The Autism Spectrum Navigators program is built on the principles of the social justice and diversity models of disability. This means that when we consider the needs of our students, we first consider the value that each brings to our community as a unique, diverse individual, and we seek to embrace this individuality by supporting each student in building on their strengths, not fixing perceived deficits. Next, we focus on finding ways to provide access to our students, around systemic barriers, misunderstandings, and more.
What does this look like? For one thing, it means we don’t have Social Skills classes! ASN students take a series of cohort classes (alongside their chosen program of study) that are designed to support them in finding their strengths in four areas: Executive Functioning, Self-Advocacy, Self-Regulation and Social Interaction. These classes have a career preparation focus, and, through discovering their strengths, our students are able to match their strengths to a “good fit” career path, all while staying the amazing unique individuals that they are!
Also, the ASN program is not part of the Disability Resource Center: rather, ASN is a student success program of the R.I.S.E. Learning Institute and Center for Career Connections. In this way, we can offer our students a broad array of services and support them in making personal choices regarding connecting with Disability services, just as they do all college services.
Of course ASN students grow, learn, and mature, just like all college students. In fact, our students have found that by embracing their strengths, and learning to love what’s unique about themselves, they can do more than they may have imagined.
So the ASN program philosophy is very simple: provide advocacy, access, and educational services for autistic students, and support them in learning to embrace their own singular selves. As we work to accomplish this goal, the entire community around us changes to also embrace this population of wonderfully unique students.