What Does It Mean To Be An Autism Friendly Online College?



“We are aware of the controversy,” says Noor Syed, founding director of SUNY’s Center for Autism Inclusivity. “For this reason, we are [also] build an autistic support college through a multi-level support system. Our goal is to make this program compassionate, while our masters program uses the ABA foundation for research… which suggests the best avenues for improvement.

To effectively assist students with autism who are having technological challenges during online or blended learning, SUNY’s IT department will receive training on topics such as common autism co-diagnoses (anxiety is one of them). ) and effective communication practices such as visual aids.

The strengths-based model, which is humanistic rather than scientific, focuses on the strengths of the individual (including personal strengths, as well as social and community networks). He works with individuals to help them overcome their unique obstacles.

“We seek to empower our students rather than changing or fixing them,” says Sanders Gardner. “We embrace their strengths and give them access to what they lack. We train our faculty, which includes our IT leadership team, to work with the individual to accept them as they are and promote their well-being.

MORE ABOUT EDTECH: Empower teachers and students to use accessibility features.

SUNY and Bellevue: strengths-based model and ABA in practice

Here is how each institution would use its particular treatment plan.

SUNY / Anderson Autism Support College:

SUNY bases its program on iterative research. The university organized eight focus groups and 20 interviews to assess the needs of students with autism. This evidence-based approach will be used throughout the initiative.

“Questions include: is our training successful? Is our mentoring useful? At the same time, it’s a bottom-up approach, ”says Syed. “I can’t imagine because I’m not neurodiverse. I go to their place [our autistic students and autistic alumni] for comments. So I say let’s do all this. Let’s evaluate it.

Bellevue Neurodiversity Navigator Program:

“We use a three-pronged approach,” says Sanders Gardner. “We support our students by praising their strengths and professional skills. Second, we help them find ways to break down their barriers, be it college housing, job skills, social connections, etc. Finally, we help them in self-representation, where they learn to express themselves and defend their interests.

In an article co-authored in March 2021 on what they had learned from their distance learning experiences, Sanders Gardner and colleagues recommended that program managers work one-on-one with students to assess their needs and provide support. school, mental health and socialization.

RELATED: Solve distance learning difficulties for students with vision and hearing loss.

Best Practices for IT Teams Supporting Students with Autism

For those departments on the IT team that support students with autism, it helps to keep the concept of the cultural iceberg in mind. When communicating with people on the spectrum, observers may only see the surface of the iceberg – only 10 percent of what that person meant.

“The best practices,” says Sanders Gardner, “are to answer their questions before asking for clarification for clarification. Also, be as thorough and clear as possible when helping the student to correct. [technology] problems. Give them all the necessary links. Focus on their requests, not the perceived tone of the request. It would also be good to put the fixes in writing, using plain language. If you are still not sure if you have understood them, seek help from disability services or autism specialists on campus before continuing.

For ABA, all faculty and staff, including accessibility and IT specialists, receive training in understanding the altered social interactions, limited communication and behavioral issues of autism, as well as creating task analyzes and systems processing maps to break down instructions and steps into smaller, more manageable components.

“If a student is having technical difficulties with online learning,” says Syed, “they can contact our IT support team by phone, email, or by submitting a ticket. The team are readily available and will work with the student to give them clear instructions on how to proceed. Our IT colleagues will also receive training on how to support our autistic students. “

Ultimately, both modalities advocate a person-centered approach.

What’s the secret to an effective distance learning environment for students with ASD? Treat the whole person with the same needs, feelings and wants as everyone else.

EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier version incorrectly stated that the Neurodiversity Navigators program started in 2019. The program started in 2010. EdTech regrets the error.


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