The Asperger Mentorship Program (AMP), now in its fifth year, was developed to help students navigate through University and increase their sense of belonging to a peer group.
The program is free and open to all students who have been diagnosed with an ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), usually Asperger Syndrome (AS), at York. Sixteen students took advantage of the program last year, and more are expected to join this year.
Some of the mentors in the Asperger Mentorship Program. From left, Carly McMorris, Michelle Viecili, Megan Ames, Stephanie Brown, Ksusha Blacklock, Lisa Hancock, psychology Professor James Bebko, Jessica Schroeder.
The program involves individual meetings and group events. Students will have the opportunity to meet with a mentor, a grad student in clinical developmental psychology, usually with ASD experience, once a week to once a month, depending on individual need. There are 11 grad mentors this year.
“One of the most rewarding parts of having established the program is the realization that it has filled a clear area of need for these students,” says York Professor James Bebko, who has been working in the field of autism and related disorders for about 25 years, as a clinical psychologist and a researcher.
“Feedback has been consistently positive, including comments that a number of new friendships have been established, and that the students realize they are not alone with their issues. Our hope is to be able to reach out to more students and invite them to contact us.”
Some of the topics to be discussed include social skills, meeting new people, organizational strategies and courses/exams, as well as personal issues regarding family, relationships, sexuality and independence.
Group events happen throughout the year with workshops to learn about coping with stress, sexuality and career planning. There will also be social activities, such as pizza parties, sporting events and more. So far, three students have graduated from the program.
The program works with Counselling & Disability Services at York, which offers support services for academic accommodations for students with AS.