Friday, March 18, 2016

Planning for Next Year

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything, and, as a first time blogger, I’m learning a lot about what I need to change to be more diligent about posting.  First of all, I need to schedule a time to write and put it on my calendar.  Second, I need to stop waiting until I have updates on the program to write.  Here’s what I mean by that.  For the last several months, I’ve been waiting patiently for the Tennessee Board of Regents to approve the student fee for Full Spectrum Learning.  In order to serve students to the best of our ability, we have to implement a fee so that the program can be self sustaining.  Grant funds are great, but they only last the term of the grant (in our case, we had two small grants for the 2015-16 year), and they can often be difficult to acquire.  I’ve been waiting on word from my administration about this decision so that I can give all of the details of what the program will look like next year, but it hasn’t come, so guess what?  I’m going to stop waiting around and write anyway.
         Since August, I have had the opportunity to work with 10 amazing individuals.  Although all have a diagnosis on the autism spectrum, they are all very different and have unique talents and challenges.  I think, as a society, we tend to think all individuals with autism need to be lumped into one category and all have the same needs.  This is an absolute untruth.  Of these 10 individuals, I have interacted with and assisted all of them in different ways.  They have unique personalities, varying organizational skills (or lack thereof), and multiple academic majors (people often ask me if they are all computer science majors).  Some of the students rarely speak in class; they simply soak everything in.  Others do not want to stop talking and can dominate the conversation at times.  Some of them become over stimulated very easily. Others can be overstimulating themselves.  They are so different, and it has been a wonderful experience. 
         As I plan for next year, I think about all of their strengths and needs, the advice that they have given me to make the program better, and what I can do to make their educational experience as stress free and successful as I can.  I’m also considering the needs of our incoming freshman.  These are things like housing and roommates, registration, and transitioning from high school to college life. We are determined that this program will always be student focused and based on the needs of FSL participants.  We always appreciate feedback, so if you have suggestions or just comments, feel free to post, or email me at  I’ll write again when I have information about the fee and services for next year.  Hopefully that will be soon!

If you or someone you know is autistic, planning to go to college, and would like to apply to our program, visit  The application is at the bottom of the home page.  

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

One Semester Complete and Many More to Go

The first semester of FSL is complete, and I can’t wait to start the second.  During the first semester, we were able to offer one-on-one mentoring, one-on-one tutoring, and my favorite part, the one-hour a week course. 

I was a little worried about the mentoring at first.  I didn’t want the participants to feel that I was trying to insult them by suggesting that they needed one, but they loved it.  Some were able to do things with their mentors such as go to the Foy Center and work out, while others attended APSU functions like dances or simply “practiced” socializing.  Many friends were made during the semester, and I couldn’t be happier about the outcome.  One of the participants actually said that, although she had a tough semester (a grandparent passed and difficult classes), it had been her best for making friends and getting more comfortable socializing. 

I realized very quickly that I’m going to need to have a “social hour” in addition to the course.  The participants have so many great discussions, but as the instructor, I have to get in the content of the course, so during this spring semester, we’ll have an hour for class, and then I’ll be available for an hour for them to stay and socialize.  It’s amazing to me how much I learn during these classes and social times.  Although the program is technically for them, it’s quite possible that I learned the most last semester. 

Also during the spring semester, we’ll be adding some supervised study hours and “coaching” that will involve the participants having one-on-one sessions with FSL staff (we’re hoping to be able to add more this semester with grant funds) to discuss issues such as course work, grades, specific needs, etc.  These sessions will be guided by goal setting and teaching participants how to choose strategies that will best work in specific situations.  

I can’t wait to see what the new semester will hold.  We’ll be having a few additional members this semester, and I’m already being contacted and meeting with people from across the country about participation in the program next fall.  It’s an exciting time for us, and I’m so happy that we’re taking these steps at APSU!