FSL program helping autism spectrum students succeed at Austin Peay
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FSL program helping autism spectrum students succeed at Austin Peay

FSL mentors
FLM mentors Lillian Pollard and Diamond Brant want their students to "be their best selves."

(Posted Aug. 9, 2018)

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Chloe Sybert didn’t want help. She’d heard about the new Full Spectrum Learning (FSL) pilot program at Austin Peay State University, which assisted students diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, but she hesitated filling out the program’s application.

“Originally, my mom bribed me to do it,” she said. “I didn’t want anything to label me as autistic because I had a pride problem. I wanted to be able to do college without any extra help, but then I realized that having extra help, there isn’t anything wrong with that. And I met friends and realized it wasn’t that bad at all.”

Three years later, Sybert is an APSU social work major earning straight As last semester, and the pilot program she joined is now a full center within the University’s Eriksson College of Education.

“We help students on the autism spectrum be successful in college,” Emmanuel Mejeun, FSL director, said. “It’s purely academic. We offer them individual peer tutoring, peer mentoring to help with socialization, faculty mentoring to help with career development. We monitor study hours. We meet at least twice a week, to see how they’re going.

“And we offer a required course one hour a week every semester in which students learn academic responsibility, personal organization preferences, interpersonal communication, mastering executive functioning skills and professional development. During the final year, the course focus is on career readiness and a final job shadow assignment.”

While in high school, students diagnosed with autism follow an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) to help them succeed. At the college level, no such plan exists.

“When they get into college, they have no structure,” Mejeun said. “FSL provides that structure, but only on the academic side of it. In addition to the FSL services, we work closely with Jamie McCrary, director of the Office of Disability Services, to ensure that FSL students receive the proper accommodations to be successful.”

“With my student, I’ve seen them grow from being super shy to actually talking to people. And so that makes me feel really confident in myself also because I’ve actually helped somebody get out of their little shell. That’s what I really want to do – help people grow and be their best selves.” - Diamond Brant, FSL mentor

Mejeun previously served as a graduate assistant for the program. Now, as the director, he’s working to expand the number of participants and FSL student mentors and tutors.

“There are benefits for the peer mentors, too,” he said. “Peer mentors can encounter different situations that call for compassion, decision-making and good listening skills. These transferrable skills can be used in any aspects of life, including any career path as mentors interact with classmates and co-workers.”

Diamond Brant, a senior social work major with a minor in family studies, became a mentor a few years ago to help out and get more involved in campus. It’s been one of the more worthwhile experiences she’s had at Austin Peay.

“With my student, I’ve seen them grow from being super shy to actually talking to people,” she said. “And so that makes me feel really confident in myself also because I’ve actually helped somebody get out of their little shell. That’s what I really want to do – help people grow and be their best selves.”

Information on the program, such as admission requirements, services and resources, is available online at www.apsu.edu/full-spectrum-learning.