College Steps participated in a webinar hosted by the Arc of Northern Virginia. Together with College Steps, several other organizations and agencies shared information about their services. Please enjoy the audio recording and attached information we've shared. There are exciting developments and opportunities in the world of accessible post secondary education!
Three students completed the College Steps certificate program at Johnson State College this year. It was an especially exciting ceremony, as Bernie Sanders was the commencement speaker.
Pictured is Tyler Enman. His focus at JSC was math and music and he wants to work with youth as a tutor or in after school programs. He completed his internship with the DREAM program which mentors local youth living within affordable housing communities. He was an active member of the Bad Integers math club, the JSC Chess Club, the Humans vs. Zombies club, the MAGIC: The Gathering Club, the Dungeons and Dragons club, and the Living for Giving Club... he was very active socially!
The other gentleman is Calvin Raymond. Calvin focused on the fine arts and hopes to be a chef some day. He completed his internship with Sodexo our campus food provider (see attached picture). Near the end of his internship he was offered employment in the kitchen and is now working 25 hours a week and is moving towards full time employment with them.
Maleia Wentworth focused on communication (verbal and written) and completed her internship at Stowe Mountain Adventure Center in the kitchen. She now works at Stowe Mountain Lodge and her internship has given her the opportunity to take on other positions within the resort that are more aligned with her interests (cooking and working with kids).
The last 3 pictures are of those students with mentors at our small College Steps ceremony where the students present to family and friends on why they think they've earned their certificate.
It’s time to prepare all learners for the future.
A few years ago, I was on track to receive a modified high school diploma. I was spoken to using basic English with minimal words and taught in separate facilities.
I was unable to express most of my thoughts verbally; so many professionals such as teachers and doctors were unable to see how intelligent I was.
Then at 18 years old, I had a communication breakthrough when I began to use an iPad. I was finally able to express my personal thoughts and share what I know, graduating from high school at age 21.
After years of being told I would never go to college, I just finished up my freshman year.
But what about all of the other students with autism?
Unfortunately, to many people, autism and a lack of communication skills, doesn’t evoke images of a college student.
As more and more students like me enter higher education, we need well-designed systems that are intentional in the way they support us. We need environments designed to meet our sensory needs, faculty trained in how to interact with us and social skill lessons that challenge us, but also prepare us for our future.
Within the next ten years, according to research from Drexel University, it is estimated that approximately 500,000 young Americans diagnosed with Autism will enter adulthood. Presently, increasing numbers of students with autism are entering higher education. This wave of students is slowly forcing institutions of higher education to create programs that specifically address students’ diverse needs, but some colleges are not prepared.
When a student with autism is in a public school, the school must comply with the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), which provides special education and related services to students ages 3-21, as well as the Section 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to make sure students receive proper supports.
“Unless all institutions of higher education make major adjustments, college is not going to reach a significant portion of students with autism and that would almost be a crime, because we have a whole lot to contribute — not just to colleges, but to the world.”
In college, however, IDEA is no longer applicable; only Section 504 and ADA applies. This means that colleges must only provide things such as wheelchair ramps and elevators, as well as extra time for tests, interpreters or note takers.
Yet for individuals with autism, these accommodations don’t consider other unique needs such as communicative intents or difficulties processing sensory stimuli. Students like myself need help navigating the dining halls, finding strategies that address our sensory needs and communicating with others — these are what makes college accessible.
At Ohio University, I am part of a program for students on the autism spectrum. I chose Ohio University because after visiting multiple schools to which I was accepted, I believe they were best suited to meet the needs of a student like myself.
However, my first couple days at college were lonely and agonizing. I sat in my dorm room with my cornucopia of snacks and sobbed. My roommate and suitemates appeared to be adjusting well, although, I was anything but fine. I video-called my mother multiple times per day, in tears.
I was assigned an autism transition coach; an upper class student majoring in communication and science disorders, to serve as my mentor. We walked around campus, took trips to each dining hall, created visual schedules to help organize my time alone and worked through any issues as they arose. Like many other freshman, I slowly began to grasp the pleasure of college.
In many ways, I got lucky. I found a program that could meet my needs and a university that advocates for my success. From my professors to the administration, almost everyone has been welcoming and supportive of my needs — taking the time to meet with me when I have any questions or concerns.
