Parents Hope To Bring Special Needs Degree Program To NWA

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FAYETTEVILLE (KFSM) -- A group of Northwest Arkansas parents is hoping to bring an associate degree program for adults with disabilities to the area.

The associate degree is called OLS or occupational and life skills program. It gives adults with special needs an opportunity to get an associate degree in four years when they otherwise would not be able too.

Currently, the program is only offered at Bellevue College in Washington, but a group of parents wants to change that.

Stephanee Arrington said young adults with special needs do not have many options after high school.

"At the younger ages and in high school there are all kinds of support and there are all kinds of therapies and groups," she said. "And then when you get to the high school level and they start talking about transition there is no transition."

The program was going to start this fall at a college in Northwest Arkansas, but the school changed its mind citing financial and enrollment uncertainty.

As a parent of a child on the autism spectrum, Jennifer Keeling said she wants there to be something more for her daughter.

"This is very frustrating because we have put a lot of effort in getting our daughter to where she is at now and just to think there is nothing out there, it is very discouraging," she said.

Arrington said her daughter has also worked very hard and deserves the chance to go to college just like her siblings.

"This is my daughter's future," she said. "This is the opportunity for her to have a degree and come out and go into a career she wants to do, to be able to live independently just like the rest of the world does and stand on her own two feet."

The national director for the OLS Program will be leading an event to gauge community interest. The event will be held Wednesday (June 8) at 6:30 p.m. at the Chancellor Hotel in Fayetteville.