Promoting Virtual Engagement: Addressing the Social and Mental Health Needs of Students with Intellectual Disabilities in a Remote Postsecondary Environment

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Meeti Mehta

Abstract

Students with intellectual disabilities (IDs) benefit most from an inclusive curriculum facilitating engagement with peers without IDs. While such curricula exist in primary and secondary education, inclusive postsecondary education (IPSE) is still new. Integrated IPSE allows students with and without IDs to take classes together, with further inclusion in residential life and extracurricular activities. In addition to fostering growth in students with IDs, this creates a diverse college experience for those without IDs, cultivating an informed and inclusive student body.


Knights Exemplar (KE) is a student-led peer mentorship program supporting students with IDs enrolled in Inclusive Education Services (IES), an integrated IPSE program at the University of Central Florida (UCF). KE educates students to ensure peer mentors of the highest quality, serving as role models and bridging the gap between IES students and university resources. 


However, six months after KE was founded, UCF shut down due to safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This sudden disruption to the organization’s functioning created an array of challenges that needed to be addressed in order to resume operation in a virtual capacity. In dealing with these struggles while prioritizing the social and emotional needs of the students in IES, we learned to adapt to new challenges and make the most of the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ultimately, our experiences can serve as a lesson for other university-based IPSE programs seeking to provide more significant support to students with IDs in a virtual environment.

Article Details

How to Cite
Mehta, M. (2021). Promoting Virtual Engagement: Addressing the Social and Mental Health Needs of Students with Intellectual Disabilities in a Remote Postsecondary Environment. Undergraduate Journal of Service Learning & Community-Based Research , 11, 15-19. Retrieved from https://ujslcbr.org/index.php/ujslcbr/article/view/339
Section
Reflective Essays