COD starts program for developmentally disabled

College of DuPage will launch Project COACH (Career Opportunities and ACHievement) this fall to increase educational, vocational and socialization opportunities for developmentally disabled students in DuPage County.

Offered through COD's Continuing Education program, the two-year, application-based program is targeted at adults with mild intellectual or developmental disabilities. It also provides post-high school transition students with additional educational training aimed at preparing them for meaningful employment.

"We looked at several models across the country when developing a program for College of DuPage and came up with what we hope is a mix of the best pieces of each in a format that suits the needs of this particular population," said Susan Landers, Continuing Education Youth Academy and Adult Enrichment program manager.

Local high school districts can accommodate developmentally disabled students until age 22, but many need additional assistance transitioning, she said. Project COACH will provide a valuable bridge to students, focusing on academics, social and independence skills, and career exploration.

Students will further develop basic reading and math skills, use technology effectively to support academic and career pursuits, practice appropriate work behavior, and apply time management skills.

While the program is largely cohort-based, students will spend some time in classes with non-disabled peers as well. Additional interaction and social skill development also will come from their second year on-campus internships.

"If students spend at least 50 percent of their time on campus and away from the cohort, it can make a tremendous impact on their personal development. That's certainly something we want them to take away from this experience," Landers said.

"Exposing them to situations and scenarios they may experience in the workforce helps them grow as individuals and prepare for post-academic life."

DuPage County has a large population of developmentally disabled students, likely due to the strength of local K-12 programming, said Michael Duggan, counselor for students with disabilities at College of DuPage.

Previously, Elmhurst College was the only institution offering similar programming in DuPage County. Other programming may also be available nearby but comes with a high price tag.

"They all tend to be expensive, costing upward of $25,000 per year. That's a tremendous financial burden for a family," he said. "For adults with developmental disabilities in DuPage County, this is a significant and important milestone for their independence and self-sufficiency and we're pleased we can meet this need."

Project COACH costs $2,499 per semester, which is in line with College of DuPage tuition. Classes begin the week of Aug. 21 and meet from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Students must be able to navigate campus independently, as aides will not be provided.

There are 15 spots available for the fall term. In addition to the application, admission also is based on an interview. The COD Foundation has generously provided some scholarship funds to assist families in need.

For more information, call (630) 942-2176 or visit

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