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Introducing the Alliance

  • Jaime Fountaine
Posted on December 14, 2020
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The Alliance of Autism College to Employment Programs (a.k.a. The Alliance) is a new association for research-minded practitioners who are dedicated to autistic college students' success and building inclusive campus communities. After realizing that the work they were doing in their respective programs were all moving in similar directions, the future steering committee members decided that forming The Alliance could “bring people together, so we can share resources and ideas and communicate with each other about what's going on in the field,” said Drexel Autism Support Program (DASP) director, Dr. Amy Edwards. In addition to DASP, the Alliance also includes program leaders from Rochester Institute of Technology, West Chester University, The University of Delaware, Bellevue College, and College Autism Spectrum. Their mission is to help guide higher education institutions toward developing holistic service priorities that prepare autistic college students for meaningful and sustainable employment and embed better support systems into the fabric of higher education.

The Alliance surveyed autistic undergraduate students nationwide about their anxiety levels, needs and concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We wanted to know how they were learning, what was frustrating to them,” Edwards said. 76 students from 14 states responded. The resulting tip sheet, “Supporting Autistic College Students Through the COVID-19 Pandemic,” is available to download here.

“We all thought wearing masks would be a big deal for people with sensory issues, and that wasn’t at all.” said Dr. Edwards.  The student’s main concerns were related to contracting and spreading the virus, especially as that related to the possibility of in-person classes. The move to online learning also presented some anxieties, especially around the logistics and the quality of learning. Using what they learned about students’ needs from the survey, the Alliance developed clear suggestions for academic, health and wellness, and social supports, which they outline in the document.

For more information about The Alliance, email