First-of-its-kind transition preparedness program launching in partnership with The Kennedy Center.
We hope to learn new ways to engage graduate students' field experiences working on necessary skills for successful transitions for students with ASD.
— Alyson Martin, PhD.
The Special Education Department at the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions (GSEAP), in collaboration with The Kennedy Center, will launch a first-of-its-kind program on campus next month, for local students ages 18 to 21 with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). As a result of the apparent need for transition services for students with high functioning ASD, Fairfield University and The Kennedy Center have partnered to create a transition preparedness program, Transition Opportunities for Postsecondary Success (TOPS), to address a multitude of social challenges, independent living skills, and self-advocacy for young adults with ASD.
Alyson Martin, PhD, co-director and assistant professor of Special Education, shared, "The Special Education Program is thrilled to partner with The Kennedy Center to implement this innovative initiative. Through feedback from graduate students enrolled in the Special Education program, we found that pre-service special educators are not provided appropriate training in critical topics in the field, such as knowledge about transition services and hands-on experiences working with students with ASD. We hope to learn new ways to engage graduate students' field experiences working on necessary skills for successful transitions for students with ASD, and to integrate these learnings into curricula. It is hoped 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 program 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 which 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 program please contact Ariel Gagliardo, supervisor of therapeutic services at the Kennedy Center, or Dr. Alyson Martin.