College to Implement Program for Students with Autism

Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa is beginning to accept student applications for the Fall 2016 semester for the new Connections Academy program. A four-year program, Connections Academy integrates students with Autism into a college classroom with other students. The program assists these students in working through the multifaceted college experience of both social and academic endeavors.

Iowa’s local news channel KCRG describes the catalyzing initiative taken by Loras College. Faculty at Loras College describe how the increase in children diagnosed with Autism has inspired them to start this program.

“Years ago students who have Autism were told they weren’t college material,” Connections Academy director Lynn Gallagher said.

When the program starts next Fall, students will be assigned a peer mentor and a faculty advisor. They will earn two credits a semester while gaining skills in college life and etiquette as well as social skills.

“A lot of times students who have that diagnosis are very knowledge in specific subjects and they’re very willing to share, so something they don’t know when to stop talking and when to stop asking questions,” said Gallagher.

The institution has taken specific measures to ensure a smooth transition for students with Autism. These individuals have the option of living in a single dorm room rather than having a roommate. At the beginning of the school year, they may move into their dorms two days earlier than the rest of the student body, in order to avoid the hectic atmosphere of move-in day.

“A lot of students have sensory issues…There is a lot of change. It’s difficult. If they move in early you are going to eliminate all of that unneeded stress,” Gallagher said.

She says that the initiative to provide students with Autism the opportunity for higher education will provide students with tools and a skill set to become successful professionals.

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