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Support Services for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Landmark College serves students who learn differently. Our students present with a variety of learning differences and diagnoses, including dyslexia, ADHD, and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Our integrated services model provides a structured living and learning environment that combines a renowned pedagogical approach with tailored social and other programmatic supports. Students with ASD who are academically prepared may still face significant challenges navigating the social curriculum and adjusting to the more fluid routine of the college student. Landmark College recognizes the need to provide additional programming to assist students with ASD to meet their college goals. At the same time, the College requires that the student applicant with ASD be deemed “college-ready” by our enrollment management department, ensuring that the student has the potential to be successful in our program and is adequately prepared for the challenges of college life.

You will not find a more committed and knowledgeable faculty and staff in higher education than those at Landmark College. To wit, in a recently published article Landmark Professor MacLean Gander, Ed.D. wrote:

“Here's an interesting mystery: between 1993 and 2003, the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) increased 800 percent in the United States. Since then, the number of individuals diagnosed with ASD has continued to grow by about 50 percent per year. What's behind this epidemic? The question is far from academic. Talk to any educator at any level, and they will tell you of the great increase in students with ASD and the challenges that this has posed in terms of providing appropriate and effective programs of support.”

Read complete article [PDF]

Like other colleges and universities, during the last few years Landmark College has been admitting an increasing number of high-functioning students diagnosed with ASD who are capable of successfully completing a college degree. Landmark College, however, does not simply admit learners with ASD; we have set, as a strategic priority, development and refinement of ASD services that are integrated, progressive, and student-centered. These important services include:

  1. Early Orientation.  This program is offered to students with ASD as a 3-day session in the summer prior to fall classes, and as a separate track program in January, prior to spring semester.  Fundamental elements include:
    a. Early Acclimation to Campus – Students are given more time to become familiar with the campus and to gain practical experience about the college experience.
    b. Educational Planning Process – Students participate in a pre-arrival phone conference and on-campus meeting to discuss educational and personal goals. 
    c. Establishment of Allies and Safe Spaces – Students are introduced to key staff and faculty and the places they can go to when feeling stressed or overwhelmed during the academic session.
    d. Peer Group Development – Group structure and the activities that students engage in during the pre-orientation program help in the development of a safe and comfortable peer group as students get ready for the full orientation program and the semester.

  2. Landmark College continually refines and enhances its academic and other programs and will augment these integrated services in coming semesters.

  3. Social Pragmatics course (AD1200).  The group-advising format of this course is designed to support students in developing and improving their use and understanding of social pragmatic language. Credit students with social communication challenges may improve their overall ability to manage social interactions. Students will learn and practice techniques and strategies to include other peers in both academic and social settings. The course content may include, but is not limited to, exploration of nonverbal interpretation, prosody, topic management, conversational flow and rhythm, creating personal and procedural narratives, verbally mediated problem-solving, self-advocacy and listening.

  4. Expert faculty and staff.  Counselors in our Health & Counseling Center have expertise in ASD in college settings. Professional residential staff live in the halls, and are trained to support a broad spectrum of social, behavioral, and other residential living needs. Our faculty boasts a number of educators and researchers with strong backgrounds in teaching and learning for students on the spectrum.

  5. Analytic approach to housing assignments and roommate matching.  Social dynamics are important to many students with LD, and ASD in particular. Our expert residential life administrators closely review diagnostic information as a fundamental aspect of the housing assignment process. Resident Deans are trained to mediate roommate conflict, and provide ongoing consultation with residents throughout the school year.

  6. Social Groups Cluster.  The Social Groups model provides weekly sessions to address many of the ongoing issues students with ASD encounter in a college setting. One of these groups focuses on social development and helps student practice social interaction, get feedback and learn important social skills. Another group – focusing on anxiety issues – helps students recognize and talk about what makes it difficult for them to socialize and integrate with a community. Our counselors and peer mentors work with students with ASD in these intimate groups to encourage and practice social interaction, get feedback, and practice social skills in a supportive environment. 

Meet the Experts

Program Staff

  • Dr. Manju Banerjee, Vice President for Educational Research and Innovation, 802-387-6807
  • Andy Donahue, Director of Social Pragmatics and Services, 802-387-6370
  • Sallie Banta, Assistant Director of Social Pragmatics, 802-387-7122
  • Michael Luciani, Vice President for Academic Affairs, 802-387-6713

Faculty Experts

  • Ken Gobbo, Associate Professor of Psychology, 802-387-6704
  • Solvegi Shmulsky, Associate Professor of Psychology, 802-387-6893
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