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ASD College Connect looking for new members

ASD College Connect is a recently founded group that aims to provide support and community for Lamar University students with autism in order to help them overcome the obstacles of college life. Starting Wednesday, February 7 and Thursday, February 8 the group will begin meeting in room 171 of the Speech and Hearing building twice a week: on Wednesdays from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. and on Thursdays from 2:15 p.m. to 3:15 p.m. Students will have the choice of which meeting to attend depending on their schedules. 

“We see a lot of young kids with autism. But what we noticed is that we really don’t have a lot to offer for older clients with autism and we’re starting to see a rise in college attendance for students with autism,” said Beth Byers, a speech-language pathologist at Lamar university and, along with Department Chair Monica Harn, founder of the group.

During the fall semester, the group covered a variety of topics including advocacy and seeking support, hidden rules in the classroom, navigating campus environments, and taking care of your health. Following the introduction of each topic students were afforded an opportunity to follow up with a discussion, exchanging ideas with one another and creating an open dialogue around the issues in an informal, low stress situation. 

“What we saw over the course of the semester is that the students who participated really began to open up and they formed friendships within that group. And to us, we thought that the fact that they continued to come to the group meetings … was a good signal that things were going well and that they were enjoying and benefiting from the group,” said Byers.

The group plans to revisit any topics that were discussed during the fall semester per student requests. In addition, they plan to cover new topics such as residential living, job interviewing, navigating the workplace, and managing finances. They also hope to build awareness of the group on campus by reaching out to potential new members and working together to develop new advertising strategies for the group.

This semester they will also have the opportunity to help develop a summer transition program designed to help high school seniors with autism, as well as learn how to become a mentor for younger students. Looking further into the future, the group hopes to begin hosting events to provide education and training for faculty members and RAs who don’t have experience interacting with and supporting students with autism in order to assure that the students can feel comfortable and welcomed on campus.

“We have a lot of big plans in place,” said Byers. “Our biggest goal in all of this is that we would expand not just within the Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences … but to other departments that could get involved.”

Interested students should contact Byers at beth.byers@lamar.edu or call (409) 880-7601.