New program at Auburn to prepare students with intellectual disabilities for success

Published: October 17, 2017
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"War Eagle!” is a greeting shared across the Auburn campus and throughout the Auburn Family. The iconic eagle represents the Auburn spirit and the strength that lives within all Auburn fans. Auburn University’s new, comprehensive transition and postsecondary program for students with intellectual disabilities known as EAGLES, or Education to Accomplish Growth in Life Experiences for Success, embraces this notion.

EAGLES is a program for students with intellectual disabilities in the Auburn Transition Leadership Institute, or ATLI, in the College of Education’s Department of Special Education, Rehabilitation, and Counseling.

"As the largest land-grant institution in Alabama, it is imperative that Auburn’s academic programs are accessible to all students within our state,” said Timothy Boosinger, provost and vice president for academic affairs. "I am proud to share in the launching of the EAGLES program as we offer young adults with disabilities new opportunities to be academically and socially successful lifelong learners.”

This new postsecondary program provides an opportunity for these students to engage in an inclusive, multiyear campus residential experience with a two-year basic program and a four-year advanced program for eligible participants. It focuses on four areas: increasing independence, improving leadership and advocacy skills, preparing them for employment and developing life skills.

"We are excited about the EAGLES program and the lasting impact it will have on the entire Auburn Family,” said Courtney Dotson, acting director of ATLI. "The strong support throughout campus clearly demonstrates that this program reflects the principles of the Auburn Creed.”

The EAGLES program is designed to help students with intellectual disabilities transition to become contributing members of society with curriculum focusing on academics, social and career development and health awareness.

"Our main focus is to ensure the students and their families that we are here to support and foster their goals,” Dotson said. "We want each student to not only gain skills and realize his or her full potential, but also have a genuine Auburn experience. In particular, the on-campus, residential nature of our program makes it unique and complete. This program is a dream come true for so many families, students and professionals in the area of transition.”

The first class of approximately six students is scheduled to begin fall 2018, with application information being announced in spring 2018.

"We are very excited about launching EAGLES as it will both address an unmet need and greatly enrich the Auburn campus community,” said College of Education Dean Betty Lou Whitford. "The expertise and leadership of our faculty and the greatly appreciated support from Provost Boosinger, trustee Sarah Newton and other university leaders will assure a quality program.”

Auburn University alumna and trustee Newton, alumna Denise Slupe, Whitford, Department Head of Special Education, Rehabilitation, and Counseling Jamie Carney, and Professors Karen Rabren, Cari Dunn and Courtney Dotson led the initial planning of the program.

For Newton, the EAGLES program is personal.

"This program was my vision for my grandson to have a college experience at Auburn,” she said. "When our precious Jack was born with Down Syndrome we fell in love with him at first sight. Yet, our hearts were filled with concerns not knowing what his future would hold. It didn't take long to understand that Jack had dreams and aspirations just like other children. My prayer for him has always been that he could live life to the fullest. I love Jack and I love Auburn. I knew this was a program Auburn would embrace. EAGLES will give young people with intellectual disabilities an opportunity to experience collegiate life that is appropriate for them and give them life skills that can help them be independent.”