Welcome to the holiday season! The season is one of change, for a variety of reasons. The arrival of the holidays announces the coming of cooler weather for most of the U.S., begins a time of travel, and signals the end of the calendar year. The holidays are a time of change for college students, too. Most students who have been living full-time on campus since summer will be traveling back and forth between home and their dorms multiple times within a few short weeks.
Off-campus travel can be complicated. Travel by rail can be rife with delays. Bus travel can be time consuming. And those traveling by air frequently encounter challenges due to cancelled flights and the navigation of multiple airports.
The Benchmarks of Effective Supports for College Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (2012) is an assessment tool with which to determine the readiness of specific institutions of higher learning to support the academic, social, and independent living needs of students living within the autism spectrum.
These benchmarks list support important to college students with ASD. These supports include: “mentoring services that support organizational needs, such as: goal setting, meeting deadlines, chunking assignments, planning for off-campus travel, etc.”
Providing support for off-campus travel need not be difficult or complicated. Mostly it involves finding ways to convey information to students in a way they can understand and use in a practical manner.
We at Marshall University make good use of the social story – like frameworks that provide students information they can carry with them and reference along on their travels. One can’t prepare for all possible hiccups that may occur during travel; but working with students to develop plans about travel, and providing advice about what to do in a serious emergency, can be most helpful.
Below is an example of a worksheet we at Marshall complete with students planning their travel. In this case it is in the form of a letter. The blank sections are those completed together with the student.
I hope your holiday break is filled with fun, friendship, and happiness. I also hope you get some much needed rest: the semester has been a long one, and you’ve worked very hard. You should feel very proud of what you have accomplished!
You are scheduled to leave the Huntington Amtrak at 6am on November 22, 2014. That means you must arrive at the station at ___________am. I understand that you are taking a Yellow Taxi (555-333-1111) to the Amtrak Station.
To arrive at the Amtrak station at _______am, you should schedule the taxi for a _______am pick up. You can call them by ______ pm the evening before to schedule the taxi.
I understand that Maddisen, the graduate assistant who supports you, will pick you up at the Huntington Amtrak when you return at ________pm on November 29, 2014. If your travel home is delayed or altered, you can inform her by calling 555-840-7936.
In the event of a travel emergency (your train is delayed, you become ill, or some other travel snafu) the best thing to do is ____________________________________________________________________________
Be safe in your travels! I’m very excited about how you are ending this semester of a positive note.
By Marc Ellison
Marc Ellison, Ed.D. is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and an approved Licensed Professional supervisor (ALPS) who has worked nearly 30 years to provide person-centered support, services and advocacy to individuals who live with autism spectrum disorders, their families and those who support them. He has supported individuals with ASD throughout their lifespan, as they moved to the community from state-supported institutions, searched for and obtained employment, entered into relationships, and transitioned into college. Dr. Ellison is the Executive Director of the West Virginia Autism Training Center, and a part-time professor at Marshall University.