Brothers Jason (left) and Benjamin Zielinski (right) recently celebrated the two-year anniversary of Autismerica with College of DuPage Counselor Michael Duggan (center). Jason serves as President and Benjamin as Vice President of the educational and social club for students with autism.
"It's a wonderful milestone," said Duggan, Ed.D., a counselor at COD who founded the club with co-coordinator Sheryl Ebersold, an Accommodations Specialist at the College. "This group started because of a simple conversation and has grown into an organization that is supported by both students and their families."
Autismerica helps students with autism better educate themselves about COD and socialize together in a positive and supportive environment. Each meeting consists of a guest speaker on a specific topic of interest, followed by social activities ranging from pool and table tennis to video and board games. The group meets on the second Thursday of every month, with the next meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 10, at 7 p.m. in the Student Services Center, Room 1800. Duggan said the meetings average about 50 to 60 people.
"What's great is that these students and their families are now able to connect with other students like themselves, which is incredibly beneficial during their time at College of DuPage," he said.
The success of Autismerica has led to other initiatives at the College. This fall, Continuing Education/Extended Learning began the Reach Out program for students 18 and older with mild to moderate developmental disabilities. Courses teach practical skills and encourage socialization and are offered at different times on different days, allowing students to take several at once. Due to its success, course offerings are being expanded for spring. In addition, the course "Education 1110: Interpersonal Communication Skills for Life and Work" has been designed specifically for students with autism and Asperger's Syndrome.
Duggan said Autismerica's success has far exceeded everyone's expectations. "We're providing information and services that all of our members can use beyond their time here," he said.
For more information about Autismerica, call (630) 942-2845 or (630) 942-3798, or email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
For more information about the Reach Out program, visit www.cod.edu/academics/conted/reach_out.aspx.