COVID-19 resource recommendations from Think College!

As we enter into another month of social distancing and staying at home, Think College! is doing its best to share good information that they’re finding online. There is a plethora of resources for students, teachers, and families to manage during the COVID-19 crisis– websites, webinars, resources, and the latest news — that they are pushing out via social media channels daily. Visit the Think college paper writing service to find a listing of current resources created specifically to support people with intellectual disabilities, educators, and others, who are navigating new learning and working environments, including a website called Teaching & Learning Online: Strategies for Supporting Students with ID, created by Lori Cooney & Maria Paiewonsky; COVID-19 Information By and For People with Disabilities developed by Green Mountain Self-Advocates; and the latest updates from the U.S. Department of Education.

East Tennessee Foundation offers 2020 Haley Elise Van Pelt Scholarship

The East Tennessee Foundation announces the establishment of a new scholarship for 2020, the Haley Elise Van Pelt Scholarship.

This scholarship has been established to benefit students of any age seeking post-secondary education who have a permanent intellectual or developmental disability and/or functional impairment.

Scholarship information, including detailed descriptions and application instructions, as well as 2020 applications, are now available at The scholarship application must be completed and submitted online. The application deadline for 2020 is Feb. 15, 2020.

Below is a detailed description of the criteria for the Haley Elise Van Pelt Scholarship:

Purpose and History: Established to benefit students of any age seeking post-secondary education who have a permanent intellectual or developmental disability and/or functional impairment. This may include but is not limited to brain injury, musculoskeletal impairment, multiple traumas, neuromuscular disorders such as multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy, or stroke.
Scholarship Amount: $1,000.
Eligibility Requirements:
1. Residency Requirement: East Tennessee Foundation 25-county service area.
2. Post-Secondary Requirement: Enrollment at an accredited two-year or four-year college or university, Tennessee College of Applied Technology, vocational program, trade school, or programs that help individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities gain skills, and make a successful transition from high school to adult life and/or empowers students to achieve gainful employment in the community located in Tennessee.
3. Additional Requirement: Permanent intellectual or developmental disability and/or functional impairment.

Please feel free to contact Beth Heller,, or Ashley Siferd,, or at
(865) 524-1223 with any questions or concerns.

TN IHE Alliance teams up with TN Council on DD to produce comprehensive video of IHE programs in Tennessee

The Tennessee Inclusive Higher Education (IHE) Alliance worked alongside the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities to produce a new video highlighting Tennessee’s opportunities for postsecondary education for young individuals with disabilities. This video gives a helpful overview of Tennessee’s college programs for students with developmental disabilities, including information about East Tennessee State University’s pilot program, beginning in Fall 2019. Click here to view and share the video.

Think College drafts new resource on Medicaid waivers, students with ID in college

Think College has created a new Insight Brief titled “Use of Medicaid Waivers to Support Students with Intellectual Disability in College” in its Resource Library. Written by Paige Parisi and Julia Landau at Massachusetts Advocates for Children, the brief explains what Medicaid Waivers are, what postsecondary education services they can be used for, and how to access waiver services.

An increasing number of states allow students with intellectual disability (ID) to use Medicaid Home and Community Based Services waivers to support participation in postsecondary education
(PSE) programs. These waiver services support access to higher education for students receiving Medicaid services who might otherwise not be able to attend postsecondary education. This Insight Brief explains what Medicaid Waivers are, what PSE services they can be used for, and how to access waiver services.

Click here to read or download the brief.

Think College announces Spring 2019 Research Summit on May 1

Think College will hold an online Spring 2019 Research Summit on Wednesday, May 1, from 1:00-2:30 p.m. ET. The Spring 2019 Research Summit will focus on evaluating the experiences and perspectives of peer mentors supporting students with intellectual disability in inclusive higher education. Two researchers will present their work.

Erik Carter, Ph.D., Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Special Education at Vanderbilt University, will present “Examining the Experiences and Expectations of Peer Mentors: A Cross-Campus Study.” This multi-year, multi-campus, mixed-method study addresses the motivations, experiences, and perceptions of peers who are formally involved in supporting inclusive higher education experiences for students with intellectual disability.

Fiona Rillotta, Ph.D., Lecturer & Honours Coordinator, Disability and Community Inclusion, College of Nursing and Health Sciences at Flinders University, will present “Inclusive Higher Education at an Australian University: Perspectives of students with intellectual disability and their mentors.” This study investigated the expectations and experiences of students with ID in an inclusive individual support PSE programme in Australia through interviews with students and peer mentors.

Click here to register.

