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Texas A&M-San Antonio Receives Funding For New Program For Students With Intellectual Disabilities

A&M-San Antonio's certificate program is designed to be a bridge to adulthood for students who age out of special education programs like the Burleson Center in Edgewood ISD.
A&M-San Antonio's certificate program is designed to be a bridge to adulthood for students who age out of special education programs like the Burleson Center in Edgewood ISD.

Texas A&M University-San Antonio is launching a new certificate program in January for students with autism and other intellectual disabilities.

According to program organizers, TU CASA — which stands for Transition University for Career Advancement and Successful Adulthood — will give students the same kind of support they had before aging out of special education in their K-12 schools.

“The biggest issue for students with disabilities is when they age out of those programs that there’s not an additional level,” said Carl Sheperis, dean of the college of education and human development at A&M-San Antonio. “The simple fact is that students who come out of (K-12 special education programs) don’t often end up in active employment settings. They often end up in part-time employment settings.”

Sheperis said TU CASA will create a bridge to independent adulthood for students in the Burleson Center, a charter school for special education students between the ages of 18 and 22 that the university started managing for the Edgewood Independent School District this year.

“It’s a natural transition for us,” said Sheperis. “These programs are highly popular. They’re in high demand for the small number of universities that offer them. And it gives that practical, applied, independent living component and the additional training beyond what happens in an 18+program from a college classroom experience.”

Mariya Davis, an assistant professor of special education and project lead for TU CASA, said the program will be more comprehensive than programs found at most universities, going beyond classroom accommodations to teach students independent life skills as they move into a dorm and live on their own for the first time. The 18-month certificate program will also include an internship to help prepare students for the workforce after they graduate.

“San Antonio is the seventh largest city in the nation … but it does not have any university that offers a comprehensive post-secondary education option for individuals with intellectual disabilities,” Davis said. “TU CASA was designed to fill that void or that gap.”

Palo Alto College has a program for students with intellectual disabilities called Project Access, but Davis and Sheperis said TU CASA will be the first of its kind offered by a four-year university in San Antonio.

A&M-San Antonio received a $2.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to support TU CASA for the next five years.

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