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IPFW Faculty Member Creates Autism Support Group

Araceli Gomez-Aldana

Like many college campuses around the country IPFW has seen a rise in the number of students with autism. 

On top of transitioning to a more independent lifestyle, students with autism may find it difficult to confront new social interactions.

That’s why IPFW started an autism support group. John Sheehan leads the group. He’s an accommodation specialist in the Services for Students with Disabilities department. He says there are a lot of services through high school but then that drastically stops.

“Once they hit graduation all of that goes away, once they graduate from high school. There is nothing really available for them in terms of services,” said Sheehan.

Sheehan says it is taxing to consistently remind yourself to do normal things like make eye contact.

“You might have a group project and afterward the student has to go back and take a nap. Because it takes so much out of them interacting with all these new folks,” said Sheehan. 

Originally the group would meet once a month but due to its popularity they now meet bi-monthly. Sheehan says they get together and talk about what the students are having trouble with but they also include fun activities.

“The idea is that it’s a group of folks that otherwise probably wouldn’t get out much or out of the dorms to meet people so how do you put people in social situations where they have a chance to meet,” added Sheehan.

Not everyone in the club is on the spectrum, which helps students of all abilities learn from one another.

The autism support group is open to anyone. They meet every two weeks 5:30 p.m. at IPFW’s Walb Student Union.