Mercyhurst ASD students to benefit from Verizon Foundation grant

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The Mercyhurst College Learning Differences Program has received an infusion of $10,000 from the Verizon Foundation to support students diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).

Mercyhurst President Dr. Tom Gamble and Dianne Rogers, learning differences director, accepted the check Wednesday, Jan. 18, from William Carnahan, vice president of external affairs for Verizon-Midwest, who traveled from his Pittsburgh office to Erie for the grant presentation.

“Verizon is proud to partner with Mercyhurst College in our commitment to give back to the communities that we serve,” Carnahan said. “We are pleased to invest in the work of the learning differences program as it benefits students diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Mercyhurst is a great organization and we look forward to advancing technology and education awareness and its impact in your community.”

In acknowledging Verizon’s generosity, Gamble said, “Over the years, the Verizon Foundation has been instrumental in providing assistive technology for our learning differences program. In 2005 a similar grant provided funding for the purchase of a Kurzweil reader for students. This gift will allow us to provide even more students with advanced tools that will help them successfully achieve a baccalaureate degree. On behalf of our students, we are most grateful.”

Since 1984, the learning differences program has educated nearly 1,000 students with learning disabilities and helped them succeed in college courses, earn a degree and go on to make a difference in the world. Students with learning, sensory and physical disabilities experience intellectual and personal development as they work toward graduation. The newest addition to the program (and the only one of its kind in Pennsylvania) is called AIM – the Asperger Initiative at Mercyhurst. AIM provides support services and accommodations for students diagnosed with ASD.

AIM focuses on building a foundation of self-advocacy, social skills and sound academic progress. Students interact with faculty and a qualified staff of professionals on campus and receive a full complement of educational and social services.

In addition, Rogers said, “ASD students need individualized assistive technology with specialized software applications that will not only enhance their academic performance but also provide the verbal, social and interactive cues that many struggle with on their own, and that is where the Verizon grant will be of enormous value going forward.” 

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