As well as being a biological reality, neurodiversity is a key word signaling a social movement for greater equity for neurodivergent people. Every person has strengths, and college is an important time to explore them. (Learn more by visiting our Center for Neurodiversity.)
At the same time, we recognize that some students may need additional support to make friends, adapt to a new sensory environment, and find community. Our social pragmatic services are designed help with this transition to college.
For accepted students who have the potential to be academically successful, our integrated services model provides a structured living and learning environment that combines a renowned pedagogical approach with tailored social and other programmatic supports. You will not find a more committed and knowledgeable faculty and staff in higher education than those at Landmark College.
Here is an example of faculty scholarship about autism:
“Those in the autism acceptance movement define autism as a variation in normal human diversity to be accommodated and embraced rather than a condition that must be cured. This view is rooted in the perspective of disability as a social construction rather than an inherent, immutable, and broken part of a person. This view does not deny individual differences, such as heightened sensory sensitivity that can come with autism, but highlights the role of the social environment in creating a person’s experience.”
Like other colleges and universities, Landmark College admits a diverse class of students every year. Landmark College, however, does not simply admit learners on the spectrum; we have set, as a strategic priority, development and refinement of services that are integrated, progressive, and student-centered. These important services include:
- Early Orientation. This program is offered to students on the autism spectrum 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:
- Early Acclimation to Campus — Students are given more time to become familiar with the campus and to gain practical experience about the college experience.
- Family Interview — Students and parents participate in a pre-arrival phone conference meeting to discuss educational and personal goals.
- Establishment of Allies and Safe Spaces — Students are introduced to key staff and peer mentors and to the places they can go to when feeling stressed or overwhelmed during the academic session.
- Cohort Group Development — Group structure and the activities that students engage in during the early 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.
- Analytic Approach to Housing Assignments — Social dynamics are important to many students. The social pragmatics team works closely with residential life administrators to match students with compatible roommates.
- Experienced faculty and staff. Counselors in our Health, Counseling & Wellness Center have expertise in autism 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.
- PEERS®. PEERS® is 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. During weekly sessions, students are taught important social skills and are given the opportunity to practice these skills throughout the week. A social mentor works with students to assess social situations and opportunities to make friends, but also to develop and practice ecologically valid social skills and build real friendships.
- Social Activities and Access. Accessing social activities can be intimidating and difficult to navigate. Not everyone likes to do the same things. We offer a variety of activities that promote friendship, relationship building, and most importantly a safe environment to learn about oneself and others. From bowling trips to eating out at local restaurants to “Super Smash Bros.” video games, students have opportunities to engage with others in a supportive environment.
Andy Donahue, Director of Social Pragmatic Programs and Services, AndyDonahue@Landmark.edu
Sallie Banta, Assistant Director of Social Pragmatic Programs and Services, SallieBanta@Landmark.edu
Maxwell Lyttle, Social Mentor, MaxwellLyttle@Landmark.edu