Skip to Content
info icon
COVID-19 Update: Read latest guidance for Spring and Summer 2021 campus residential programs.

Social Pragmatic Support Services

Our social pragmatic services are designed help our neurodivergent students transition to college. These students are frequently, but not always, on the autism spectrum. Every person has strengths, and college is an important time to explore them. At the same time, we recognize that some students may need additional support to make friends, adapt to a new sensory environment, or find community.

Landmark College has made it a priority to develop and refine social pragmatics services and programs for students that are integrated, progressive and student centered. These important services include:

  • PEERS®—an evidence-based, social skills intervention program for motivated students who are interested in learning skills to make and keep friends, as well as develop relationships. (See tab below for more information about individual PEERS programs.)
  • Enhanced Orientation—a 3-day session that gives students more time to become familiar with the campus and gain practical experience with college life. (See Early Orientation tab below for more details)
  • Parent Sessions—Running parallel to PEERS programs, these sessions offer the opportunity for families to learn how they can best support their students to achieve their goals. (See Programs for Parents tab below)
  • Activity Planning—The social pragmatics staff organizes a variety of activities that promote friendship and relationship-building in a safe environment to learn about oneself and engage with others. (See Other Support Opportunities tab below.)

Our faculty includes educators and researchers with strong backgrounds working with students with autism, and our residential staff is trained to support a broad spectrum of social, behavioral, and other residential living needs. We also have counselors in the Health, Counseling & Wellness Center who have expertise in autism in college settings.

Contact the Social Pragmatics Program staff:

Andy Donahue, Director of Social Pragmatic Programs and Services
Sallie Banta, Assistant Director of Social Pragmatic Programs and Services
Ashlee Charette, Social Coach
Jonah Goldenbird, Social Coach

2021 Summer High School Program, Social Pragmatic Track: PEERS

Strategies for College Success—Required for all students in the Social Pragmatics Track: This course will help prepare students for the demands of living on a college campus and attending college classes. There will be a strong focus on social communication instruction that supports students’ development of in-class discussion, personal communication, and peer-to-peer conversations.

Students will learn a variety of study skills and organizational methods that further support college academic success. Further, students will consider their own learning styles and learning challenges and determine their strengths and areas for improvement.

Once these strengths and areas for improvement are identified, students will use this information to consider long-term goals. Students will produce a portfolio by the end of the course that includes useful resources, tools, and strategies that will support college success.

This course includes two days per week of PEERS instruction. PEERS is evidence-based social skills instruction where students will learn through didactic lessons and role play demonstrations.

Students will also receive 1:1 social coaching to support them in how to apply the skills from their weekly lessons. Parents are encouraged to participate in a weekly evening session to review the lessons and learn tips on how to support their student.

One of the many things that makes Landmark College a better choice for students who learn differently is that we constantly strive to provide the right kind of support for the wide profile of learners that come to the College. In this spirit, we have developed an enhanced orientation designed for students with a documented diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (including diagnoses formerly known as Asperger’s Syndrome, High Functioning Autism, or PDD-NOS).

Enhanced Orientation

The schedule for enhanced orientation consists of the following:

  • Pre-arrival Interview—You and your family will have the opportunity to participate in a comprehensive interview about the important things Landmark College should know when working with you. This interview will serve as the basis for how we work with you when you arrive.
  • Specialized Roommate Selection—You will receive additional review to determine appropriate and effective housing and roommate assignments. Because we spend additional time making roommate assignments, program housing assignments for this group will not be announced until August 1, 2021.
  • Priority review
  • Educational Planning Process—You will participate in an online meeting, “Pathways,” to discuss your educational and personal goals. This person-centered planning process will also help us know you better so we can better support you.
  • Peer Group Development—You will be invited to biweekly online social groups starting August 2, 2021. This will help in the development of a safe and comfortable peer group as you get ready for the full orientation program and the semester.
  • Priority Application to PEERS®—Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills (PEERS®) is weekly evidence-based social skills intervention for motivated students, who are interested in learning skills to make and keep friends and develop romantic relationships. During each group session, students are taught important social skills and are given the opportunity to practice these skills.

Parents of students participating in PEERS meeting, weekly, 60 minutes 16 weeks (online only)

This group is open for all parents, bur recommended for parents of students participating in a PEERS group.

  • TEAMS meeting, Tuesdays, 6 – 7 p.m.
  • During the first 30 minutes we will review what we cover in PEERS sessions. You will see the skills we are teaching as well as how we teach.
  • Parents will receive a handout with a summary of what we are covering, and language used.
  • Review of the structure and content of social coaching sessions.
  • Q&A period. Questions about the program, material, and strategies. Questions about specific student issues should be emailed directly to Andy Donahue or Sallie Banta.

Here’s a small sampling of other types of programming the social pragmatics staff helps organize and offers each semester. Contact Andy Donahue or Sallie Banta for more details.

  • Social table in Dining Hall
  • Therapy Dog program
  • Thursday evening off campus trips
  • Online game nights
  • Weekend field trips
  • Individual meetings with social coaches or social pragmatic staff

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What sets the PEERS program apart is its foundation in evidence-based practices. The concrete skills help you make and keep friends with people you actually want to be friends with, and/or date people you actually want to date. Learn more about it by clicking here.

  • Not necessarily. PEERS is not intended to be a friendship-matching group. Rather, it’s a program in which you will learn skills to help you make friends. However, some of the people in your group may actually become your friends as a result of the shared experience.

  • In order for the program to be effective, it’s important to work with people you are comfortable being around and who are comfortable being around you. We take that into account when we work to place students with accepting peers.

  • Many of our students feel like they already possess these skills. For you, the value of these discussion-based sessions will be in practicing these skills within different situations and with different people. Through that sharing of knowledge, you can teach other students something new and possible learn something that will help you feel even more confident.

  • No one is required to take part in a PEERS. It’s important that you are making the choice to participate in order for the program to work for you. If making friends or dating is important to you, however, and you have found those things challenging in the past, PEERS can probably help. Most students who try PEERS choose to stick with it.

  • Yes! Students can try PEERS for a few weeks before making a decision to stay in the program. Once you do decide to do PEERS, we do ask that you attend regularly.

  • PEERS groups meet weekly over a period of 12 weeks. Each session last 90 minutes.

  • About 35 to 45 students participate in PEERS every semester. That’s roughly 10 percent of the student body.

  • There is no extra cost for participating in the PEERS program.

  • Our dating boot camp works with students on the following:

    • Letting someone know you like them
    • Asking someone on a date
    • Dating dos and don’ts
    • Going on dates
    • How to resolve conflicts
  • Making friend during this pandemic has been extra challenging, but most of the PEERS skills can still be applied in physically distant settings and online platforms. Our social coaches are finding creative ways to support students in their desire to connect and socialize with others.

  • "Without PEERS, I don’t think Gavin’s transition would have been nearly so smooth or successful—so not fraught—nor would he have gotten a glimpse of how thrilling and enriching the college experience can be in non-pandemic times. I’m not sure how excited he would have been to continue if not for PEERS providing him that window into the great exploratory and experiential and relational adventure that is college life.” – father of Gavin W., Pennington, NJ

  • “PEERS has been a real life changer for me. Growing up, I was always struggling in trying make friends as well as when it came to socializing outside my family. But after joining PEERS I did not just only gain social skills, I finally started to gain friends that I could rely on!” – Carolina M., Plantation, FL

    "I think that PEERS has given me a lot of the language and conceptual ideas to label interactions that I have been actively experiencing, and allow me to re-frame them in new ways that allow me to better navigate and understand the circumstances that I run into." – Gabrian R., West Point, VA

Back to top