Rowan hosts inaugural Autism Spectrum Symposium

Rowan hosts inaugural Autism Spectrum Symposium

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Rowan University held its inaugural Autism Spectrum Symposium April 3, a program designed to celebrate contributions made by neurodiverse students and to promote campus resources that are available, and expanding, to support them.

Individuals diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, can have difficulty with communication and personal interactions, behaviors that can alter their ability to function in school, at work and in other areas of life, but that oftentimes do not hold them back.

In fact, said John Woodruff, director of Rowan’s Academic Success Center & Disability Resources, people diagnosed with ASD often excel in college and in careers.

“These students often have hidden talents and skill sets but just may not do well in a standard interview,” he said.

Woodruff noted that representatives of two multinational employers who encourage neurodiverse individuals to apply, Novo Nordisk, a pharmaceutical company, and software maker SAP, attended the daylong symposium.

Organized by faculty and staff on Rowan’s Autism Spectrum Advisory Board and members of the Office of Career Advancement, the program was also an opportunity to inform students who are on the spectrum, and their parents, about the wide array of resources available at the University.

Those resources include College Compass, a one-week summer bridge program for incoming students that helps them adjust to the new college environment as well as mentoring programs, college and career guidance, and the hiring of a new, full-time, coordinator for the University’s Preparation and Achievement of Transition to Hire (PATH), program.

He said another of Rowan’s support resources involves pairing students who are on the spectrum (neurodiverse) with students who might be considered neuro-typical.

The event drew more than 200 attendees, including students, parents, alumni and representatives from nearby colleges and universities including the University of Delaware, Villanova and Drexel.

Woodruff said about 110 current Rowan students self-identify as being on the spectrum and that in expanding resources to help them acclimate and excel the university further develops as an institution that embraces diversity and inclusivity.

“We’re supporting them in a variety of ways including with career readiness and internships,” he said. “We’re also expanding mentoring, including a new parent resource network in which one parent might have a student who has already graduated who can be a resource to a parent of a student who is here now.”