But college life is not perfect.
Sometimes, I am overwhelmed and I meet with my transition coach — and that’s enough. But there are days where I go back to my dorm crying in anguish, hitting my head, unsure of the next step. When I get frustrated, I cry in class. While some of my professors and the people who work closely with me, have learned to notice when I am becoming overstimulated.
I struggle with things that many people are unaware of. In the classroom, I have to work extra hard to filter out noises such as the humming of lights or the new construction taking place outside. College campuses aren’t designed to appease to individuals with heightened sensory systems.
Communicating with my peers can also be a challenge. I have been asked whether I’m a student on campus or how I am capable of living in a dorm. Sometimes, I don’t know what people believe a student like myself is worth. While social activities obviously aren’t always easy, I use my communication device to participate vigorously in academic and extracurricular opportunities. Shouldn’t everyone be given the chance to embrace higher education?
In the end, college is about relationships, new experiences and perseverance. It’s about everyone learning to live and work side by side with people from very diverse backgrounds, while also acknowledging the fact that everyone’s contributions are worthwhile.
It’s a place where people adjust and learn. It’s a place of new experiences; of learning and growing away from home – and discovering what you’re capable of. Although, unless all institutions of higher education make major adjustments, college is not going to reach a significant portion of students with autism and that would almost be a crime, because we have a whole lot to contribute — not just to colleges, but to the world.
This story was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education.
Jordyn Zimmerman is a rising sophomore at Ohio University.
Lyndon State College recently celebrated their Commencement Ceremony on Sunday, May 14, 2017. Several College Steps students also graduated, receiving certificates. The student speaker at the ceremony, Olivia, was part of the College Steps team at Lyndon, supporting College Steps students with exceptional peer mentoring skills. Congratulations to all!
On Thursday, May 11th the students and peer mentors met at Bowl America in Sterling, VA to celebrate a great year with College Steps at Norther VA Community College.
Kalin Wachsmuth is completing his second semester with College Steps at NCC and has been very active with joining The Voice (NCC Student Newspaper) and also working closely with the Student Activities office to help plan events on campus. Kalin spent a great deal of time writing this article about himself and was quite proud to have it published. Kalin also takes a journalism class at NCC.
Hi all! My name is Kalin, a first year at
NCC and soon to be a second year. I have many
dreams in life like everyone else does, including
the fact that I want to make history someday in
this country while having Autism, a brain disor—
One of my thoughts about Autism is to
to develop Kalin Digital System (KDS), which
will help people with autism and others to learn
about the potential of people who have this par—
ticular learning condition. My idea is to inspire
and advocate, so that people who are on the Autism
spectrum can reach their full intellectual
One thing I liked about NCC is many
students have learning differences like mine.
Other things I enjoy about the college is the ease
of public transportation, the events, the people I
meet and the services provided by the school.
I do believe some improvements can be
made. I think students, including me, can create
more excitement and spirit on campus.
Another thing that could be improved is
the services and how well they are structured. It’s
not that it’s bad; but, there are some things that
could be improved to help students, especially
those with learning differences, become mom
engaged in the educational process.
I have a unique perspective on NCC in
that for one year I attended Western Connecti
cut State University in Danbury. That campus i.
quite different, with dorms, a bigger budget ant
That does not mean that it’s a bettel
school, just different.Western Connecticut tendl
to produce bigger events, and has a “West Fest”
which includes carnival rides and concerts witl
popular singers. Norwalk CC, however, also ha
interesting and engaging events. They are jut
not of the scale that is offered at Western.
All in all, my first year has been challeng
ing. At first, I felt isolated. I feel people aren
outgoing enough to reach out to others, even i
my case since I have difficulties making friend
for the most part.
The biggest challenge, though, is balanc
ing social life and coursework, especially when
I may be taking 2-3 classes instead of one nex
Kalin War/erut}: is a reporterfar The Vain
The Castleton Spartan student newspaper was recently selected by the New England Society of News Editors as one of the top college newspapers in the region.
The award, third runner-up for best college newspaper in New England, will be awarded on April 20 in Dedham, Massachusetts.
Though no members of the staff will be attending the award ceremony, co-editors Jadie Dow and Carly Trombley said they are very proud of the achievement.
