New program for students with autism

Access Plus, a new NSU-supported college program created by the Mailman Segal Center for students with autism, will begin in the fall 2013 semester.

According to Stephanie Belle, marketing manager for the Division of Applied Interdisciplinary Studies, this program is for academically capable students with autism, and Access Plus will provide them with services to support their academic achievement and to facilitate participation in campus life.

Sue Kabot, director of clinical programs for the Mailman Segal Center, has been working on the program for about three years, in conjunction with the Office of Residential Life and Housing and the Office of Student Disability Services (OSDS). However, unlike present OSDS programs, Access Plus will provide autistic students with more than just academic support.

“Our students will be in the same classes as other NSU students, and, most importantly, will be encouraged to join clubs, participate in campus events and enjoy the full undergraduate college life,” said Kabot.

Each student will be paired with an undergraduate or graduate student mentor, who will assist him or her in getting to classes, joining clubs and organizations, planning weekend activities and keeping his or her dorm room organized.

Weekly workshops will provide students with advice on time management and career training, and daily two-hour study halls will be facilitated by peer mentors and program administrators. The Mailman Segal center is still seeking a space to use as a study hall, as well as a supervisor for the entire program.

Kabot hopes that at least eight students will join Access Plus in the fall semester; the program’s launch date may be pushed back if not enough students apply.

“But I would still like to start the program even if less students enroll,” said Kabot.

Because Access Plus is a personalized program, the application process requires an in-person, on-campus interview. Students and families will also have the opportunity to tour NSU and learn about the university’s academic programs. Prior to the interview, students must apply to NSU using the standard online application process.

“Students in Access Plus will be like any other NSU student,” said Kabot. “They have to go through the regular admissions process and meet the same academic qualifications.”

An admissions team for Access Plus will review each student application, and once a student has been accepted into the program, housing and financial aid arrangements can be made.

For individuals who require special living assistance, OSDS will use their most current psycho-educational evaluations and medical reports to determine what accommodations the student is eligible to receive. Weekly psycho-educational groups will be offered to students to focus on information exchange, skill building and reflection upon individual academic and social progress.

The fee for Access Plus is $8,000 per semester, which is in addition to NSU’s undergraduate tuition. There are several financial assistance options available for students with autism spectrum disorders, including Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Vocational Rehabilitation, Medicaid Waiver, financial aid loans and private scholarships. Pell Grants and Perkins and Stafford Loans may also be used to pay these fees.

For more information, contact the Access Plus office at 954-262-7168 or visit nova.edu/accessplus.

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