Clarksville, Ark. --- The University of the Ozarks' Jones Learning Center will begin a new program for high functioning students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in the Fall 2012 Semester, according to JLC Director Julia Frost.
The new program will be called the Living and Learning Community (LLC) and will include social and life skills training and support. The students will receive academic support through the JLC.
"The Living and Learning Community will provide a social thinking approach to support students with autism spectrum disorder on the U of O campus," Frost said. "The goal is for these students to have a successful transition to college."
University officials said they would like to have between 3-5 students enrolled in the LLC program for the first year. The university typically has between 60-80 students enrolled in its learning center, which opened in 1971 as a trend-setter in higher education.
"Ozarks has the reputation for being on the cutting edge of higher education," said University President Dr. Rick Niece. "We are a leader in historic firsts, including the Jones Learning Center, which was the first program in the country designed specifically for college students with learning disabilities. Our new program for students with autistic spectrum disorder is another example of our leadership and commitment to students with special needs. The growing number of young people diagnosed with ASD is alarming, and I am proud that we are stepping forward to help them."
University officials also announced that Betty R. Stockton has been hired as coordinator of autism spectrum disorder services to oversee the new program. Stockton, who will begin Aug. 1, has served as the regional consultant for behavior interventions for the Arkansas Department of Education at the Crowley’s Ridge Education Co-Operative in Harrisburg, Ark., since 1986. She earned her B.A. at the University of Houston and her M.S. at the University of Central Arkansas, and is a nationally certified school psychologist. Stockton holds certifications in several areas, including severely emotionally disturbed K-12, mildly handicapped K-12, secondary speech therapy and as a school psychology specialist.
"Betty has been at the forefront of working with students on the autism spectrum and with the counselors and teachers who work with these students," said U of O Provost Dr. Daniel Taddie. "We feel certain that the combination of Ms. Stockton’s expertise and U of O’s long history of providing brighter futures for young adults with learning disabilities will result in a successful expansion of our services."
One of the main aspects of the new program is a residential life component for the first year.
Students in the program will live in a designated residence hall during their freshman year and then move to more integrated housing during their sophomore year.
"All LLC and JLC staff and resident assistants will receive training in the social thinking model and information necessary to assist them in working individually with the learning styles of each student in the program," Frost said.
Students in the Living and Learning Community program will have a network of support as they transition to college life, including trained resident assistants and other students chosen to live in the residence hall.
"The resident assistants and the LLC coordinator will work daily with these students in both discussion and application of appropriate social and independent living skills," Frost said. "Participation in campus activities will provide opportunities to practice and observe social skills. Others living in the residence hall with these students have been chosen because of their willingness to participate in programming and serve as role models for the students in the LLC."
Students in the program will meet daily with the LLC coordinator in their first year and weekly in future years for continued social and life skills work. Students will also receive the comprehensive academic support of the JLC, which has a 4:1 student-to-staff ratio.
"Students who receive JLC services have daily personal sessions with a program coordinator to provide coaching, time management and organization assistance, and a full range of academic support," Frost said. "Access is also provided to full-time professional support staff along with unlimited, individual peer tutoring. "
The JLC also provides note-taking services, testing accommodations, and audiotexts as needed for each student. Assistive technology software such as Kurzweil and Dragon Naturally Speaking are also available. Two developmental courses, one in reading, writing, and study strategies, and the other a beginning algebra course, are offered to JLC students and taught by JLC staff.
The JLC began by serving dyslexic students. It later added students with learning disabilities and then students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
"Now we will be serving students with ASD," Taddie said. "This is a natural evolution in our services and builds upon a strong tradition."