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Drexel Autism Institute receives anonymous $3.5 mil donation | The Triangle

Drexel Autism Institute receives anonymous $3.5 mil donation

Drexel University announced Feb. 17 that the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute has recently received a $3.5 million anonymous grant for incubator programs geared towards young adults that fall on the autism spectrum. The name of the program is Transition Pathways and it generally focuses on high school seniors, a group that is at risk of falling off the “services cliff,” or aging out of their support programs.

The DrexelNow article cited the National Autism Indicators Report in its announcement, stating that 36 percent of students on the autism spectrum never attend college or vocational-technical schools after high school. Only 58 percent ever find a paying job.

With help from teachers and professionals from the Community Integrated Services, an organization dedicated to providing employment opportunities for people with disabilities, the program will be integrating this knowledge into two pathways as a part of their program: a Work Pathway and a College Pathway. The Work Pathway involves students having the opportunity to take part in internships and the College Pathway has students audit Drexel courses. The program is also intended to allow students to participate in the co-op system. In both pathways, the program is said to take over two years in order to eventually provide training and education for students to be independent thereafter.

According to their website, both pathways draw upon themes such as independence, work, lifelong learning and community tracks. The program director, Peter Doehring, received his doctoral degree from the Center for Research in Human Development at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. He is experienced in hospital and community based research and training programs as the former Statewide Director and leader of the Delaware Autism Program. This is only a few of the many programs for children with ASD that he been involved in, including ASD programs working at the Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania.

When Doehring became a part of the Life Courses Outcomes Research Program at the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute, he began developing programs and policies for young adults who fell on the spectrum.

“Programs like these would have the advantage of giving participants access to all the university has to offer and, through partnership with university-based researchers and facilitate the seamless collection and integration of data in order to carefully evaluate effectiveness,” Doehring said in an interview with DrexelNow.

President John A. Fry was also quoted in the article, saying, “It’s incredibly gratifying to see the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute is inspiring generous and visionary donors.”

He continued, “The Institute is the standard-bearer for Drexel’s commitment to using a public health approach to addressing autism, but its outstanding work wouldn’t be possible without significant financial support from those who share that commitment.”

Within its first year, the program is expected to take up 16 students, mostly but not limited to high school seniors graduating in 2017 from the Philadelphia area. According to their website, the participants they hope to find “are on the autism spectrum, very motivated to work, and have the potential to be independent.”

Clinical research has begun to identify specific practices that are effective at addressing the needs of adults on the autism spectrum, but only for one adult at a time,” Doehring continued in the article. “We need programs that can deliver benefits to an entire population of adults, and this gift will help us demonstrate how to do that here at Drexel.”