Herald Times Online: IU Program Offers Support for Students on the Autism Spectrum
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Herald Times Online: IU Program Offers Support for Students on the Autism Spectrum

The following is a special needs program update from Asperger’s & LD College Programs

IUBy Michael Reschk
Herald Times Online

Daniel Iglarsh admits his first semester of college went pretty poorly. He was enrolled at the Rochester Institute of Technology, and while he made a lot of friends, he wasn’t doing very well in his classes. He started suffering from depression and at one point called his mom in tears because he felt he just couldn’t handle college.

“I was in the mindset that I was going to be homeless or working menial jobs when I want to be a software developer,” he said.

That spring, he went home to Springfield, Illinois, and took two classes at a community college. Things went a little better, but his parents knew their son needed more support. Eventually, they found the College Internship Program in Bloomington.

CIP worldwide is a comprehensive postsecondary support program for young adults on the autism spectrum and with other learning differences, according to the organization’s website. Karen Thomas, program director of CIP Bloomington, said the program offers 24-hour-a-day support as students make the transition into adult life.

Students can pursue degrees at Ivy Tech or Indiana University while receiving support and direction from CIP’s academic support team. CIP’s career department helps students with their resumes and finding an internship. Many of the students start out living in the Smallwood apartments located above the center at 425 N. College Ave. Independent living support offered for students in the apartments includes menu planning, grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning, assistance with time management and organization.

“We look at it as a transition program,” Thomas said. “It’s the first time these students have been away from home, and they feel really overwhelmed.”

That’s how Iglarsh, who has Asperger’s syndrome, was feeling when he came to CIP Bloomington in August 2013.

“I couldn’t have gotten through this stuff on my own,” he said.

Iglarsh said his first semester at CIP Bloomington was very structured. He took one class at IU, but the rest of his day was filled with various classes at CIP, such as a social thinking group, a wellness group and a class in the careers department. The careers department helped Iglarsh find an internship, which is required for all students, said Jim Walsh, Iglarsh’s adviser.

“It creates a more holistic experience,” he said.

Iglarsh wanted an internship at a business in the community rather than something at IU. A Bloomington Technology Partnership video led him to his internship with Wisdom Tools, an education and software services firm.

In addition to his internship, Iglarsh is also involved in IU Outdoor Adventures, doing things such as canoe trips, and he is president of the IU Gamers Guild, which is a group that gets together to play board games. In the fall, he plans to move out of Smallwood and start taking classes full time at IU.
Getting to this point wasn’t easy. Iglarsh had to break himself of the bad habits he had formed in that first semester of college. At first, it was difficult to just get out of bed and go to class, but working in groups at CIP and with his adviser, he has been able to improve.

“Every semester has been easier than the last,” Iglarsh said. “I’ve realized I can do more than I thought I could. I’m less afraid of working, and I’ve built better habits.”

Celebration Friday

Iglarsh will be recognized for his efforts, along with the other 17 students, from 1 to 3 p.m. Friday at CIP Bloomington for the program’s end-of-year celebration. Students, their parents and community partners will be in attendance.