seniors and their parents experience excitement and anxiety as they make decisions regarding jobs or colleges. For students with learning disabilities, this season adds one more hurdle to the list of challenges that has grown during the past 12 school years. Often, young adults with learning disabilities have average to well-above-average intelligence and wish to continue their education. However, there are questions to be answered: What choices are there? What support can I/my child expect? Who has experienced satisfaction in this process?

Beacon College and Landmark College are two institutions that have provided answers, along with some very satisfied students and parents.

Beacon College, Leesburg, FL:

Located in Leesburg, FL, Beacon College was started by parents of teens with learning disabilities. Presently, it has about 80 students, each following a customized plan of study based on their strengths and needs. The primary disability that allows for admission is a learning disability followed by a physical disability, if relevant to the applying student.

Licensed by the Commission for Independent Education Colleges and Universities, Beacon awards Associate in Arts and Bachelor of Arts degrees in both human services and liberal arts. The school is also a candidate for accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) this October.

Beacon boasts a Main Street campus that allows students easy access to places for social gathering. Living accommodations are provided in apartments separate from the school campus and special transportation is available to take students to and from classes.

Community based field placements offer hands-on, practical work experience in public and community services. Placements are in the town of Leesburg and often lead to more permanent employment.

President Deborah Brodbeck believes that Beacon's cornerstone is their mentoring program. Students are assisted by mentors who help them determine their own realistic goals, discover which learning techniques work best for them in varied situations, enhance their abilities and explore their potential. "Students come into their own academically here" President Brodbeck declares.

Students also have access to tutors, psychologists and counselors who can help them discover who they are as learners and develop their own individualized strategy for learning. This development of self-awareness and cognitive strengths, as well as the acquired perception of realistic views and limitations, is influential in making future career choices.

The graduate success rate is impressive. As of December 2000, 100 percent of Beacon College graduates went on to higher learning or were hired directly out of school. The statistics for May 2001 showed that 90 percent of the graduates did the same.

Landmark College. Putney, VT:

Founded in 1983, Landmark had students enrolled for classes by 1985. Over the years the enrollment has grown to 380 with the expectation of up to 450 students in the future.

Landmark's mission is to provide a rigorous educational program for students with dyslexia, ADHD and special learning disabilities. The two-year program ensures a self-empowerment that is based on the development of academic strengths and the internalization of a positive self-esteem.

Admission to the college requires documented proof of a learning disability, dyslexia or ADHD from the secondary school's educational psychologist. …