Western Michigan University's Autism Services Center (ASC) provides transition support for college students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other disabilities. These services are beyond the reasonable accommodations provided by the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendment Act and WMU's Disability Services for Students. Support components include weekly one-on-one meetings with the ASC coordinator or graduate assistants, workshops and informational sessions, organized social events, and increased communication between students and professors, staff, and parents.
To improve the lives of young adults with disabilities by:
- Providing transition services and college preparation opportunities to high school students with disabilities who are considering continuing on for their post-secondary education.
- Supporting students with disabilities once on WMU’s campus in collaboration with the Office for Disability Services for Students (DSS)
- Helping students prepare for part-time employment during their time at WMU and for a career after attaining a degree
Information about the supports provided by the ASC at Western Michigan University can be requested by completing the Contact Us form.
We look forward to meeting you!
Kourtney Bakalyar, Ed.D., BCBA, LBA
Autism Services Center
Western Michigan University
The services provided by Western Michigan University's Autism Services Center were developed to support college students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD); however, an official diagnosis of ASD or any disability is not necessary. Services are available for WMU students without disabilities as long as there are resources available.
ASC provides support beyond the reasonable accommodations provided by the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendment Act. These services include:
- Weekly one-on-one meetings with the ASC coordinator or graduate assistant to work on individual short- and long-term academic, social, independent living skills, and employment goals.
- Workshops and informational sessions that address the needs of the ASC students.
- Communication with parents within the parameters of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
- Supported communication between students and their faculty and WMU staff (advisors, residence hall directors, and on-campus employers).
- Increased social opportunities, such as game nights, connecting students with similar interests, and coordination of WMU peers to be available at meal times or to attend registered students organization meetings or sporting events.
- Weekly virtual parent meetings for those who want to join.
ASC does not:
- Manage students' medication.
- Attend classes with students.
- Have staff that is available 24 hours/day.
- Have access to students' grades.
- Communicate with parents if FERPA rights are not waived.
ASC Application and Enrollment Process
- Students must apply and be accepted to by Western Michigan University.
- Once accepted, students must return a completed ASC application and completed parent questionnaire to ASC.
- When all items are completed and submitted to ASC, you will be contacted to schedule an interview with the coordinator of ASC. Students who have participated in the ASC Summer Transition Program at WMU may be able to waive an in-person interview.
- Services are provided on a first-come/first-serve basis, until capacity is reached. Acceptance into ASC will be based on the date of complete application submission. We will contact you within two weeks of the interview with the decision of acceptance or waitlist status; in most cases, students will know the day of the interview if they have been accepted.
- Once accepted, the $2,000 service charge will be added to the student's WMU account.
What to Expect from the Interview
The interview with the ASC coordinator is a chance for the coordinator to get to know incoming students and their parents, but also for students and parents to get to know the ASC coordinator and services. The student's strengths and needs will be the focus of the meeting. It is also a chance for the ASC coordinator to learn about the student's goals, interests, and comfort with transitioning to WMU.
Events for Current Students
The ASC has teamed up with Western Michigan University's Best Buddies! Students registered with Autism Services Center can sign-up to get involved and paired with another WMU student. Best Buddies holds chapter meetings and social events each month. Past events have included:
- Airway Lanes
- Sky Zone
- Holiday parties for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Valentine's Day
- Campus scavenger hunts
PEERS® for Young Adults
(Dr. Kourtney Bakalyar is a PEERS Young Adult Certified Provider.)
- Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills (PEERS®) for Young Adults (Ages 18-35) is an evidence-based social skills intervention for motivated young adults, who are interested in learning skills to make and keep friends and develop romantic relationships. During each group session, young adults are taught important social skills and are given the opportunity to practice these skills.
- Topics of Instruction:
- How to use appropriate conversational skills
- How to choose appropriate friends
- How to appropriately use electronic forms of communication
- How to appropriately use humor and assess humor feedback
- How to start, enter, and exit conversations between peers
- How to organize successful get-togethers with friends
- How to develop romantic relationships and use appropriate dating etiquette
- How to handle arguments and disagreements with friends and in relationships
- How to handle rejection, teasing, bullying, and rumors/gossip
Interview Preparation using Big Interview
- Each week students meet to work on their interview skills and prepare their resumes and other written products for connecting with potential employers. Each session includes instruction, develop of interview responses or written products, practice, and feedback.
Throughout the year, ASC provides additional informational sessions, such as:
- Study skills
- Test-taking skills
- Tips for better time management
- Tools for coping with stress
Contact Dr. Kourtney Bakalyar if you have ideas for workshops or informational sessions.
WMU's Mentoring for Success provides weekly study tables for students registered with Disability Services for Students (DSS). Additionally, ASC helps connect students with tutors and academic support from specific majors or colleges.
Workforce Recruitment Program
WMU participates in the Workforce Recruitment Program. The WRP is a recruitment and referral program that connects federal and private sector employers nationwide with college students and recent graduates with disabilities through summer or permanent jobs. Student registration will begin again August 2021.
First-Year and Transfer Students
As you plan for the fall semester, consider connecting with Western Michigan University's Autism Services Center (ASC) and Disability Services for Students (DSS). ASC staff is available to meet virtually to discuss programs and answer questions.
ASC will be participating with the WMU Family Orientation. Find an ASC or Disability Services for Students representative at the Lunch and Mixer with Faculty and Staff on day 1 each orientation session. Additionally, incoming students can schedule meetings with DSS staff to register for their accommodations. Please see the Eligibility Process web page for more details.
Western Michigan University's Autism Services Center saw the need for a program that helps high school students with autism spectrum disorder and other disabilities build the social, communication, and independent living skills they need to make a successful transition to higher education.
Planning for a hybrid Summer Transition Program 2021 is happening now. Information and application packets will be ready February 22, 2021. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for the application packet.
Summer Transition Program Components
- Enroll in a 3 or 4-credit WMU course of the student's choosing.
- Work in paid on-campus employment for 10 hours a week.
- Participate in instruction focused on pre-employment, social, study, academic, and transition skills.
- Live in a residence hall for 7.5 weeks.
- Meet weekly with a peer mentor.
- Engage in a variety of social opportunities, such as going to the Student Recreation Center, game nights, and movie nights.
Information for Potential ASC Summer Transition Program Students
- Participants are recruited from high school students and recent high school graduates.
- ASC Summer Transition Program is designed for individuals with autism spectrum disorder and other disabilities who are planning to attend a university after high school.
- Summer Transition Program Students must be 18 years old or older or 17 years old and attending WMU as a degree seeking student for the fall 2021 semester.
- Students may go home on the weekends, just as if they were first-year students at WMU.
- For more information about the ASC Summer Transition Program complete the Contact Us form.
Newsletters from the 2016 ASC Summer Transition Program
Six students participated in the pilot Summer Transition Program held during the summer II 2016 session. Read more about their experiences in the newsletters below.