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Students with Autism Learn Keys To Success At EFSC

August 16, 2023 - Eastern Florida State College has started a new program for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to give them the tools to successfully transition to college.

The program, called Navigators to Success, is the first of its kind in the 28-member Florida College System, making EFSC a leader in this important area.
Autism spectrum disorder students learning in a classroom setting.“The population of students with ASD is growing fast, and it’s critical that colleges prepare to help them. They have the potential for success but often hit barriers. Our program can help break those barriers down,” said Dr. Barbara Kennedy, EFSC’s Dean of Students, who led the program's creation.

Nationally, 80 percent of students with ASD have a GPA of 3.0 or higher with 3.7 the average. But research suggests that only 39 percent of college students with ASD graduate.

EFSC recently addressed that with a four-week session that is expected to be offered annually each summer.

EFSC works closely with Brevard Public Schools to sign-up high school students who want to attend college but find the collegiate atmosphere difficult.

During the summer program, the following topics are covered:

  • Social Excellence that explores student life and campus community engagement.
  • Adaptation and Regulation to gain skills for seeking support and coping in college.
  • Time Management and Goal Setting to gain strategies for successful college planning and structure.
  • Career Planning to discover and expand career interests.
  • Classroom and Campus Exploration to give the students a feel for academic life.

Based on her research, Kennedy said several lessons have been learned.
Students with ASD:Navigator to Success program student in front of Student Union

  • Thrive when given the opportunity and a safe, judgment free environment.
  • Are multi-talented and eager to share their strengths with those that appreciate them.
  • Struggle in communicating with others, but are willing to take chances.
  • Are inspired by knowing that others struggle with the same challenges and have overcome barriers to success.
  • Want to be successful and make a difference, but may need support and encouragement along the way.

“Watching these students grow in class has been inspirational. They can do very well if given the proper chance,” said Kennedy.

Kennedy offered these testimonials from parents after their children had been participating for just a few days:

  • “I have never seen my son so excited about coming to a program. He even is waking up early to get ready!”
  • “My son called me and told me he did a presentation in front of class. He was so proud of himself!”
  • “My daughter has been smiling ever since I dropped her off on Monday morning. You are doing great work!”

“EFSC has a strong reputation for helping students with all kinds of disabilities attend college, graduate and go on to successful careers. This program is another important part of that commitment,” said Kennedy.