An easier transition to college

Firm with Costa Mesa office helps developmentally disabled students adjust.

October 13, 2011|By Britney Barnes

COSTA MESA — The transition to college can be a rough one.

It's a crash course in how to live within a budget — and without Mom and Dad's help with chores and meals.

For students with developmental disabilities, being away from their support networks can be too much.

But aid is available through a Florida-based private company.

"We're kind of the safety net for ensuring their success," said Erica Holding, program director of College Living Experience, a national business that opened a Costa Mesa location last month at 2183 Fairview Road, Suite 101.


College Living Experience helps young adults with learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), high-functioning autism and mild mental retardation have a successful college experience — or reach another goal — while helping them transition to independence through teaching social, academic and independent living skills.

Some students who come to the organization have tried college and were unsuccessful, or know they wouldn't be able to succeed without help, Holding said.

"It's almost like students with disabilities have been running a race their whole life, and they've faced all these hurdles, like hurdle after hurdle after hurdle," Holding said. "Then they get through high school, and they are 500 feet from the finish line, and everyone goes, 'good luck,' and they're kind of left to their own devices to get through college."

Tom Schrank, 19, has been working with the College Living Experience in Washington, D.C., since fall 2010, when he enrolled right after high school.

"I wanted to learn to live independently," he said, adding he saw others struggle with tasks like budgeting and chores and wanted to learn those skills. "I thought this program would be a terrific help."

Schrank, who is working on his associate's degree before transferring to a four-year university, said the program has been the biggest help academically with tutoring before a test, and it taught him to use the syllabus to better understand an instructor's expectations.

Living away from home was also a struggle for the Maine native. Besides dealing with homesickness, Schrank needed to re-learn how to do chores and manage his time, while also learning how to pay his bills and rent each month.

Schrank said he plans to continue in the program until he transfers, but already he said he feels confident living independently.

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