The University of Alabama created a top-tier program in 2006 called UA-ACTS, which stands for Autism Spectrum Disorder College Transition and Support Program. The mission of UA-ACTS is to “facilitate a campus environment that promotes an enjoyable and successful college experience for students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in preparation for their future endeavors,” according to their website.
The UA-ACTS program helps students with ASD by providing support in four main areas: academic organization, daily living skills, psychological support and social skills. The way the program works is broken up into mentors, typically older students who are a part of the psychology department, and mentees, the students with ASD who apply to join UA-ACTS.
Currently, approximately 70 students are participating in the program in some capacity. According to the program director, Dr. Megan Davis, there are 34 students with ASD in the program, and each of those individuals has a student mentor. Davis is also an assistant professor in the psychology department, where she works in an administrative and teaching capacity.
The Child and Family Research Clinic is located on the University of Alabama’s campus and is within the Psychology department.
To enter the program, students with ASD must first meet all of UA’s general admission requirements and be admitted as a student. From there, there is a separate application process for both mentors and mentees to join.
Once admitted to the program, each student with ASD is paired with a mentor. Then, they meet with their mentor two to three times each week to work on social skills, academics, daily living skills and more. According to Davis, UA-ACTS also provides additional psychological services or therapy for students who need extra support in these areas, which is especially important for people with ASD.
Moving forward, the goals of the UA-ACTS program are, first and foremost, to continue to grow and flourish. “Last year, the program had 27 mentors, and we brought that number up to 34 this year. We’d love to continue growing in a positive way,” said Davis.
Aside from expanding numbers, the program aims to broaden its scope and help to reach out to more students with information about the program. Lastly, UA-ACTS wishes to continue conducting training and presentations with various organizations throughout UA’s campus to share more information about the program itself and bring attention to the needs of students with ASD within our community.
If you want to get involved with the UA-ACTS program, here’s how! Applications typically come out in late February or early March, and then the role will begin in August of the following school year. Every UA student who is a psychology major or minor will get an email promotion offering them the chance to apply. Still, you do not have to be within the psychology department to participate in the program. Students studying all majors are welcome and encouraged to apply. For more information, reach out to Dr. Megan Davis via email at email@example.com, or stop by the Child and Family Research Clinic on campus.