This fall, Oakland University’s Disability Support Services, in collaboration with the College of Arts and Sciences, will be offering a special topics course through social work, sociology and psychology, which will provide an overview of disabilities — with a particular focus on autism spectrum disorders — as well as peer-mediated instruction.
“Once the foundation has been provided to students in the course they will be paired with an OU student with a disability and serve as a peer mentor,” said Sarah Guadalupe, director of Disability Support Services at Oakland University.
Disability Support Services acts as an advocate for students with disabilities and works with 700-750 students per semester. In addition to helping students understand university policies and practices, DSS also assists students in addressing personal and academic concerns.
“The new program, Peer-to-Peer Mentorship: Supporting Students with Autism, is a collaborative effort between DSS and the College of Arts and Sciences, as well as a community partnership with Beaumont’s Project SEARCH,” Guadalupe.
Project SEARCH was developed to secure competitive employment for post-secondary students with intellectual and developmental disorders who are between the ages of 18 and 26. The program is a joint venture between Beaumont Hospital, Troy; Oakland Schools; the Troy school districts; Michigan Rehabilitation Services; New Horizons Rehabilitation Services; Bureau of Services for Blind Persons; Community Living Service; Macomb-Oakland Regional Center; and the Oakland County Health Network.
The program offers a one-year internship for students with disabilities in their last year of high school. The internship is conducted entirely at the workplace, with a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on training through three worksite rotations.
“The community collaboration piece includes working with Project SEARCH to allow OU students in the course to mentor some of the students involved with the Project SEARCH program,” Guadalupe said. “The hope would be that OU students can bring these students to campus and show them ‘campus life,’ and be able to participate in ‘typical’ college social activities.
“The overall goal is to provide opportunities for those with disabilities to learn social skills and gain opportunities to participate in college social life, while those taking the course will be learning leadership and advocacy skills,” she added.
Kevin J. Corcoran, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Oakland University, said the Peer-to-Peer program represents “a wonderful opportunity for OU students to provide a valuable service to others and to our community, while also enhancing their own learning and understanding.”
“We are thrilled with this collaboration,” he said.
The 4-credit course — cross-listed as SOC 3905, SW 3905, and PSY 2900 — is open to students pursuing any major, but does require instructor permission.
For more information, visit www.oakland.edu/dss.