“Massachusetts students with autism and significant intellectual disabilities will gain unprecedented access to postsecondary education at state colleges and universities under a law signed late last month by Governor Charlie Baker, lauded by disability rights advocates as the first of its kind in the nation.” J. Russell, The Boston Globe, August 7, 2022
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key
Excerpt: First-of-its-kind law improves college access for students with autism, intellectual disabilities, By Jenna Russell, Globe Staff, August 7, 2022,
“More than a decade in the making, the breakthrough legislationwill require all of the state’s public college campuses to offer accommodations to young people whose severe disabilities prevent them from earning a standard high school diploma, allowing them to take classes as nondegree-seeking students and join extracurricular activities alongside their peers — experiences that can transform their lives for the better, according to experts.
‘It’s truly a joyous and historic milestone, for the state and for the country, because it really will allow people with disabilities to reap the same benefits of higher education,’ said Julia Landau, director of the Disability Education Justice Initiative at Massachusetts Advocates for Children. ‘They have shown that they can exceed societal expectations when they’re given the same opportunities to learn.’
The law will create pathways for students whose intellectual challenges have often left them stuck in high school as their classmates graduated and moved on without them. Unable to pass the state MCAS exam or gain admission to college — and unlikely to thrive there without support — many students with Down syndrome, autism, and other conditions have instead languished in isolated classrooms, facing poor employment prospects and limited social options as they wait to age out of high school at age 22.”
NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.
Level: Intermediate – Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 60 minutes.
Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.
Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and improving oral skills. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.
I. Pre-Reading Activities
Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos
Directions: Examine the titles of the post and of the actual article. Examine any photos, then create a list of words and ideas that you and your group members think might be related to this article.
II. While Reading Activities
Directions: Try to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. You use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.
- This law has been more than a decade in the making.
- The breakthrough legislation will require all of the state’s public college campuses to offer accommodations to young people with severe disabilities.
- The new legislation will allow them to take classes as nondegree-seeking students and join extracurricular activities alongside their peers.
- These experiences can transform their lives for the better, according to experts.
- It’s truly a joyous and historic milestone, for the state and for the country.
- They succeed when they’re given the same opportunities to learn.
- The law will create pathways for students whose intellectual challenges have often left them stuck in high school.
- Many are unable to pass the state MCAS exam or gain admission to college.
- With expanded access to state campuses, some will now be able to transition to the next stage of learning.
- Existing state and federal laws already require equitable access to college for students with disabilities.
Grammar Focus: Word -Recognition
Directions: Students choose the correct word to complete the sentences taken from the article. They are to choose from the options presented.
The law will create/created pathways four/for students whose/who’s intellectual challenges has/have often left/leave them stuck in/inn high school as there/their classmates graduated and moved in/on without them.
Unable to pass/past the state MCAS exam or gain admission to college — and unlikely to thrive their/there without support — many student/students with Down syndrome, autism, and other conditions has/have instead languished in isolated classrooms, facing/face poor employment prospects and limited social options as they wait to age out of high school at age 22.
Reading Comprehension: Identify The Speakers
Directions: Read the following quotes from the speakers in the article. Then identify the speakers.
“They have shown that they can exceed societal expectations when they’re given the same opportunities to learn.”
- “It’s a generation of neurotypical college students, sitting next to students like Max in class and seeing what they come up with … that will change their viewpoint.”
- “I had been in special education groups where we were segregated, and it was hard to make your own choices.”
- “I used to feel shame about my shortcomings, and now I realize I can forge a different path and be an individual … and that is just as valuable.”
- “They often say they’ve become better professors, because they think more about different ways of learning.”
- “It took time to explain why it benefits those with significant intellectual challenges, whose goals and successes “may not look like success for everyone else.”
- “I wanted to go to college to get more independence and to be with friends. I think it made my life better for a bunch of reasons.”
III. Post Reading Activities
Directions: Have students use the WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.
Who or What is the article about?
Where does the action/event take place?
When does the action/event take place?
Why did the action/event occur?
How did the action/event occur?
Post Reading Activities
Directions: Place students in groups and have them work on the following activities.
- List three new ideas that you’ve learned about the topic from the reading, two things that you did not understand in the reading, and one thing you would like to know that the article did not mention. Share your responses with your class.
- List 3 questions that you would like to ask any person mentioned in the article. Share questions as a class.