Two-year program helps employ students with intellectual disabilities

cartoon drawing of girl doing homework
The CSUN Explorers program helps increase the employability and independence of individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities. Illustration by Kiv Bui

The CSUN Explorers program has been launched through Tseng College and will help increase the employability and independence of individuals with intellectual/ developmental disabilities.

The program’s goal is to provide people with intellectual disabilities the same opportunities as other individuals attending a CSU program, said Special Education Professor Beth Lasky.

Lasky started this program to challenge stereotypes associated with those with disabilities by helping them navigate through their university experience and get work.

“People with intellectual disabilities have traditionally not been able to come to CSU’s because the majority of them do not receive high school diplomas,” she further stated. “The Explorer program enables individuals to register through the same college, just like any other person, and take classes that will prepare them for the career path that they choose.”

The two-year program is open to ages 18 to 28 with a documented intellectual and/or developmental disability.

Each CSUN Explorer is required to enroll in two undergraduate classes with other university students and participate in on-campus clubs and activities of interest their first year. They will also be partnered with a peer mentor, a student outside the program who accompanies and helps them in classroom and club activities in exchange for college credit.

The second year of the program focuses on the CSUN Explorers participating in internships on campus and in the community to obtain work experience.

Lasky attributes the small number of students to the difficulty some families have with paying the $2,500 fee.

About one in 10 college students in the United States have a documented disability, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

However, less than one percent of the accredited colleges and universities in the United States offer programs that help students with intellectual disabilities transition into higher education and adult life, according to ThinkCollege, a national organization that advocates intellectual disability programs.

Lasky said that only one CSU campus, Fresno, had such a program, called Wayfinders, prior to the development of CSUN Explorers.

Despite the need for intellectual disability programs on college and university campuses, Lasky still has faith that the program will succeed at its mission.

“It’s anticipated that the Explorer program will not only be beneficial in increasing employment for Explorers but will replace stereotypes and biases among students, faculty and staff at CSUN,” Lasky said.