Bellevue College autism program to partner with Central Washington University. Unique program helps students with autism succeed in higher education
Bellevue College announced today it will partner with Central Washington University beginning spring quarter, 2015 to bring BC’s successful Autism Spectrum Navigators (ASN) program to the Ellensburg, Wash. campus.
BC created the ASN program in 2011 to support autistic students in accessing college programs and services, including communication with instructors. Students in the program have access to a network of support, including meetings each week with trained peer mentors and participation in group classes and discussions. Other program elements include parent training and support, faculty and staff training and support and community engagement and education.
BC is working with and mentoring CWU to implement ASN program protocols in a University setting to create protocols for dormitory living and other new situations that don’t exist in the commuter-college setting. BC staff will train administrators, Navigation Assistants (peer mentors) and will participate in the CWU family kickoff event, celebrating the launch of the program.
“As a greater number of autistic students enter higher education each year, it is imperative that institutions are prepared with programs that work, and that do not place undue financial burdens on students and families,” said Sara Gardner, ASN program director and instructor. “We have over 200 autistic students on the Bellevue College campus, and we know how to serve them. It just makes sense for BC to share this knowledge with other institutions so that other students can also benefit.”
BC developed ASN with four areas of focus: Executive Functioning, Social Interaction, Self-Advocacy, and Self-Regulation. As students increase their self-knowledge in these focus areas, they also increase their ability to balance college academics and career preparation, as well as life beyond college.
“With this partnership, we will be able to share knowledge to continually improve upon the model and grow with our students,” said Gardner. “We have the opportunity to truly create best practices across the country for autistic college students.”
Gardner says interest in the BC ASN program is growing, and is currently in conversation with half a dozen other schools interested in learning about how the program could be implemented at their respective institutions, with requests coming in regularly from across the country.
Last Updated May 26, 2015