Aurora University Launches Betty Parke Tucker Center for Neurodiversity to Support College Students on the Autism Spectrum
First-of-its kind, newly constructed residence hall incorporates sensory supportive features designed specifically for college students with autism spectrum disorder
The new Betty Parke Tucker Center for Neurodiversity supports students on the autism spectrum as they earn their college degrees and take their first steps toward launching their careers. The Center houses AU’s Pathways Program for college-capable students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and includes a first-of-its-kind, newly constructed residence hall with sensory supportive features designed specifically for college students with ASD. The residence hall houses both neurodiverse and neurotypical students as part of the university’s effort to integrate students with autism into campus life.
“We are thrilled to be one of the first universities in the nation to welcome college-capable students on the spectrum to a fully immersive campus experience that will help them reach their potential in their studies and their careers,” said AU President Rebecca L. Sherrick. “These young people have so much to share and contribute. We know that when provided with the right support, the right environment, the right encouragement, college-capable students on the spectrum will earn their degrees and take meaningful roles in society and productive roles in the workplace.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of ASD diagnosis in the U.S. is one in 54 children, more than double the rate of 1 in 110 a decade earlier – making ASD the fastest-growing developmental disability in the U.S. An estimated 44 percent of individuals with ASD have IQs of average to above average, and a portion of these students are capable of succeeding at a university, if only they have the right support. Yet, services for teenagers with ASD come to a virtual halt after high school, just as families need them most. Researchers describe this support deficit as a “services cliff,” because parents often feel as if their children are about to fall off a cliff, with little help in sight.
AU is stepping into the gap with its Pathways Program. The broad-based program provides a bridge for students with ASD and their families, helping them to make the transition from high school to college and from college to career.