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Mizzou launches new program for students with intellectual disabilities

‘There are lots of misconceptions around disability, and it can be challenging to know what’s true or what’s not, so rather than risk offending someone, people avoid the topic,’ director says

The University of Missouri College of Education and Human Development is launching a new program called Preparing Adults for Work and Society, or PAWS, to provide post-secondary education opportunities for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The program is designed to be residential with on-campus involvement and the ability to participate with the undergraduate community at the university. It will start in the fall 2023 semester according to a news release sent to The College Fix and will have up to four students in the inaugural class.

The Fix spoke to the director of the program who said that people are “excited” about the new initiative.

“Feedback from the Mizzou community and from interested students/families has been that people are excited that this program is getting started,” Maggie Center, the program director, told The Fix via email.

Center told The Fix via email that the program planned to become accredited through the U.S. Department of Education as a Comprehensive Transition Post-Secondary Program.

The CTP degree is designed specifically for students who have disabilities, according to the Department of Education.

While PAWS does not currently accept financial aid from the government, the program is in the process of doing so.

“Our team is also working to establish grants and donations to reduce the overall program cost,” Center told The Fix. “It’s important to our team that students have access to this program and are doing our best to reduce the financial burden.”

Center told The Fix that this program is desperately needed in America in order to create a safe space where students who have disabilities can interact with other university students.

“There are lots of misconceptions around disability, and it can be challenging to know what’s true or what’s not, so rather than risk offending someone, people avoid the topic,” she said. “We unintentionally reinforce the isolation experienced by folks with disabilities by not making the space to get to know each other in ways that celebrate the whole person.”

The unique program is one of few in the United States, and it is modeled after the Succeed Program at University of Missouri-St. Louis.

The Succeed Program’s goal is “to encourage and develop pathways toward student independence.”

The Succeed Program’s team has been instrumental in the development of PAWS at University of Missouri, according to the program director.

“We’ve been working closely with their team to really learn what’s worked for them to develop something that complements our environment here at Mizzou,” Center said. “The SUCCEED team has been a huge support for getting PAWS started and maintaining our program’s inclusive mission from the beginning.”

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IMAGE: University of Missouri

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Jeremy Hill -- Boyce College