Fundamental Life Skills Training for Young Adults with Autism
As a result of the pressing need for transition services for students with high functioning autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the Special Education Program in the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions (GSEAP), and The Kennedy Center in Trumbull, Connecticut have partnered to create a first-of-its-kind transition preparedness program. The program, Transition Opportunities for Postsecondary Success (TOPS), addresses a multitude of social challenges, independent living skills, and self-advocacy for young adults with ASD.
Alyson Martin, EdD, assistant professor and co-director of the Special Education Program, shared, "The Special Education Program is thrilled to partner with The Kennedy Center to implement this innovative initiative. This program provides our students with critical knowledge about transition services and hands-on experiences working with students with ASD. We hope to learn new ways to integrate the necessary skills for successful transitions for students with ASD into our field experiences and curriculum. We hope that the program will have additional, broader benefits including raising awareness of autism among students and faculty on campus."
Martin D. Schwartz, Kennedy Center president and CEO, shared, "The Kennedy Center is delighted to partner with Fairfield University on this exciting pilot project. Many students with ASD are highly capable of succeeding at a university academically but often are challenged due to the lack of critical social and life skills. TOPS will concentrate on helping participants build self-esteem and confidence and help manage stress and anxiety in new experiences. The program will also focus on communication, decision-making, time and money management, and personal safety issues to help prepare students with ASD for life after high school. "
This initiative comes at a crucial time for college-ready students with ASD due to recent state budget cuts for such transitional services. The program will leverage curriculum used by The Kennedy Center’s autism project that was started in 2006 in response to parent requests to address gaps in service for young adults living with ASD.
For more information about the Transition Opportunities for Postsecondary Success (TOPS) program please contact Ariel Gagliardo, supervisor of therapeutic services at the Kennedy Center, or Dr. Alyson Martin.