Friday, March 9, 2012
Texas: Autism Support at Midwestern State
Midwestern State University in Texas has a small, but very affordable program with a long waiting list for students with Aspergers. Currently it is the only state college in Texas with residential program for AS students.
Midwestern State University is located in Wichita Falls, a small town of about 100,000 about 15 miles away from Oklahoma. Wichita Falls is near Sheppard Air Force Base.
About Midwestern State University
Midwestern State is the state’s only public liberal arts college. It started in 1922 when a high school building was turned into a community college, and then eventually expanded to become a 4-year college with a graduate school. It currently has about 6,500 students on a campus with about 50 red brick buildings spread over on 255 acres. Classes are small with a student/faculty ratio of 18 to 1. The six residence halls house 1,350 students, so most students live off campus. Alumni includes the singer Nicki Minaj and Dr. Phil McGraw.
Autism Support Program
The program is very small and exclusive, only taking a handful of AS students each year, and it has a long waiting list.
The purpose of the program is to give students with AS a nurturing and protected college experience while developing independent living and social skills.
I couldn’t find a separate website for the program or even page about the program on the university website, but I did run across references to the program elsewhere: in university press releases, newspaper articles, bulletin boards, and on the Autism Speaks website.
The program was started through a series of conversations in 2008 between a professor of special education, Dr. Millie Gore, and her graduate students, some of whom had had the experience of teaching children with AS. They all agreed that something should be done to support AS students who were bright and intelligent, but had nowhere to go after high school. They came up with a proposal for an autism support program on campus and to their surprise the university quickly agreed.
Someone donated a house that was technically off campus, but actually across the street from the student health center, and a residential program quickly came together in 2009.
The house is home to the four students (both male and female) in the program, plus four to six graduate students, who get credit for being a peer mentor. The graduate students have a schedule so that one of them is in the house at all times.
The peer mentors work with the students on setting individual goals, such as not skipping writing assignments, not forcing others to agree with their opinion, or learning how to use the vacuum cleaner.
It wasn’t clear to me how pro-active the peer mentors are in the program. I could see that students in the program were being encouraged to advocate for themselves, but would a peer mentor help make an appointment with an instructor or go along with a student on an appointment?
The program includes awareness training for faculty and staff, including training for cafeteria staff about special diets that some students in the program may require.
There are no extra fees for the Asperger Support Program. Students in the program pay the same room and board fees that the students living in the campus dorms pay, just under $3,000 per semester. Most of the cost of the program is supported by government grants.
The university is very affordable. Tuition per semester is $3,470 and when other expenses are added in (room and board, books, course fees, vehicle registration), the cost per semester is $7,310.
For more information
For details on the autism support program, contact Dr. Millie Gore at firstname.lastname@example.org. Dr. Gore supervises the program.
For information about Midwestern State University, go to http://www.mwsu.edu.