The Spectrum Support Program provides support and connection for autistic and neurodivergent students at RIT.
Enrollment has increased over 700% since its inception in 2008 and we now serve up to 100 RIT students each year.
We seek to foster student growth and independence in the following areas:
Self-care and Wellness
Preparation for Co-Op and Career
As a Spectrum Support Program participant, you will be paired with a trained coach who will provide individualized guidance towards your academic, social, and career related goals. Regular coaching meetings help you plan for success, discuss your progress, determine areas of concern, and problem solve through issues that can get in the way of college success. We help you to set goals, give you feedback, offer advice about how to deal with challenging situations, and make referrals to different services on campus we think can help.
Our coaches are trained graduate students and working professionals who have background and experience in education, counseling, social work, or related areas.
All coaches receive comprehensive training in working with college students on the autism spectrum and close supervision and support from the Spectrum Support Director and Assistant Director. During regular business hours, Spectrum Support Program staff are also available for drop-in coaching and consultation.
Cross-Campus Collaboration and Referral
You will also be assigned to a Spectrum Support Program staff member who will work with you and our campus partners to connect you to the appropriate resources, such as Academic Advising, Residence Life, Disability Services Office, Co-Op and Career Services, Academic Success Center, Counseling and Psychological Services, and more.
Customized Small-Group Seminar Courses
As a program participant, you will have the opportunity to attend unique seminar courses that provide critical skill development and support primarily focused on navigating the job search process. This includes meeting cooperative education requirements and transitioning to employment experiences.
Sponsored Social Events
You will be invited to attend organized events sponsored by our office. These events are an opportunity to build social connections with your program peers, coaches and staff. Past events include weekly community meet-ups, Friday dinners, and game nights.
Pre-Arrival Programming for First-Year Students
If you start in the fall, you can participate in pre-arrival programming before New Student Orientation. In the past this has included information sessions, game nights, group meals, a fall schedule walk-through, and a fall semester kick-off event.
Life on a college campus is both rewarding and challenging. RIT is a large university with students, professors, and staff members from all over the country and around the world. So while a place with this many clubs, events, activities, choices and opportunities can be exciting, many students feel like they don't fit in, socially or academically, with everybody else, and some students find it hard to adjust to a whole new set of places and people, with different routines and expectations, different interests and communication styles. This is also true of autistic students, students who identify on the spectrum, students who are neurodivergent, or who think, move, communicate, or socialize differently.
Our main activity is coaching, which takes commitment and motivation in order to be effective. Coaching is meant to push us out of our comfort zone, to challenge us to make improvements, and we need to be open to feedback, and to be willing to learn from mistakes in order to do better. However, coaching is not effective for every student or every situation. Successful Spectrum Support Program participants usually have some experience in independent living at home -- they know what they need to do in order to stay healthy and balanced on a daily basis -- and they have lots of skills for independent learning, including teamwork and group projects. These are the kinds of things our team will be interested to discuss with you when you apply to our program.
We do not have access to student grades during the semester and rely on you to self-report your academic progress. We support you in using MyCourses and reaching out to professors to discuss your progress in your classes. As RIT student support specialists we are notified of any “Early Alerts” that you might receive from your professors instructors. These include “red flags” related to attendance, participation, low assignment scores, and low quiz/test grades. Our coaches can then work with you to access all available campus resources to resolve academic issues as they arise.
Communication between the Spectrum Support Program and parents or guardians is limited. Our primary role is to help you make connections at the university and to support you on your path to a degree. Spectrum Support Program staff may contact your family if you miss coaching meetings and we cannot reach you by text or email, for example, or if there are concerns about your safety and well-being.
We provide you with a mid-semester and end-of-semester progress update, and we encourage you to share these reports with your family and to discuss your plans for improvement. We want you to be at the center of every conversation about your education at RIT and your experience with the Spectrum Support Program, so we encourage family members to include you in any communication they feel is important to share with program staff.
In keeping with our program mission and our efforts to promote student autonomy, our staff do not communicate directly with outside service providers.
We do not know of an Autism support group on campus at RIT. Counseling and Psychological Services offers group counseling, which provides the unique opportunity to receive multiple perspectives, support, and encouragement from other students in a safe environment. Counseling groups vary from semester to semester but often include groups for social anxiety, interpersonal/relationship support, and stress management.