Asperger Initiative at Mercyhurst (AIM)
After 20 years of providing superior services to students with learning and sensory disabilities through the Learning Differences Program, Mercyhurst University once again has assumed a leadership role in college disability services. In 2008, Mercyhurst introduced a program to meet the unique needs of the growing population of college students diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome (AS) and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
The Asperger Initiative at Mercyhurst (AIM) is designed for students who, while exhibiting superior intellectual ability, face challenges in executive functioning and social interactions. Fewer than 20 college or universities offer structured programs to help AS/ASD student to overcome these barriers and succeed in college.
It is estimated that, within the next five years, one in every 100 college applicants will be diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. With support from AIM’s professional staff, our students on the spectrum have succeeded both academically and socially. Student input has helped shape the program; our students participate with faculty and staff in an advisory board to identify what students with ASD require to succeed on this campus.
The Learning Differences Program, founded in 1986, was the first of its kind in Pennsylvania and one of only a handful of programs across the county at the time. AIM students utilize may services already developed for the Learning Differences Program.
The Asperger Initiative at Mercyhurst is a program that equally emphasizes academic and social competence. AS/ASD students need help navigating the residence hall and the cafeteria, as well as the classroom and the library. They need to learn how to communicate effectively with teachers and roommates, as well as how to research and write a term paper. Development of social skills is as important to their eventual success as mastery of academic skills.
Mercyhurst University’s Division of Student Life will host a one-day workshop in the Fall 2013, for personnel from colleges and universities interested in developing their own programs for students on the autism spectrum.