But TPSID advocates argue that, while vital for students young enough to qualify, the IDEA program falls short of the lifelong academic needs of students with intellectual disabilities after they complete high school.
"The problem is, when the bus stops coming, what happens to these kids?" Musheno of the AUCD asks. "They don't have opportunities for higher education, and they get stuck in these dead-end jobs at minimum wage, or they go onto Social Security or Medicaid for the rest of their lives. That's not the vision we have for these kids."
In addition to the vocational training the TPSID models aim to provide, they also serve students in ways that are not purely academic, program directors say. On some campuses, students with intellectual disabilities have the option to live amongst peers in dormitories. At one school, a music-loving student explored his passion through an internship at a local radio station. At another, the option of joining campus organizations helped a student overcome a reticence to interact with others. Perhaps most importantly, the programs give hope to a group that previously never would have had college on the horizon, advocates say.
"We really see it is as a civil rights issue," says Jeff Bradford, director of the TPSID project at the University of Kentucky. "This is a group of people that have traditionally been excluded, and now they're getting their chance."
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Though future funding is not guaranteed, Bradford says his program is holding off on growing concerned, since talks of elimination or consolidation into other programs have become commonplace for the grant.
"It used to really scare us, but now it's like, so much has changed from a proposed budget to what it ends up being," he says. "It's kind of a wait-and-see thing."
And if TPSID funding is ultimately not reinstated for fiscal year 2013 and beyond, all's not lost, advocate Hart acknowledges. "TPSID, no TPSID—there were programs before and there will be afterward," she says.
But with TPSID, "the impact on students' and families' lives is pretty substantial," she says. "It seems to be really giving students who never thought this was going to be a possibility much-increased expectations and maturation in a way that could never happen in a high school program or a sheltered workshop."
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