“The fact that we won anything makes me so proud because there were so many papers submitted from all over New England. I feel like we represented our school and state really well,” Trombley said.
Qualifications for the award included submitting two issues within certain date parameters and including several copies of the issues selected. Based on the criteria, the Spartan staff chose two issues from the 2016-17 school year, with communication professor Bob Gershon and Huden Dining Hall legend “Q,” as the front-page centerpiece stories respectively.
Advisor for the newspaper, professor David Blow, was as excited about the award as his students.
“It’s not first place, but these students essentially produced the fourth best collegiate paper in New England, and that feels pretty good,” Blow said.
Online editor Catherine Twing also feels a sense of pride over the award.
“Out of all the college newspapers in New England who entered, we were among the best and that feels great. I’m also really proud of our staff, and we wouldn’t have gotten here without Dave, so we owe him a lot,” Twing said.
Dow, a senior currently interning at the Rutland Herald with Twing, has been a part of the staff for most of her college career and sad the award is a nice surprise to end her college career.
“When we entered this competition, it seemed pretty far-fetched to me. It’s just reassurance to me that we are doing something right. We work really hard, and it’s great to see that our work is being acknowledged,” she said.
On March 30, the students of College Steps at NOVA Loudoun partnered with NOVA Loudoun SGA to spread awareness for local veterans with PTSD. The students decided to throw a charity soccer game to help raise money for this awareness. All of the proceeds went to the local chapter for the American Music Therapy Association.
Below is a post by social entrepreneur Nish Parikh, the founder, technology architect and CEO of WebTeam Corporation, a developer of innovative solutions for students with special needs.
WebTeam Corporation and Autism Speaks partnered last year on TheSpectrumCareers.com, an online jobs portal for people with autism. This post is part of Autism Speaks' focus on employment during October, National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
About 50,000 young adults on the autism spectrum will be transitioning from school age into adulthood this year. They will part with the comfort and familiarity of the classroom and enter the workforce for the first time. Like most employable adults, they will face many challenges adjusting to their new roles and responsibilities. However, a little guidance from a career coach, along with access to professional services, may help these job seekers not only survive but also succeed at work.
When I was introduced to Autism Speaks several years ago, I was developing my ColorsKit project to deliver early intervention tools to the autism community. Since then it has become clear to me that in order to capitalize on the benefits of early screening and intervention through tools like ColorsKit, it is necessary to have a solution ready for individuals on the spectrum in their post-school years.
Thanks to the support of Autism Speaks, we have that solution today in the form of The Spectrum Careers. This portal is the result of my team at Rangam and Autism Speaks putting our heads together to work on a comprehensive career solution for the differently abled.
The Spectrum Careers is working out pretty well for job-seeking individuals with autism.
Recently one person with autism was hired by a large pharmaceutical company as a packaging technician after he uploaded his video resume on the portal.
Two individuals who signed up for The Spectrum Careers were appointed by a global media conglomerate for important quality control positions as part of their diversity expansion initiative.
This is just the type of boost that The Spectrum Careers needed to get rolling. A critical next step is to offer not only entry-level positions but also highly-skilled, professional jobs. As a matter of fact, our goal is to ensure that individuals with special abilities are placed at various levels across a wide range of industries.
Ever since I started working on The Spectrum Careers project, I’ve formed the belief of delivering innovation through empathy. For instance, one of the innovative features on TheSpectrumCareers portal is the ability upload video resumes and job descriptions. Employers need to understand workers on the spectrum with an open and empathetic mind. While many job skills that are unique to autism are extensively documented in HR literature, critical traits such as honesty, personal integrity and the ability to think rationally go unrecognized when making inclusive hiring decisions.
Corporations need to factor in all possible benefits of hiring people with autism in order to fully realize the positive impact it can have on the bottom line.
The approach that The Spectrum Careers has taken to put adults with autism to work is backed by a staffing model that produces outstanding results for America’s business sectors. While The Spectrum Careers is placing individuals in both permanent and temporary positions, an estimated number of 17,000 staffing companies operating from about 35,000 U.S. locations connect 14 million temporary mainstream workers to jobs annually, which maximizes access and opportunities for employment.
If people without autism can be hired on a contractual basis to work on important deliverables, then there’s no reason not to use the same model to hire somebody who has autism and is capable of performing at the same level as their mainstream colleagues.
