The Question of SATs: The College-Bound Child with Down syndrome

By Jo Ann Simons, Ruderman Family Foundation Disabilities Advisor and CEO Cardinal Cushing Centers

“When Am I taking the SATs?”

For most high school students hoping to get into an American college or university, this question is not unusual.  Here in the United States, we have been accused of preparing our students for this high stakes test in the hopes for admission to a prestigious institution for all of their young lives.

So you can only imagine my surprise, when my son, Jon, who has Down syndrome, asked me this question when he was a junior in high school. Thinking quickly, I asked him why he wanted to know. And his thoughtful reply was, “Because I need them to get into college.”

Doing some more quick thinking, I came back with, “Well, Jon, you don’t need them to get into all colleges.” And just as quickly he asked “Which ones don’t you need them?”

This is what inclusion looks like.

If a child with an intellectual disability spends his entire school day included in regular academic classes, he picks up the same expectations that teachers and administrators have for all students. In this case, all of Jon’s friends and all of Jon’s teachers were talking about the SATs and colleges and he held the same expectation for himself.

And so, in 1996, I began my long and difficult search for college for Jon. It ended happily enough with Jon having received admission to 3 colleges and waitlisted at another. It was also the beginning of a revolution.

Today, there are over 300 colleges and university programs that are available to students with intellectual disabilities in the United States and more throughout the world.  Don’t take my word for it. Check out the list at www.thinkcollege.net.

— Jo Ann Simons

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