COD’s Autismerica to Meet Sept. 12

Autismerica

By Brian Kleemann

Autismerica, a club that helps students with autism meet in a positive and supportive environment, will hold its next meeting at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 12, on the Glen Ellyn campus in the Student Services Center, Room 1200.

The club helps students better educate themselves about College of DuPage and is open to students with autism, their family and friends. Each meeting consists of a guest speaker on a specific topic of interest, followed by social activities ranging from pool and table tennis to video and board games. 

Since 2012, College of DuPage has seen a nearly 40 percent growth in students – to 138 total in 2013 – who are self-identifying as having autism. Michael Duggan, Counselor for Students with Disabilities, said this can be attributed to a variety of factors. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has determined that 1 in 50 children now have some form of autism spectrum disorder, a rise from 1 in 86 in 2010 and 1 in 150 in 1997. 

“The College has responded to the needs of this rapidly growing population by creating Autismerica,” he said. “This group currently has more than 70 active members, nearly double from its inception in 2009.”

Duggan and Special Needs Associate Sheryl Ebersold co-facilitate each meeting and recently co-taught a section of Education 1110, Interpersonal Communication Skills, geared specifically for autism spectrum students. The course filled within two days of it being offered for registration, Duggan said. He also visits area high schools, including Hinsdale, Downers Grove and Glenbard, in his newly appointed role as the College’s Counselor for Students with Disabilities to speak about the College’s services and course offerings. 

Continuing Education at COD has developed the Reach Out! program, which consists of a new series of courses focusing on independence skills and self-advocacy. These are offered beyond the current Vocational Skills classes for students with developmental disabilities. 

For more information about Autismerica, call (630) 942-2845 or (630) 942-3798, or email duggan@cod.edu or ebersold@cod.edu. For more information about the Reach Out! program, visit www.cod.edu/academics/conted/reach_out.aspx.