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Just A Normal Girl

Ms. Apostolides, 23, likes to say of herself, "I am just a normal girl with a lifelong story." But that is really just another way of explaining that she has Down syndrome, a genetic abnormality that has many side effects, including mental retardation that can range from severe to mild.  In her determined quest to have a normal college experience, she is at the forefront of a wave of cognitively challenged students who are demanding, and gaining, a place on campuses nationwide. Ms. Apostolides was accepted at Becker, a small liberal arts school with campuses in Leicester and Worcester, Mass., three years ago through regular admissions.

"The students have intellectual disabilities, but their chronological age goes along normally, and they want the same kind of social experiences," says Linda Hickson, who coordinates programs on mental retardation and autism at Teachers College at Columbia. "The challenge is to find ageappropriate experiences so that they are not totally held back by their childish intellectual limitations."

This article appeared in the November 5, 2006 edition of the New York Times.

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