I urge employers to join us in getting individuals on the spectrum back to work.
Every new semester brings with it the same familiar challenges.
Whatever they may be, it seems that every passing year brings with it hard lessons learned – all in the hope that by the end of our time as students, we will be shaped in a new mold of maturity that readies us for the upcoming challenges of our budding professional lives.
Ultimately, we hope that these hard lessons will translate to happier and brighter futures as adults.
Whatever achievements we have made as students though, very few of us can boast that we were able to accomplish such strides all alone. More often than not, we have had to rely on the support of our loved ones, friends, professors, colleagues and co-workers.
And though our victories may be well earned, there are few of us who could have matched our successes if the challenges had been greater, or if these friends had been harder to come by.
However, there are many students whose challenges exceed the norm, and yet persevere nonetheless. These are the students of College Steps, whose presence have become commonplace around campus.
College Steps is a post-secondary support program geared to assist students living with certain social, communication, or learning challenges to succeed in college level classes and eventually work towards a degree. Many of these students would not have had the opportunity to attend post secondary education under their existing support networks. College Steps is able to provide the specific learning experience their students require in the form of Individualized College Plans, or ICP’s.
These ICP’s are meant to serve as highly-structured plans outlining goals for academic, social, independent living, and vocational success. College Steps works with each student it supports to design an ICP to meet their goals. ICPs are then carefully coordinated between the student, the student’s family and the program staff in order to achieve the student’s goals.
Key to the success of the plans are the mentors, who work with students on a daily basis to keep on track with their goals and meet daily objectives.
Long-distance athlete and PT major, Jennifer Fannon, summarizes her role as a mentor as acclimating her students for “the all-around college experience.” Mentors accomplish this by providing one-on-one learning with students to develop key skills, including: socialization, note-taking, studying/test preparation, and communication skills, to name a few.
“Each student develops their own goals for the program, and the mentors themselves are active in making sure the student accomplishes their goals, eventually without the mentor’s help”, stated Fannon, who described the program overall as “a good learning experience,” ultimately allowing students to overcome their shyness and grow as individuals.
Both Fannon and Carolyn O’Connor, another mentor and a grad-phase OT major, value tremendously their involvement in the program – as do the other mentors of the program. To them, it’s not so much a job as it is a chance to spend time with people they have grown attached to personally, and the benefits of the program are felt mutually in this respect.
“This job is definitely my sanity,” O’Connor explained, when asked about her attachment to the program. “It feels good to work with a group that needs and loves you.”
Ultimately, the service College Steps offers is one that everybody needs at some point in their lives: the guidance of loved ones, friends and mentors through the challenges of young adulthood. Students in the program are challenged constantly to improve upon their professional, academic and social skillsets, and are surrounded by those personally invested in their accomplishments.
Through this mission however, College Steps also achieves something else indirectly. Many of the bonds created between mentor and mentee turn personal, and serve to strengthen that feeling of small-campus unity that often characterizes the AIC family.
This unity may not always be consciously felt, but it’s no small matter that this campus offers something that very few other campuses can: that close-knit and friendly environment in which nobody is a stranger and everyone is accessible.
College Steps couldn’t survive here had it not been for this quality. It speaks to the character of AIC as a whole if anyone, no matter what their social, physical or mental limitations may be, can find success in their goals towards a fulfilling and independent life.
The presence of College Steps on campus represents an overwhelmingly positive aspect of the AIC character. It serves as the epitome of communal responsibility, and sets a kind example for how we, as students, ought to interact with one another: that we should all strive in some way to be “mentors” to one another, and help one another so we may grow and mature collectively.
For more information about College Steps, you can visit their website at www.collegesteps.org.
TILL Travel offers people with learning differences the opportunity to gain interpersonal and social skills through the transformative experience of world travel. Our unique adventures are designed to enhance personal growth and connections. Travelers will create memories and friendships to last a lifetime with the guidance of professionally trained leaders, experienced in supporting people with unique learning and behavioral styles.
Providing Exceptional Transformative Journeys for Single Travelers, customized Group Adventures, and Educational Travel to enhance classroom curriculum.
Leading the field since 1980 in integrated social learning, we are committed to providing Exceptional Travel Adventures.
