August 30, 2010

Success, Fun and Foam Darts

The WV ATC's Summer Program provides, in part, support for high school students who have completed their junior year of high school, and who have an interest in learning about the college lifestyle. Students take a typical class, live in dorms, participate in skills groups and attend study halls.

And in between all that, they try to have some fun!

Here, in his own words, is the experience of one of those students:

"My name is Charlie DeLeo and I have Asperger’s Syndrome. This past Spring I was finishing my Junior year in high school in Northern Virginia, and my parents thought Marshall University would be a good idea for me for college because of their Asperger’s program. So we went to visit the school during my Spring Break. At first, I was extremely nervous when I visited Marshall in March because I have always wanted to be close to home. And I didn’t really want to do the summer program. But my parents thought it would be good for me and that I should try it. So my dad and I drove out eight hours from Virginia in July, and I didn’t know what to expect."

"On the Sunday that I moved into my dorm, I was totally petrified because of all the things I had to do so that I could have a decent room. Two days later, after my father left, I realized “Oh my God! I’m on my own!” and when reality sunk in I was so afraid that I almost cried myself to sleep that night. But the next day, when I went to Discovery Group, I found out that some of the students in the program were actually entertaining – like J.B., who was a funny guy who makes swift comebacks and wisecracks. To me, J.B. was like a big brother figure and he helped make the summer more fun. I met a lot of other great students there, and we formed a Nerf Wars group, battling each other with foam darts and weapons on unoccupied floors of Towers East and out on the campus grounds. We also watched movies and funny YouTube videos in each others’ dorm rooms, and I met other people who liked manga and anime too."

"The social aspect was my favorite part of the five weeks – and I’m not very social at home. But living in the dorm on my own forced me to get out and do things and make friends."

"I took a college level class in Music Appreciation, and I really liked it. The professor made me listen to opera for the first time, and I found that I grew a taste for it (especially Mozart’s Don Giovanni). After completing the music class, the professor said that I was his favorite student since I knew so much about the history of the time periods of the music that we listened to. I worked hard and got an A in the class – and I’m really proud of that, especially since I’m still in high school!"

"It was an awesome experience to have some freedom too. While I was on campus, I didn’t shave at all for the whole summer program, so I now have a beard. By the end of those five weeks, thanks to success, fun and foam darts, I really thought that college was really a great place to be. It was ironic because when I first got there I was afraid that I would oversleep and not get to class on time. I was worried about what time to go to the dining hall, how to manage my bank account and my time. Turned out that I was able to do all of those things on my own and I had Keshia, my awesome mentor, to fall back on. She was really great. She met with me every day, got me organized, and helped me study for tests and assignments. She even drove me to Wal-Mart so I could buy more foam for my Nerf arsenal!"

"At first I was nervous when I arrived, since I had visited so many colleges and felt a bit anxious. I thought that college would be too overwhelming. But by the time I left, I had a great time and didn’t want to come home. I plan to apply to Marshall this fall, and I hope I’ll be back as a full-time student in the Fall of 2011!"

August 5, 2010

College Program Staff Speak At 41st Annual Autism Society Conference

Transition Specialist Kerrie Harris traveled recently to Dallas, Texas, to speak at the Autism Society's 41st National Conference on Autism Spectrum Disorders. Along with Program Coordinator Marc Ellison, Harris spoke on the topic of Developing Skill-Building Groups for College Students with ASD.

The college support program at Marshall University has facilitated group skill-building since soon after the program began in 2002. The presentation given at the national conference highlighted the pro's and con's of each evolutionary stage of our group.

The Discovery Group, the name of the group, has evolved from a support group structure to a topic-driven psychoeducational experience to a model that integrates psychoeducational, person centered and cognitive behavioral approaches. In our experience, information provided in a safe environment that provides opportunity to rehearse new skills is highly effective.