July 24, 2008

College Support Program Hosts Summer Transition Group

The ATC's College Support Program recently hosted a six-week group experience for area high school students interested in learning more about the transition from high school to college. In collaboration with high school guidance counselors in the Huntington, WV area, graduate assistant Ben Childers, along with program coordinators Rebecca Hansen and Marc Ellison, identified students entering 9th, 10th or 11th grades who had an interest in attending college, and invited those who could make a six-week committment to participate.

Initial goals included:

1. How to effectively interact with college administrators, professors and advisers;
2. Preparing for college lifestyle events (sporting games, rallies, etc.);
3. Dorm Living;
4. Preparing for the freedom and independence that comes with campus living;
5. Exploring campus social groups and clubs;
6. Techniques effective in reducing the distress that can come with the transition.

Like many teens, several of the high school students in the group began the summer meetings with little reference for what the college experience would be like for them.

"My First Day Of College"

The purpose of the group--to provide a basic, experiential reference--was successful. In addition to informational exchanges and educational discussions, group participants ate a meal in the dorm cafeteria, toured residence halls and spent time exploring clubs available on campus at the Memorial Student Center.

July 15, 2008

Marshall University Student And Staff Speak At ASA's National Conference

Jon Lamp, a Huntington, West Virginia native and Education major at Marshall University and Melanie Ague-Beckett, a school counselor at Huntington High (and an adjunct professor of Counseling at Marshall), traveled to Orlando, Florida in mid-July to speak at the annual conference of the Autism Society of America.

Along with Marc Ellison, the Coordinator of the ATC-sponsored support program provided at Marshall University, the group spoke on the topic of college transition.

From High School to College: Providing Successful Supports to Students Making the Transition provided the audience with first person accounts of successful transition, from the perspective of: (a) a student diagnosed with Asperger's Disorder who did make a successful transition, (b) a high school counselor who supports students interested in making that transition, and (c) a college program administrator who provides support once students are accepted into college.

Other staff from the Autism Training Center at Marshall spoke at the conference as well. Educational Specialists Andrew Nelson and Peggy Hovatter, along with parent Richard L. Work, Jr., presented information on Building A Social Skills Club.

The 2008 annual conference was a tremendous success, and we at Marshall were pleased to be a part of it.

July 8, 2008

Navigating Campus Life

Associated Press reporter Melissa Dutton has written an informative article on the interest many high school students living on the autism spectrum have in attending college, and the general supports some may need to be successful in that setting. (The article can be found at this link.)

Contained within the piece is information about the support program provided by Marshall University, and comments by some who receive services from the university.

Accompanying the article was Tips for College-Bound Students and Their Families. Considering the Fall semester begins in a few short weeks, these tips could not have been more timely. They include (taken from the published article):

Choosing a college

1. Decide whether the student is ready to move away from home.
2. Select a college that has a strong program in the student's area of interest.
3. Determine what size university is appropriate. Some students might thrive at a big university with large classes and public transportation; others will do better in a smaller setting.
4. Meet with the staff at the college's disability services office and find out whether anyone has specialized training in autism.
5. Find out whether students have good access to psychiatric services.

Prepare the student

1. Make sure the student has the basic skills to live on his or her own, such as knowing how to launder clothes, clean house, etc.
2. Encourage the student to take a class at a community college while still in high school to become familiar with the format of college classes.
3. Consider sending the student to camp or another program that requires them to temporarily live away from home.
4. Visit the campus and show the student where to go for meals, health care services, etc.

Recognize the differences between high school and college

1. Most colleges will not write a specialized plan for a student's education; it's up to the student to approach the university about his or her special needs.
2. Students are expected to advocate for themselves.
3. Remember that college students have more privacy rights than high school students, so it may be more difficult for parents to gain access to records.

July 2, 2008

ASD And College Dorm Life: The Making Of A Video

The ATC's College Support Program joined the Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership (GRASP) and the Organization for Autism Research (OAR) to produce a short video designed to inform college student with ASD's, and those who support them, about the experience of living in a dormitory.

GRASP Executive Director Michal John Carley, artist and GRASP member Vera Balyura, documentarian Adam Larsen and OAR President Peter Gerhardt flew into Huntington, WV to film on the campus of Marshall University. Featuring Carley, Balyura and Huntington native and Marshall student Jon Lamp, the video provides valuable information to students on the autism spectrum about the experience of dorm living.

The video, set for release in early Autumn, also provides helpful information to college professionals and para-professionals who support them on campus.

Some pictures of the shoot:

Carley, Balyura and Larsen set up the first segment shot.

Larsen, Carley, Balyura and Marshall University student Jon Lamp prep for the introduction segment.

Larsen films Lamp's monologue.

Dr. Peter Gerhardt, doing what executive producers do.