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Two California State University, Northridge (CSUN) professors had a dream and decided to make it happen. That’s how it all started. Drs. Ivor Weiner and Ron Fischbach, both with extensive hands-on experience in autism, came together to create the most innovative support program in the United States. They knew that with an 85 to 90 percent unemployment rate among those with autism, it would take more than getting through a college degree program to make a meaningful change in the educational experience for those with autism. So, what did they do?


They did what professors know how to do very well, they did their research. They talked to high school and college students who are on the autism spectrum. They met with parents and friends of people who live with autism on a daily basis. They consulted with leaders in the field who have struggled to meet the college educational needs of students with autism. And, they created a cutting-edge approach that changed the landscape of support programs for bright young people who simply see their world in a different way than most of the rest of us see it. Out of their research came a new way of viewing the education of students with autism.


Drs. Weiner and Fischbach see those with autism as being different, not disordered, just neurologically different. The difference is significant and requires a modified approach to learning - the type of learning that occurs both in and out of the classroom. 


College students with autism, for the most part, will not experience insurmountable academic learning challenges. Yes, some will need support with writing and comprehension, and others with verbal communications. These challenges are not very different from the kinds of mountains that neuro-typical college students face. What Drs. Weiner and Fischbach came to realize, is that it is the lack of social, organizational, and perceptual skills that are the real explosives on the road to success. Here are some of the deficit skills that are not part of the traditional college learning experience (even with existing special supports):

  • Seeing the “big picture;”

  • Being motivated to take on courses that are of little to no interest to the student;

  • Appreciating the emotional experiences of others;

  • Perceiving the “unwritten rules” of college life;

  • Talking about a subject when under pressure to perform;

  • Summarizing important information when it is needed;

  • Separating out the important from the less important details, or from the background information; and

  • Addressing honesty from the perspective of its impact on others.


On the other hand, these two pioneers learned that students with autism bring to the picture some significant assets that trump many of their fellow neuro-typical classmates, such as:

  • Attending to detail;

  • Recalling of encyclopedic knowledge;

  • Making decisions without the hindrance of emotions;

  • Acting without concern as to what others might think of them;

  • Thinking outside of the “box;” and

  • Thinking in still or video pictures.

Based upon the more than two years of research, the Transition UP Program was born. 


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