Digital Exclusive: Summer Class for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Digital Exclusive

DALLAS, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — People who fall on the autism spectrum often face challenges in their day-to-day lives. But the autism center at Misericordia University is teaching a class to teach students the skills they need in the real world and in the workplace.

School is out for the summer, but for the nine kids participating in Misericordia University’s summer transitional experience class, they’re still hard at work.

“Summertime for kids with special needs is a time when you can put them into programs that will help them and enhance their learning for their upcoming school year. Transition is a time when we’re looking is a time where we’re looking at kids go from their school-age years to adulthood,” Frank Mariano said.

Mariano is a consultant at the autism center. He says in order to transition successfully to adulthood, students need to master three specific skills: socialization, communication, and self-advocacy. Those three skills are usually what people on the autism spectrum need help with using, especially on the job.

“Sometimes they don’t always interpret their environment the same way other people do. And sometimes in the workplace that becomes a detriment in terms of being able to understand directions or understand just when other people are talking to them,” Mariano said.

“This program really hones in those skills to ease the stress of transition both for the individuals with autism as well as their families because this can be a very stressful time for them,” Kristin Hoffman, Director of the Autism Center, said.

While in the program, students ranging from the age of 16 to 21 are put into settings that encourage the practice of those skills. This week they had a chance to explore the university campus and also learn about career opportunities they might be interested in.

“They had a chance to work in the university library and do some research. They had a chance to meet with various staff here at the university and converse and talk with them. We also have them downstairs in the art studios right now working on an art project. So they’ve been exposed to a number of different things at the university, using the university’s resources to kind of stimulate their interests and have them look at what some of the different occupations are on campus,” Mariano said.

The students can also pick some activities to do. Tuesday’s art class was inspired by a visit to the university’s art gallery on campus.

“Because they have autism doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily intellectually limited. Some of them are extremely bright,” Mariano said.

This is the first year of the class at Misericordia University, which ends on August 2, but organizers are planning to hold it again next year. You can find out how to enroll on the university’s website.

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