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Shepherd, W.Va. Autism Training Center to host August 6 open house

ISSUED: 17 July 2019
MEDIA CONTACT: Valerie Owens

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — Shepherd University and the West Virginia Autism Training Center are hosting an open house for Shepherd’s new College Program for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) on Tuesday, August 6, from 9 a.m.-noon at Potomac Place. The open house is geared toward students in middle and high school and recent graduates who are planning to attend college and their families. The event is free and open to the public, with RSVP required.

In December 2018, Shepherd and the West Virginia Autism Training Center (WV-ATC) located at Marshall University signed a memorandum of understanding that establishes Shepherd as a WV-ATC satellite site that will provide services to Shepherd students with autism spectrum disorder and training for faculty and staff through the College Program for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Dr. Virginia Hicks, Shepherd assistant provost for academic community outreach, said having a satellite autism training center site at Shepherd opens doors closer to home for students interested in pursuing a college degree.

“Students in this area often would sign up to go to Marshall, and that’s six hours away,” Hicks said. “Now they have an opportunity to get the excellent program from Marshall right here on our campus, plus people from West Virginia, Maryland, and Virginia have a nearby site to go to.”

Hannah Brumbaugh, a graduate assistant for academic community outreach, is organizing the event. Brumbaugh especially encourages middle and high school students to attend the open house so they can get an idea of what’s possible as they plan for their futures.

“For a lot of students who are on the spectrum or who face some type of disability that they live with every day, it seems like college may be out of reach,” Brumbaugh said. “An opportunity like this tells middle and high school students who may not believe college is feasible ‘you are supported at this university.’ I think that will speaks volumes to those families.”

Tara L. Davis, an autism specialist with the Autism Training Center, has been working with Eastern Panhandle-area families over the years who have expressed interest in having their children go on to postsecondary education, but until now there was no program nearby.

“Because Shepherd’s program is new, we want to make sure everyone in the area who would be interested in it will be able to come to see what the campus and college life would be like and to let them know that this is a very open and accepting campus and a great place to learn and continue their education,” Davis said. “Maybe there are families who didn’t consider Shepherd in the past that now would feel this is a viable option because there is now plenty of support.”

The open house will include an information fair from 9-9:30 a.m., opening remarks from Shepherd staff and Dr. Rebecca Hanson, director of campus-based services for the West Virginia Autism Training Center from 9:30-10 a.m., tours of West Campus with student ambassadors from 10-11 a.m., and a question and answer session with Hanson from 11 a.m.-noon.

“My hope is that the open house event will provide the opportunity for individuals with ASD to see what types of supports are available to them when the time comes to transition from high school to college,” Hanson said. “Since the establishment of the college program at Marshall University in 2002, the West Virginia Autism Training Center understands what is necessary for universities to adequately support students with ASD. Shepherdstown is a natural fit for service expansion for the college program model. The culture of acceptance and understanding of people with ASD is prominent at Shepherd and we are thrilled with this partnership.”

For more information about the College Program for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder, visit https://www.shepherd.edu/collegeprogram. For more information about the open house or to RSVP, contact Brumbaugh at hbrumbau@shepherd.edu.

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