COD’s Autismerica has been bringing students with special needs together for two years now with their social gatherings every second Thursday of the month. Students, parents, and members from around the community meet in SSC 1200 for video games, board games, ping pong, pool, table tennis, popcorn, beverages, and a presentation that explores an aspect of college success. There are about 50-70 members in the organization and it is open to everyone in DuPage County.
Counselor for students with special needs Michael Duggan along with Accommodations Specialist Sheryl Ebersold, formed Autismerica after noticing many students with special needs around campus. The idea was successful from the start with about 50 people at the first meeting. Along with the help of officers: Jason Zielinski (President), Ben Zielinski (Vice President), Sonja Vukajlovic (Treasurer), Joshua Romaniak (Secretary), Tyler Hrunek (Member at Large), meetings always turn out to be loads of fun, especially because of all the donated video game sets such as Wiis, Play Station 3s, and Xbox 360s.
“Our mission is to provide a safe, social space for these people and to let them connect,” commented Duggan.
“We also want everyone to feel included and welcome.”
Autismerica has interacted with tutoring services, ASPERITECH (an organization that helps people with autism find jobs), career services, and independent living services. Due to their success, Continuing Education/Extended Learning began the Reach Out program, which provides students with developmental disabilities courses that teach communication skills.
1 in 10 community college students has a learning disability and there are roughly a thousand at COD. Autismerica hopes to continue to grow and expand the courses offered for students with disabilities. Their next meeting is Feb. 14 where they will have guest speaker, Jeffrey Christiansen from the Criminal Justice department. He will talk about identity theft and how to work with a police officer when you’re in trouble. For more information, visit the Autismerica Facebook page (www.facebook.com/autismerica) or contact Michael Duggan at firstname.lastname@example.org.