Autism Support Program to Help University Students
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Students on the autism spectrum who are enrolled next fall at the University of Arkansas can receive intensive support services to help ensure their success.
The College of Education and Health Professions is taking applications for the new University of Arkansas Autism Support Program. There is a cost for the services in addition to tuition.
"We believe this program will be of tremendous benefit to students who have been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder," said Tom Smith, the dean of the college. Smith also holds the rank of University Professor of special education, and his expertise is in inclusion of students with disabilities.
The program is open to students admitted to the University of Arkansas in any degree program. Information and an application are available on the program's website.
Autism is a neurological disorder. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in 110 children in the United States have an autism spectrum disorder. Five pervasive developmental disorders make up autism spectrum disorders, all characterized by varying degrees of impairment in communication skills, social interactions, and restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior.
Aleza Greene, a clinical assistant professor of curriculum and instruction, directs the new program. She holds a doctorate in psychology from Brandeis University and previously worked with a private company in Florida that offered services to college students with autism.
"Our goal is to support students on the autism spectrum through college," Greene said. "The support will be provided in three areas: academics, transition to independent living and social skills. The university has many existing services to help students with learning disabilities. Our program will assist students to take advantage of those services, provide our own unique support services and function as a case manager to encompass all areas of their campus experience."
The staff will help students through registration and orientation, learning the campus, meeting instructors, becoming familiar with residence hall living, tutoring in content matter, study skills, time management and participation in social and extracurricular activities. Students will receive 15 to 20 hours of direct contact each week with program staff, including academic coaches, mentors and the program director.
"Students who qualify for this program are fully capable of doing academic work but might have trouble figuring out university life," Greene said. "They often experience more anxiety about day-to-day tasks and social situations. We want to be sure they get class work done in a timely fashion and are aware of all the social opportunities on campus. We will facilitate their participation in whatever interests them.
"We want these students to have the full college experience," she continued. "They will be full-fledged Razorbacks. The only difference is we can provide a safety net for them."