When it comes to how young adults with autism navigate college, there’s a lot people get wrong.
That’s why WKU Public Broadcasting is welcoming guest lecturer Jane Thierfeld Brown to Western Kentucky University this week to set the record straight.
Brown, an expert on the subject with more than 30 years of academic and professional experience, will speak at 3 p.m. Wednesday in Room 166 of Jody Richards Hall. Her presentation, “The College Experience for Students with Autism,” is open to the public.
“We’re delighted that she will be able to join us,” said Mary Lloyd Moore, executive director of the Suzanne Vitale Clinical Education Complex.
For Moore, there’s no way you can paint students on the autism spectrum with the same brush. The misconceptions fall apart when it comes to the students she knows through the Kelly Autism Program’s Circle of Support. The circle offers a support community for students through social events, study sessions, counseling and other services.
Just this fall, it started a communication program for success in a career and in life.
“We’ve found that our students have really enjoyed the community that we’ve built as part of this program and the topics we present,” Moore said.
That’s why Moore is delighted by a campus visit from Brown, who’s seen as somewhat of a rock star among advocates for people on the spectrum.
Brown is an assistant clinical professor at the Yale Child Study Center within Yale Medical School. She also directs College Autism Spectrum, an independent organization that assists students with autism and their families.
Brown holds a doctorate in education from Columbia University’s Teachers College, and her career in disability services spans 39 years. She’s co-authored several books on college students with autism spectrum disorder and is the mother of a 26-year-old son on the spectrum as well.
Her visit to campus, made possible by a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, is part of a broader WKU Public Broadcasting initiative.
This year, it developed the David Brinkley Student Employment Fellowship Program to support the training and advancement of students with ASD. Students who apply are selected to work part time developing skills in television and radio production and operations, according to Molly Swietek, development manager of WKU Public Broadcasting.
Research indicates that the prevalence of autism among the nation’s children is underestimated, but in April the Centers for Disease Control raised its estimate to 1 in 59 children, up from 1 in 68 two years prior.
“As that rate increases, there’s a need to address workforce training and workforce development for individuals with autism spectrum disorder,” said Swietek.
During Brown’s visit, she’ll also train WKU Public Broadcasting employees through a workshop. It’s all part of a broader goal of preparing students with autism for the workforce, putting them within reach of living independent lives.