Lawrence will be one of three U.S. sites for a study about how students with developmental disabilities can become self-sufficient.
The U.S. Department of Education has granted The Arc of Douglas County $15,000 a year for each of the next five years. Agencies in Durham, N.C., and Hayward, Calif., will perform concurrent studies.
Sharon Johnson, executive director, said The Arc would track the progress of 50 graduating students from Lawrence, Baldwin, Eudora and Wellsville. The students will be tested the year they graduate, a year later and three years later.
Based on the data, the agency will develop a curriculum for teaching "self-determination" skills. The results will be available to school districts here and across the country.
Don Herbel, division director of special education for Lawrence schools, said Lawrence High School has been teaching self-determination for about three years. He said the study would help educators know which instruction methods are effective.
"Having more control over your life, that's the whole point -- to give kids the skills to have more say over their lives," he said.
In the past, others have made decisions about where and how children with cognitive disabilities live, he said. The idea is to give the students the ability to make some of those choices.
"Some of the skills that we take for granted are developed through the natural maturation process. Some students have to be instructed through that," he said.
The Arc, 211 E. Eighth, is a United Way agency. Formerly the Association for Retarded Citizens, the agency has been providing advocacy and information regarding mental retardation since 1958.