The Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities (RCPD) debuted an early move-in program this semester as part of its BOND program, which supports MSU students with an autism diagnosis.
BOND (Building Opportunities for Networking and Discovery) was established in 2010 to support students on the autism spectrum. The program takes a three-pronged approach: BOND students participate in facilitated social experiences, training and skill building opportunities, and engage with peer mentors.
Many students with an autism diagnosis may be easily overwhelmed with the chaos that can accompany move-in week at MSU. To allow these students a chance to get settled into their new homes in relative peace and get a jump start on learning skills for college success, the BOND program invited participants this fall to arrive on campus a few days early.
“One of the hardest things for students with autism, traditionally, is transitions,” says Lindsay Hill, an Ability Access Specialist with RCPD. “We brought students in the Wednesday before classes started and hosted a dinner with parents that first day. That helps parents form a little support group as well.”
On the following days, participants received assistance setting up calendars, introduction to MSU email, and orientation about where to go on campus for food, medical needs, academic services, and other aspects of student life.
“We also covered a lot of disability-related information: how to use your accommodations and communicate with your instructors.Then we did some community building; we went out to lunch on Grand River, we did a sort of ask-me-anything with peer mentors from campus, and Friday night we went to Pinball Pete’s and just had a good time.”
Hill says that since social challenges are a hallmark feature of autism, having scheduled, low-pressure social experiences with other students can ease the transition to campus. “We thought that this could help start a community for this cohort,” says Hill. “If participating students wanted to continue coming to the events offered during the school year, they would already know people, making it more likely that they would participate. That has proved to be true so far.”
Participants have reviewed the program favorably. 88% of early move-in participants said they felt more confident about and comfortable on campus after the program. 100% said they would recommend the program to future students.