According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 in 59 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder, with the diagnosis being four times more common among boys. Currently there are no known post-secondary programs for degree-seeking students in South Carolina, North Carolina or Georgia to provide services for students with autism.
Clemson is hoping to fill this gap and will be offering a program of customized support services for students who identify on the autism spectrum beginning in the 2019-20 academic year. The program will provide support across four areas: academic skills and resilience; personal and interpersonal skills; independent living and social skills; and career and professional skills.
The program has been in development for the past two years, with pilot groups of Clemson students participating in a needs assessment and services involving the development of social skills, self-advocacy skills and career readiness, along with peer mentoring, academic coaching and individual sessions with a behavior therapist.
Students who are admitted to Clemson via the typical admissions process may apply to the program; the initial cohort will serve 10 incoming freshmen who will arrive for a summer transition program in summer 2019. The students will complete an academic class for credit while learning to navigate the campus and becoming familiar with the resources in place to support their integration and success. There will be a freshman-year emphasis on easing the transition from high school to college and enhancing independent living skills. Starting with sophomore year, participants will begin working on professional skills and developing career readiness, including participating in on-campus internships.
Jane Thierfeld Brown of the Yale Child Study Center and College Autism Spectrum co-founder has been an external consultant in the program’s development. She has helped established more than 20 similar postsecondary programs across the country in the past 15 years.