Marquette University to offer specialized resources to students with autism

May 2, 2018

'On Your Marq' program to provide support with independent living, organization and friendship skills

MILWAUKEE — Marquette University announced today it would offer students with autism specialized academic help and support with a new program to assist with independent living, organization and friendship skills.

The first eight to 10 students participating in the "On Your Marq" program are expected on campus in fall 2019.

In 2016, it was estimated that one in 45 people have autism spectrum disorders.

"Half of students on the autism spectrum have average to superior IQ but may have social, language and planning or organization challenges," said Dr. Amy Vaughan Van Hecke, associate professor of psychology. "We want to help these students complete higher education, contribute to society and live fulfilling, independent lives."

Statistics show that students with autism have an increased time to graduation, higher dropout rates, poor academic progress, increased depression and are bullied at a higher rate. Eighty percent of adults with autism live at home with a parent or guardian and 81 percent are unemployed, Van Hecke said.

The program primarily is supported by a $450,000 gift from John and Kate Miller, an example of how Marquette's growing culture of philanthropy is making a life-changing difference for students. John is a 1964 graduate from the Helen Way Klingler College of Arts and Sciences.

"This program empowers the educational and campus life experience for autistic students through a variety of resources and expanded understanding among the Marquette community," the Millers said in a statement. "It positions Marquette as a trailblazer in social responsibility and ensures the university is ready to support the success of all students."

Marquette Provost Dr. Daniel J. Myers thanked the Millers for the gift that allows an interdisciplinary team to develop the program housed within the university's Office of Disability Services.

"John and Kate Miller's generosity will make a Marquette education available to a wider group of talented students," Myers said. "Marquette is more accessible than ever before and we are better prepared to educate these young scholars in all of our colleges."

The key coordinators are Van Hecke; Wendy Krueger, clinical associate professor of speech pathology and audiology; Mary Carlson, clinical assistant professor of educational policy and leadership; and Anne Deahl, associate vice provost for academic support programs and retention.

The team will spend the next year developing the program and screening potential participants. Once the students arrive in August 2019, Van Hecke will assess the program and use it as training for graduate and undergraduate students, and to research best practices.

After admission to the program, each "On Your Marq" student will be assigned a point person, a graduate student adviser to support independent living, social skills and academics. Additional peer mentors will help the participants through inclusion in social life and coaching.