- Well–planned preparatory curriculum develops skills needed for successful and rewarding adventures
- Creating 21st century “pen pals” with sister agencies around the globe, making friends before leaving home
- Building social connections and bonds between fellow travelers for meaningful and lasting relationships
- Cultural Exchanges provide educational opportunities possible only through travel
- Achieving independence and self-confidence with invisible supports · Learning and practicing new interpersonal skills which impact the traveler long after the trip is over.
- Enlightening the traveler by understanding the similarities and differences of the people and cultures of the world making for well-rounded global citizens
- Safe, detailed, adventures arranged in partnership with ACIS, a leader in quality educational travel.
For more information about TILL Travel, contact Dale Belcher at 781-302-4619 or by email.
Annual Career and Internships Fair at Southern Vermont College
(BENNINGTON, Vt.) – Southern Vermont College will host its annual Spring Career and Internships Fair on Thursday, March 30, from 12:30 to 3 p.m. in Everett Mansion’s Burgdorff Gallery. The Fair will be an ideal opportunity for those seeking employment, career information, internship possibilities, and more. This free event is open to the general public, students from other area colleges, and current students and alumni from Southern Vermont College.
Representatives from the following local and regional industries, law enforcement offices, state agencies, health sites, and nonprofit organizations will be available: Albany County Sheriff's Office; BAYADA Home Health Care; Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce; Berkshire Family and Individual Resources; Berkshire Farm Center & Services for Youth; The Equinox Resort; Northwestern Counseling & Support Services; Seall Inc. - 204 Depot; Securitas Security Services USA; Springfield Medical Care Systems, Inc.; United Counseling Service; and Vermont State Police.
Employers interested in participating or for more information, please contact Southern Vermont College Career Development and Internships Coordinator Betsy Dunham at
802-447-4631 or e-mail email@example.com.
This conference is for ALL people with developmental disabilities and their friends, families, teachers, providers and allies. We want to share our enthusiasm for encouraging youth and adults with disabilities to speak up for themselves. As always, we will have 20+ different workshops about our experiences with self-advocacy.
I'm Determined: A state directed project funded by the Virginia Department of Education, focuses on providing direct instruction, models, and opportunities to practice skills associated with self-determined behavior. This project facilitates youth with disabilities to undertake a measure of control in their lives, helping to set and steer the course rather than remaining the silent passenger. The focus is on self-advocating in a college environment. Each year there is a 3-day I'm Determined Event at a college in Virginia that includes a dorm experience, vendor tables, and sessions for students, parents, and educators.
They also sponsor MOVE: State leadership and mentors offer an annual event to young African American men with disabilities in grades 9-11. Students engage in activity-based learning to overcome barriers, become self-determined, and graduate high school to be college and career ready.
So all of the College Steps at LSC students and several of the CS mentors volunteered to help career services with their big "Dressed for Success" event. They helped set up, participated in the event and than helped break it all down. Overall it was a wonderful event and their support was very helpful.
We are hosting a soccer tournament to support awareness for veterans with PTSD. We will be donating to an organization that uses Music Therapy as a way to cope with PTSD – The American Music Therapy Association.
CS students and mentors set out to play "Apples to Apples" on Tuesday's Game Day at WCC.
Excitement and laughter built up as the game progressed and each tried to convince the "judge" and fellow players that their card was the "best pick"
My name is Kalin, a student in the College Steps program attending a second semester for it at NCC. I recently attended a meditation event that happened to work out pretty well. There were actually several people that attend this event and it was very interesting to hear about what meditation is and why people should do it more often. My thoughts about the event though? I thought that it was pretty informational for what meditation was and I feel it’s one of the many ways to deal with everyday stresses in life itself. I myself do go through a lot sometimes but I know that there is still hope to be successful in life, especially for those that have a special gift as I call it that others should really see.
A student activity open to the campus at American International College was designed to have students use paint to make a handprint on a giant poster. Once pressed, the students could put down a single word that was associated as part of their identity. This was designed to be a physical representation of the similarities and differences of the people of AIC.
Birthright Trip to Israel
A College Steps at AIC student went to Israel as part of the Birthright trip. He, along with 15 other students from across the nation, went on a 10 day trip across Israel. He went out in a group to prayer walls, synagogues, memorials, and went out into various towns and cities to partake in cultural experiences (restaurants, shops, markets).