While Pierce College prioritizes helping disadvantaged students of all types through its Academic Accommodations, there are some out there who need more direct assistance in the form of dedicated counseling and workshops.
Special Services, now known as Academic Accommodations, should launch a program to work with students who are on the Autism spectrum, helping them to develop friendships and study habits, as well as assist with transferring and career goals.
Academic Accommodations, Pierce’s current answer to conditions such as autism, is sufficient enough for high functioning students. Those who need a little more help due to sensory issues can take tests in an isolated, distraction free environment. Students who need academic support are provided with accommodations such as help with note-taking, additional time with tests, the right to use electronics in class and the right to record lectures.
But students who have a harder time and are a bit lower functioning will probably struggle with things such as applying for accommodations or developing study habits and academic goals.
Counseling provides some of these services, to an extent. But Pierce should offer a more personalized coaching system to help autistic students with the initial navigation of college life.
This “Comprehensive Autism Program” (CAP), as it’s called at Golden West College, could provide that assistance to those who need it.
Developed in 2014 by students and Disabled Students Programs & Services faculty, the college’s program serves as a good role model for Pierce. It provides students with personalized care by pairing them with counselors that can work with them throughout their time at Golden West.
As well as offering services, these counselors can act as academic coaches, helping students with case management oversight and academic planning. Students are also given the opportunity to attend workshops and partake in activities.
Aside from counseling, students have launched an organization within the CAP. Members of this program have the opportunity to meet weekly with an adviser to discuss life as a college student. They can ask questions, discuss topics and ask for advice.
Following this model and using it to serve autistic students could expand college life at Pierce for those who want to take advantage of it, but need a little push to fully achieve their academic potential.
There are other ways Pierce can help autistic students.
To help people on the spectrum, you first need to be familiar with said spectrum. This applies to everyone from the professors teaching the adults with autism to the people providing them with workshop-related assistance.
And just like autistic college-goers can learn from workshops, professors and faculty can as well. With a well planned set of workshops, perhaps taught by students and staff of the CAP at Golden West, the staff and faculty at Pierce can better understand autism and learn to work with it.
Students can also benefit from a survey, courtesy of the Academic Accommodations, to help identify symptoms of learning disabilities, and get help from a psychiatrist on getting a diagnosis.
If Pierce follows in the footsteps of Golden West on treatment of autistic individuals, it could open many opportunities for people who otherwise might not be fortunate to have a chance at college.