+ Autism Spectrum: College Internship Program

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C I P is a 2-week college experience for teens with Asperger’s and learning differences.

Students are given a unique opportunity to take a sneak peek at college life, and to do so in various locations.  Visit http://www.collegeinternshipprogram.com.

In 2010, four sites around the country hosted the programs: Berkshire Center in Lee, Massachusetts, the Brevard Center in Melbourne Florida, Bloomington Center in Bloomington Indiana, and the Berkeley Center in Berkeley California.

In 2009, CIP held the two-week programs at Indiana University, Florida Tech, Cal Berkeley and Elms College in Chicopee Massachusetts.

Teens ages 16 to 19 with learning differences have a unique opportunity to learn valuable skills necessary for making a well-prepared transition from high school to college or while pursuing vocational interest.

Participants have the chance to practice new skills in a supported environment where they will build self-confidence and experience success.  They also build friendships and have lots of fun.

This experience provides a convenient window into independent living and life on a college campus.

Features of the Summer College Internship Program

  • 2-week residential pre-college program
  • Use of college or universities facilities (dorms, classrooms and cafeteria)
  • Furnished on-campus dorm living with Internet access
  • 24/7 staffing
  • Access to campus fitness and recreation areas
  • Computer lab
  • Laundry facilities and instruction
  • Meal pass (vegetarian and vegan friendly cafeteria)
  • Cost in 2010 was $3875, covering room, board, most meals, the majority of activities and staffing/support .

Activities and events have included hiking outdoors, swimming and exploring local highlights.  Access is provided to campus recreation centers, tracks and pools. 

There have been ropes courses, theme park trips and professional sports outings.  In addition, there is scheduled downtime and time to socialize.

Curriculum includes morning reframing classes focusing on daily and weekly themes, as well as developing a better understanding of a student’s own learning difference.  Students receive introductions to executive function, sensory integration and social thinking. 

There are Person-Centered Plans using PowerPoint and a variety of multimedia tools to assist in creating short- and long-term goals.

Other curriclum includes College 101: What You Need to Know to Be Successful.  There are self-advocacy, health and wellness, cooking and independent-living skills sessions.

As life-skills are taught, staff also target the importance of maintaining overall well-being.  In addition to diet, fitness and personal hygiene, stress management is also underscored.

And experienced CIP staff members balance independence with  structured support as they assist individual students.

I learned about the CIP programs from an article in the Boston Globe by Joanna Weiss.   She reported on the recent CIP experience at the Berkshire Center this summer.

…they take courses in “executive functioning” — not business techniques, but the cognitive work of decision-making and self-control.  In their classroom, posters offer tips for talking to acquaintances.  “Smile and say ‘hello’ to initiate a dialogue.  Ask them how they are, to build rapport.”

Weiss says the staff makes it clear that autism isn’t something to “cure” or “defeat.” 

The program’s founder, Michael McManmon says a diagnosis is a piece of your identity.  His philosophy is based on self-knowledge. 

“If you understand who you are and what makes you tick,” he says, “then you can alter it and you can fit into the world.”  

Jeff Wheeler, the program’s academic coordinator says that young adults often find their way to the program after experiencing failure.  His task is to convince students that they have the power to meet their goals and seek their dream careers.

Weiss reports that  the program has a small foundation to finance scholarships.  A handful of students get help through state programs or local school systems.

sources include the Web site at http://www.collegeinternshipprogram.com and Joanna Weiss’s article at http://boston.com on 9/12/2010.

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards  614-579-6021  or email   aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com.

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