The transition to college, which is challenging for all young adults, is especially challenging for the increasing number of young adults diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. The challenges include social elements -- meeting and dealing with people in a new culture -- but also daily living tasks like getting to class on time, staying organized and living in a dorm.
Eastern University, in St. Davids, wants to help ASD students with this transition. Its new College Success Program begins this fall. "Our goal is to help students maximize their college experience, whatever [that] means for them," says Douglas Cornman, CSP coordinator.
Services for students will include counseling, peer mentoring, support groups and skills training. "Students will become less dependent on all of these as they adjust to college life," Cornman says. In addition, the CSP will be working with faculty and staff to both promote understanding of ASD and provide training to help them in their interactions with students with ASD.
The program will admit up to 12 new students each year. Most will be freshmen, though transfer students can also apply. CSP services will continue to be available to these students, as needed, until they graduate.
Most importantly, though, these students "will be able to transfer these skills to life after college," Cornman says. "Eastern's mission is to send students out in the world to support the needs of the larger community."
The Eastern program is not the first in the region — there are similar programs at Drexel and St. Joseph’s — but it’s one of only four in the state.
“Many ASD students start at a community college, then transfer to a four-year school,” Cornman says. “With support, we think they can benefit from the on-campus experience starting as freshmen.”