Special Education Department Recognized for Commitment to Young Adults with Autism
This spring, the Kennedy Center honored Fairfield University with the Corporate Very Important Partner (VIP) Award in recognition of the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions’ first-of-its-kind transition preparedness program for young adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The award recognized Fairfield’s ongoing support and commitment to The Kennedy Center and to the individuals with disabilities it serves.
Fairfield piloted the Transition Opportunities for Postsecondary Success (TOPS) program last fall for local youth ages 18 to 21 with ASD. The program was designed to address social challenges, teach independent living skills and self-advocacy, and help participants build self-esteem and confidence while managing stress and anxiety in new experiences. Many students with ASD are capable of succeeding at a university academically, but often are challenged due to the lack of critical social and life skills. This program came at a crucial time for college-ready students with ASD due to recent state budget cuts for such transitional services.
“We are thrilled to continue the Fairfield University and Kennedy Center partnership through our work with the TOPS program,” said Emily Shamash, EdD, visiting assistant professor and co-director of Fairfield’s Special Education program. “We were honored to accept the VIP award on behalf of the University and look forward to expanding our programs and research initiatives together in this collaborative relationship.”
The Special Education Department will continue to offer the TOPS program next year with an emphasis on social skills, transition to work, and post-secondary education experiences. This will be supported by a grant from Fairfield University’s Center for Faith and Public Life Partnerships for Social Change. The grant supports innovative, collaborative approaches to creating sustainable campus-community partnerships that are team-based, outcomes-oriented, and involve community partners from the start.