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Texas A&M Starts Residential Program For Students With Intellectual And Developmental Disabilities

The Texas A&M University Memorial Student Center
The Texas A&M University Memorial Student Center

From Texas Standard:

In the fall, Texas A&M University will start a new program to better serve Texans with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Aggie ACHIEVE will gives these students access to a full university experience – something not often available to them. They’ll reside on campus, attend classes alongside fellow Aggies, and will have a personalized education plan geared toward future employment. 

Carly Gilson, assistant professor of special education at Texas A&M's College of Education and Human Development, says Aggie ACHIEVE will be academically rigorous, but will also give students extra support through counselors and peers. 

“The overall objective is for all of our students to exit the program in four years having integrated employment in the community in a meaningful job of their choice,” Gilson says.  

Gilson says students will get an authentic college experience. In addition to auditing courses and living on campus, she says they’ll hold internships and participate in clubs and organizations. 

“We use a process called ‘person-centered planning’ where each student has an individualized curriculum that suits their goals, strengths and interests,” Gilson says.  

Although the students won’t receive degrees, they will receive a certificate. 

And participants will be paired with fellow students, called “ACHIEVEmates,” who will work alongside them in their classes. 

Gilson says the program is modeled after other inclusivity programs like Next Steps at Vanderbilt University. There are other similar programs in Texas, but AggieACHIEVE will be the first four-year residential one. 

Five students will be part of the first cohort in fall 2019. But Gilson says that number could double in the future.

Gilson says the program will make higher education in Texas more inclusive for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. And greater diversity will also benefit the rest of the student population. 

“People with intellectual and developmental disabilities are an important part of our community, but often times, especially in higher education settings, they have been overlooked and living in the shadows,” Gilson says. “The A&M students [will] be able to have these opportunities to grow alongside an important segment of our population.” 

Written by Geronimo Perez.

Copyright 2020 KUT 90.5. To see more, visit KUT 90.5.

Rhonda is the newest member of the KUT News team, joining in late 2013 as producer for KUT's new daily news program, The Texas Standard. Rhonda will forever be known as the answer to the trivia question, “Who was the first full-time hire for The Texas Standard?” She’s an Iowa native who got her start in public radio at WFSU in Tallahassee, while getting her Master's Degree in Library Science at Florida State University. Prior to joining KUT and The Texas Standard, Rhonda was a producer for Wisconsin Public Radio.
Geronimo Perez