The University of Tennessee’s FUTURE Program is a two-year certificate program for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) including autism and is designated as a Comprehensive Transition Program by the U.S. Department of Education. FUTURE is part of an international trend in services for young adults with I/DD and addresses a significant social problem: inclusive education is widely available to children with special needs, but few post-secondary educational opportunities exist for these students. Additionally, there are often lengthy gaps between the cessation of child services and the availability of adult services. In many cases students with I/DD graduate from high school and simply sit at home.
FUTURE students develop skills which enable them to be more productive and valuable community members. Essential components of FUTURE include: classes focusing on career exploration/workplace skills, digital literacy, and life skills; structured internships; accommodations and supports to ensure student success in classes offered in a wide range of university programs and departments; and the opportunity to participate in campus activities and events. FUTURE is an inclusion program with fellow undergraduate students supporting our students to be fully integrated into the campus. Since its inception, well over 200 undergraduate students from more than 25 majors have served as peer mentors.
The FUTURE program is committed to the Vision of the University and its value of broad diversity. The program provides training opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students: graduate research assistants (GRAs), peer mentors and FUTURE students develop and refine their leadership and career skills. The program has provides ongoing opportunities for faculty, staff and graduate students to pursue research, furthering our understanding of best practices in the I/DD field.