A College Partnership
With employment and community participation being the ultimate goal for all our students, including those with autism, the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Bureau of Special Education (PDE/BSE) wanted to extend support to individuals with autism at the college level, by partnering with Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) Autism Support Initiative for Success program. The goal of this partnership was to create seamless transition planning and programming to support success as students enter college, and stay in college through degree completion and employment. There are currently five PASSHE schools (Edinboro University, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Kutztown University, Slippery Rock University, and West Chester University) that have developed autism support programs to provide services to support the needs of neuro-diverse students. These services address areas of self-advocacy, problem solving, self-regulation, executive functioning skills, and employment skills. The programs vary across sites, but in general, provide a combination of individual and group supports that extend across academic, social, and employment environments.
Because many students, including students with autism, choose to attend a two-year college after high school, we also partnered with two community colleges (Bucks County Community College, and Lehigh Carbon Community College) to develop autism support programs to serve their students.
Essential to our work was reaching out to experts in the field of supporting individuals on the autism spectrum at the college level. Jane Thierfeld Brown has been the project’s consultant for the entirety of our work, both consulting with high school teams to bring the college perspective to teachers, students, and families; and working directly with the PASSHE and community college sites to develop and implement their autism support programs. Dr. Brown is an Assistant Clinical Professor at Yale Child Study, Yale Medical School, Director of College Autism Spectrum, and former Director of Student Services at the University of Connecticut School of Law. She has worked in Disability Services for 37 years. She holds an Ed.D from Columbia University, Teachers College. Dr. Brown consults with many families, students, school districts and institutions of higher education. She has co-authored, “Student with Asperger’s: A Guide for College Professionals,” (2009) “The Parent’s Guide to College for Students on the Autism Spectrum,” (2012) and “Behavior Management and Self-Regulation,” (2012) along with many textbook chapters and articles. Dr. Brown not only brings her professional experience to the project, but as the mother of three adult children, one of whom is on the autism spectrum, she also brings a family perspective to our work.
In the next sections, you will find links to the autism support programs at the PASSHE sites, resources we have found helpful during our projects’ work, as well as some resources we have created.