How This University’s Program for Students With Autism Stands Out From the Rest

Austin Peay State University (APSU) is launching a pilot program aimed at improving the college experience for students on the autism spectrum.

This fall, APSU students who have autism will be invited to enroll in Full Spectrum Learning, the university’s pilot program to support students with autism in all aspects of college life. The program will include one-on-one tutoring, peer mentoring and support from students and faculty on Full Spectrum Learning staff, according to the APSU website.

Full Spectrum Learning is modeled after a similar successful program offered at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga. The program, known as MoSAIC, is based on research about autism and input from experts. Like Full Spectrum Learning, it centers on academic and life coaching, peer and faculty mentoring and mandatory supervised study sessions, according to the program’s website.

One key element that sets Full Spectrum Learning apart from programs like MoSAIC is that it’s actually being designed by students with autism. Full Spectrum Learning will be heavily structured around feedback from students with autism rather than solely on research and autism experts.

“Earlier this year, we put out a call for people to join us in a focus group because we wanted to see what Austin Peay could do to better support students with autism,” Dr. Gina Grogan, an Associate Professor at the university who works in special education, said, according to the APSU website. “We received input from so many different people, including professors, students with and without autism, APSU staff and even community members as we tried to see what the university needed.”

Programs like Full Spectrum Learning are an important step toward ensuring everyone has the opportunity to receive an education, regardless of ability. Colleges like APSU could be a viable choice for young adults with autism and their families who may not have considered college to be an option.

“Many [students with autism] look like everyone else, but they just need some extra help,” Grogan said, according to the APSU website. “And that’s why special education exists — so that everyone can get the help they need to have a fair opportunity to succeed.”

Learn more about APSU’s Full Spectrum Learning program here.

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