Thursday, March 25, 2010

Lessons from Middlesex Community College

Korinne Hertz, a Disability Support Specialist at Middlesex Community College, wrote an article for the AANE website (and newsletter?) describing a program she designed for “Orienting Incoming College Students with Asperger Syndrome.”

Having noted that students with AS entering MCC seem to struggle, particularly during the huge transition of first semester, she researched their specific needs. Based on her findings, Ms. Hertz designed a freshman orientation program that would serve that population. Below (quoted directly from the article) are a few of the issues addressed during the sessions.

• Explicit teaching of the vocabulary of college, e.g., what does “three credits” vs. “four credits” mean? What are the differences between lecture, hybrid, and online courses? What does it mean to add/drop a course vs. withdrawing from a course?
• Initial explanation of some common unwritten rules of the MCC campus, e.g.: how to access adjunct faculty vs. how to access full time faculty; where do students go when they have down-time between classes; room numbers that start with a “2” are generally on the second floor, etc.
• A campus tour including looking inside a classroom in each academic building.
• Several guest speakers, e.g., someone from the student activities office discussing how to get involved.

Ms. Hertz’s goal was to see the program adopted by other colleges. I would add students with other mild forms of autism or social communications issues and students with nonverbal learning disorder to the intended audience. Although I am not familiar with how such a program could be introduced to a broader college base, I believe strongly that there is a critical need for such a targeted program at every college.

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