UA Opens Autism Support Group
Officials in the College of Education and Health Professions founded a support group this semester for the growing number of students who suffer from autism, officials said.
College is difficult enough for the average student, but the experience grows harder for students with autism, said Aleza Greene, program director.
“There are certainly students here on the autism spectrum, and they are absolutely college material,” Greene said.
The program provides academic support and venues to make friends and interact with people, she said.
The group was originally slated to start next semester, but after a student contacted Greene asking for help, she decided to begin early. Greene said she hopes to have a class of four to six students next semester and 10 students per year after that.
This program will also help to recruit other students with autism; students that would not come to the UA if they couldn’t get that support, she said.
Students in the program receive 15 to 20 hours of direct contact each week with program staff, according to the College of Education and Health Professions website.
Students with autism struggle to navigate the bureaucracy of college — tasks like enrolling and dropping classes are not easy, Greene said.
The UA provides disabled students extra time during tests and designated note-takers through the Center for Educational Assess. But sometimes that is not enough, Greene said.
“They can’t offer the intense amount of support that students with autism need,” she said
Students who would like to enter the autism support group have to apply and complete an interview with the program director. The program costs $5,000 per semester.
Students with high functioning autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, PDD-NOS and other forms of learning disabilities may be eligible for the program, but the group cannot properly serve students with major psychiatric disorders, a history of violence, or those requiring one-on-one aid, according to the College of Education and Health Professions website.
Six out of every 1,000 children have autism spectrum disorder, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
Autism includes a range of symptoms and disorders.
“Autism spectrum disorder is a range of complex neurodevelopment disorders, characterized by social impairments, communication difficulties, and restricted, repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior,” according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
Greene plans to hire a staff such as graduate students to help with academic support and undergraduates to be mentors and spend time with the students such as taking them out to lunch or just talking.