In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the growing number of college students on the spectrum.
Along with her colleagues, Wendy Krueger and Mary Carlson, [psychologist Amy] Van Hecke had been developing On Your Marq for several years before funding came along.
Most college students with autism are high-functioning and do just fine academically, but can't find personalized resources to help with the social stuff. Van Hecke found herself turning prospective students away who wanted to come to Marquette but had a disability.
“You might have to look into other options,” Van Hecke would tell them. Even though Marquette has an Office of Disability Services and a social skills program for high school students, there was nothing specific for undergraduates.
Van Hecke saw a need to establish long-term, specialized resources at Marquette — something aimed at specifically helping students on the autism spectrum adjust to college life outside the classroom.
In addition to regular undergraduate courses, students will be enrolled in social skills classes through the PEERS program, which is already in place at Marquette for K-12 students. They'll also be paired with a coach and a peer mentor for one-on-one support. The goal is to get these students comfortably integrated into the Marquette community, academically as well as socially.
Peer mentoring works "kind of like a buddy program," Van Hecke said. Undergraduate volunteers will be paired with one participant to show them the ropes on and off campus — from eating lunch in the cafeteria to using the bus to get around town. Ideally, they will attend social skills classes with their mentee so that they can be on the same page with what they are learning and how they are adjusting.