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Full Spectrum Learning Program Helps Students With ASD Transition into Four-Year Degree Program

by Courtney Frederick, ASK Writing Intern

Full Spectrum Learning is a program for students with autism spectrum disorders at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee.  Full Spectrum Learning (FSL) focuses on transition into college, academics, social skills, independence, and career readiness for each student. The program’s goal is to assist students with ASD to be successful both socially and academically as they work toward their four-year degree.

FSL is one of the newest university-based ASD programs in Tennessee.  A few years ago, staff and faculty at APSU saw the need to create an autism-friendly university program, so in the fall of 2014, focus groups were used to determine the needs of students with autism and make the program a reality. The first group of students entered the pilot program that year. The first group of mentors were trained in the 2015 spring semester, and the students voted to name the program Full Spectrum Learning.

By the fall of 2015, the full FSL program was in place.  The program includes one course each semester that helps prepare the student for independence, from transitioning into college, to transitioning out of college and into the working world. The students also meet with the staff on a regular basis to make sure they are on track with their courses and the FSL program.  The frequency of these meetings depends on the needs of each student, but on average, freshmen will meet with a staff member once a week and will gradually meet less often as the students become more accustomed to college life.

During the freshman and sophomore years, students are paired with an upperclassman or grad student to help the new participants get used to university level work, encourage active participation in college life, identify stressors, establish tools to reduce stress, set personal goals, and measure their success.

During the junior and senior years, students are partnered with faculty or staff members that are directly connected to each participant’s major. The mentors help with advising, career readiness, and transitioning into the workforce.

As a requirement of Full Spectrum Learning, students must also participate in at least 3 hours of supervised study hours per week.

The cost of the APSU Full Spectrum Learning program is $2,500 per semester in addition to regular tuition and fees.

For more information, please visit http://www.apsu.edu/full-spectrum-learning.

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The Austin Peay State University campus is featured in scenic photos taken during the peak of fall 2014. (Beth Liggett, APSU)

The Austin Peay State University campus is featured in scenic photos taken during the peak of fall 2014. (Beth Liggett, APSU)

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