Onondaga Community College has partnered with 41 colleges across the country to help lead the new, ground-breaking Community College Consortium for Autism and Intellectual Disabilities. The Consortium, which recently addressed the U.S. Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Health, Education, Labor and Welfare, is focused on developing programs, securing funding and supporting initiatives to help individuals with autism lead productive lives, including being part of the workforce.
“Service to students – all students – is at the core of our mission at Onondaga Community College. Providing greater access and a cohesive support system is vital to the success of each student, especially for those living with intellectual disabilities such as autism,” said Onondaga Community College President Debbie L. Sydow, Ph.D. “Onondaga’s Disabilities Services Offices (DSO) provides a network of support services that address the unique needs of this growing population while simultaneously respecting the dignity of each individual student.”
Currently, the DSO at Onondaga works with nearly 600 students per semester and of that group, approximately 10 percent have autism or have been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a developmental disorder that affects a person’s ability to socialize and communicate effectively with others.
The consortium is requesting up to $35 million in funding as part of the Higher Education Opportunity Act to assist with the operation of programs supporting autistic and intellectually challenged students at community colleges across the country. It is estimated that $24 million of the $35 million will fully fund programs at ten community colleges, enabling each college to provide life skills and vocational training for approximately 75 intellectually disabled students.
In the United States, 50 children are diagnosed with autism every day, making it one of the fastest growing disabilities in the country. In New York state the number of cases skyrocketed by more than 700 percent between 1992 and 2006, and the impact of this growth is just now being felt at Onondaga Community College as more students with autism seek access to higher education. While Central New York has a number of advocacy organizations for persons on the autism spectrum, opportunities at the post-secondary educational level have been more limited.
Onondaga employees Stephanie Reynolds, VP of Student Services, and BJ Bellen, Coordinator of Disability Services, recently co-authored an article on autism that was published in the Community College Times. You read the full article at: http://www.communitycollegetimes.com/article.cfm?ArticleId=1663
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