A Brief History of the Origin of the Program and Why the Program Was Established
A Comprehensive Program at Ancilla College for High Functioning Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
In early discussions regarding the establishment of a program to assist those with ASD, this “white paper” was developed to provide information to the Ancilla College community and beyond. We briefly review the following: characteristics of ASD; diagnosis of ASD, educational programs, the origins of the “Asperger” designation; a summary of existing college programs at four year institutions and a brief summary of data on ASD. This white paper describes the rationale for establishing APAC.
Those with ASD exhibit the following:
Children with autism may also have accompanying learning problems and receive special education services, when autism is diagnosed. In some cases, autism may present as accompanying learning and social functioning difficulties.
The proposed program will focus on those at the high functioning end of ASD, formerly known as Asperger Syndrome. Affected individuals have difficulty in interacting, and exhibit restricted interests as well as repetitive behaviors. On the other hand, those with ASD may not necessarily have delays in language or intellectual development. In some cases, affected individuals may exhibit advanced capabilities in a specialized field of interest (Autism Speaks). One of the challenges of developing such programs is to avoid stereotyping students with autism. It should be noted that even the most recent language usage, e.g. high end of the spectrum is based on an assumption that students not so diagnosed cannot benefit from appropriate assistance. Evidence proves otherwise. While there are no guarantees, support programs such as APAC can result in substantial improvements in social interaction and enhance special talents of those on ASD.
Diagnosis of ASD has the following contextual elements:
Not all those with ASD show evidence of all of these symptoms. There is a wide variance in how these symptoms are displayed across individuals, a variance which explains the difficulty in diagnosis.
Finally, those with ASD often display unusual gifts such as an ability to engage with intense focus on a task. Ample evidence exists that those with ASD can learn communication and social interaction strategies using those gifts and lead productive and even high functioning lives. For many with ASD, it does not have to be a lifetime debilitating condition.
As with most such conditions, there is no one best “treatment”. The overall goal is to create a supportive environment and assist those with ASD to enhance their ability to function effectively in social interactions, thereby maximizing their potential to learn and lead productive lives.
Critical features of educational programming include
Additional medical treatment for, e.g. anxiety disorder and depression may also be an option
An Austrian pediatrician (Asperger) in 1944 worked with four children who showed evidence of the following:
In 1981, an English physician, Lorna Wing published a series of case studies with like symptoms. Wing’s writings became well known in the 1990’s. Recent historical research indicates that the condition now known as ASD may have been recognized much earlier.
Diagnosis of or ASD is an imprecise art. Certain features of the disorder may differ for those who exhibit high levels of functioning and Asperger’s-but the treatments and educational processes may be the same.
For our purposes, we will generally refer to ASD rather than the more common label of Asperger Syndrome, simply because of the futility of assigning a simplistic label on a complex of disorders. ASD also presents with a complex composite of physical, emotional, intellectual and neurological factors that differs with each individual.
A number of program exist in higher education are described below:
AIM is one of several national models for four year programs.
“Autism Spectrum Disorders is a group of developmental disabilities characterized by impairments in social interaction and communication and by restricted, repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior . . .The complex nature of these disorders, coupled with a lack of biologic markers for diagnosis and changes in clinical definitions over time, creates challenges in the (precise) monitoring of the prevalence of ASDs.. . .Information (was) obtained from children’s evaluation records at any time from birth through the end of the year when a child reaches 8 years. . .” (CDC, 2012)
The CDC report indicates the following:
Creation of a comprehensive program will involve at least the following:
James D. Riley, Ph.D., Institutional Collaboration and Strategic Outreach, President’s Office, Ancilla College
Beth Sweitzer-Riley, Ph.D, Special Projects Coordinator, President’s Office, Ancilla College
Spring 2016, presented to faculty/staff at a campus-wide meeting
Revised, Summer 2017