UTK FUTURE Program mentioned in President’s Column e-newsletter

The University of Tennessee-Knoxville’s FUTURE IPSE program got a shout-out from none other than UTK interim president Randy Boyd in one of his recent “President’s Column” e-newsletters. During a discussion of “Everywhere you look, UT is making a difference,” Boyd wrote:

Vol means All. One program that I have admired for some time is UTK’s FUTURE inclusion education program. Students with intellectual and developmental disabilities attend UT for two years, audit classes, and get to experience university life. They learn life skills and responsibility, and many get internships. I am very fortunate to have Alex Cole, a FUTURE student, as my new intern for this semester. He is an amazing young man, and I’m not only proud of him but also proud of my alma mater for making this opportunity possible.

New “Inclusive Postsecondary Opportunities” website, FERPA handout for parents

Good news! There are now over 260 programs on college campuses across the country offering students with intellectual disabilities an opportunity to earn a certificate by taking college classes, engaging in career development and independent living activities and participating in the social life of the campus.

Learn why inclusive postsecondary education is important (and possible!) for students with intellectual disabilities, how to find the right program, how to prepare, and how to stay involved and supportive throughout their journey on PACER’s new Inclusive Postsecondary Opportunities for Students with Intellectual Disabilities webpage. Pacer shared this information via their Inspiring Possibilities e-newsletter, which includes updates from Pacer’s National Parent Center on Transition and Employment. Click here to view the newsletter online.

In addition, Think College! has also created a helpful handout for parents advocating on behalf of their adult children in IPSE programs. As traditional four-year universities, community colleges, and trade and technical schools enroll more youth with disabilities, they are also hearing from more parents who expect to provide additional guidance and support to their youth during this transition. Parents accustomed to the Individualized Education Program (IEP) and transition team are often surprised to find there are no such supports at the college or university level. In fact, postsecondary institutions sometimes discourage parent involvement and do not make it a common practice to communicate with families. Parents may be told that the postsecondary institution cannot communicate education or health information to families due to the Federal Education Right to Privacy Act (FERPA). Learn more in the handout Communicating with Your Student’s College Under FERPA and hear a parent perspective in the previously recorded webinar You Don’t Say! Parent Involvement Expectations, Communication and FERPA Requirements in Postsecondary Education Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities.

February meeting of the Tennessee Inclusive Higher Education Alliance

The Tennessee Inclusive Higher Education Alliance (TN IHE Alliance) met in February to share program updates, to learn about postsecondary education-related research projects, and to hear more about upcoming advocacy opportunities.

The meeting began with welcome and introductions and then launched into a presentation of a Capstone Research Project led by two Lipscomb University doctoral candidates, Drs. Daniel Claytor and Adrienne Cook. They presented research titled “Inclusive Postsecondary Education Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities: A Study of Parental Perceptions,” created with responses of expectation surveys sent to parents of students enrolled in  inclusive postsecondary education (IPSE) programs.

Next, Belmont University Occupational Therapy students discussed their involvement with Lipscomb IDEAL students to encourage healthy living through regular activity, fitness knowledge, and accountability. One of the OT students discussed the creation of a “Fitness UNO” game and  plans to raise funds for activity trackers for each of the students. Next, =IDEAL gave updates to its program, particularly focusing on the addition of off-campus rental housing for third-year students.

Next Steps at Vanderbilt discussed creating and distributing a qualitative study to former Vanderbilt Ambassadores (traditional Vanderbilt University students and peers to Next Steps students) and another to graduate student faculty at Vanderbilt. Union University’s EDGE Program outlined research being conducted of supports that Union faculty members found beneficial when offering audited courses to EDGE students.

Following the program updates, IHE Alliance chair Tammy Day discussed professional development opportunities for local education agencies, including a Capacity Building event with Metro Nashville Public Schools and others; an expansion of programs across the State, that will make professional development more accessible across Tennessee; an inclusive higher education awareness event over the summer for in-service learning; and further steps to continue efforts. Day mentioned that East Tennessee State University would be piloting their own IPSE program beginning in Fall 2019.

Attendees then discussed opportunities for increasing IPSE programs at Tennessee community colleges. Details were shared on the upcoming TN AHEAD Conference taking place Mar. 18-20 at the Holiday Inn Nashville-Vanderbilt  (2613 West End Ave., Nashville). Attendees were then reminded of SEPSEA 2019 dates on May 16 and 17 at the College of Charleston in Charleston, SC, before adjourning.

The next IHE Alliance meeting will take place on Friday, June 14, from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. at the University of Memphis.