WTC Autism Services in a Virtual World
When the COVID-1 pandemic hit and Governor Hogan issued a stay-at-home order for State employees, like most DORS services, Pathways went virtual, as did most college classes.
In its new virtual setting, the social skills group meeting convenes every Tuesday from 2:30 to 3:30 via Google Meets and all the students from all the colleges participate. This means that the groups may have as many as thirty participants. Pathways Coordinator, Whitney Gray says this change in the groups’ venue and composition has had a number of positive outcomes for the students, “They are making connections and building friendships all around the state!”
There have been other silver linings to going virtual. With DORS Pathways staff no longer limited by geographic constraints, WTC developed a new program: Virtual College Autism Mentoring Program (VCAMP). VCAMP offers virtual mentoring and support to help students on the autism spectrum navigate college and have a positive college experience. VCAMP expands the reach of WTC Autism Services, because as a virtual program, it is available to students attending in-state and out-of-state two- or four-year colleges not served by Pathways.
Autism Services staff are excited about the changes. Whitney Gray: “We’re connecting directly with the students and encouraging them to use the resources on the campus…and it’s still face-to-face, because it’s crucial when working with folks with autism, to see how they are doing. And, we are still available to them via email, phone, etc. So, we can see and help more students.”
Autism Services Supervisor Lee Armstrong reports that there are almost forty consumers currently enrolled in Pathways. “[With VCAMP] the expectation is that [DORS consumers] have more options when pursuing post-secondary education. This semester, staff reached out to recent Pathways graduates and connected with students [at] UMGC, Towson, and UMBC.” The hope is to serve at least 10 DORS consumers through VCAMP to expand the program over the coming year.
Pathways is a collaboration between DORS and two-year community colleges throughout the state, which include: