The Social Opportunities Program (SOP) is uniquely designed for our TU students living with Autism Spectrum Disorders or Social Anxiety Disorders. At CSAS, we welcome our students living with these differences, as well as their friends and allies. Our program is specially tailored to meet the students’ needs.
In SOP, students will participate in skills-building groups, social events, and Academic Success Coaching, all with their sensory needs in mind. Our skills-building groups include topics such as building and maintaining relationships, talking with professors, and practicing self-care. Furthermore, our social events use specific tools like sensory-friendly games and service dogs to create a social atmosphere comfortable for all students. Finally, our Academic Success Coaches guide students through academic topics and skills-building sessions, and help students grow as collegians and future professionals.
If you are interested in being a part of the Social Opportunities Program, please reach out to CSAS! We welcome you, your friends, and allies to be a part of SOP.
I. Academic Success Coaching
Academic Success Coaches in this program serve as coaches/mentors for students who specifically identify themselves as desiring additional one-on-one assistance in the areas of social, academic and general education support. The Academic Success Coach meets with each participating student once a week to identify their specific needs and then seek out the best resources to facilitate assistance. Students have the opportunity to check in with a person who knows them and their schedules and who provides an additional source of support and accountability. Students can discuss a variety of issues, but some of the most common ones include classes, time management, study skills, goal setting, organization, self-advocacy, interacting with professors, stress management, and anxiety. The Academic Success Coach will also connect the student with sources for any needed assistive technology, accommodations, or other academic and support services (e.g., tutoring, academic advising, student activities, residential life).
II. Group Support/Activities
The Academic Success Coaches organize monthly small-group workshops and activities for students which utilize campus and community support services. Students get exposure to peer mentoring in these group settings. The core areas of focus include the following topics with input each semester from participating students to determine the exact schedule of events:
- An Opportunity to Work on Social Problems: Students with social needs often benefit from exposure to social stories and role-playing experiences. In a safe and supportive small group environment, students can simply express needs and issues – e.g., difficulty communicating with a professor or on a group project, a roommate conflict, a dating situation, etc.. Then, the group facilitator coordinates with the group to role play these different issues and allows students a safe place to practice working through them. These activities also include opportunities to engage socially through movie nights, pizza parties, and other social events and group outings planned by the students. These meetings also include short trips to area attractions and events.
- Recreation: Students benefit from setting aside time for recreation and relaxation. In coordination with the Recreation Center, students are given a tour of facilities and learn about campus and community opportunities such as intramural sports, Pilates, yoga, and the benefits of exercise. Studies have shown that working out with a partner is an excellent way for these students to work on social interaction issues and garner health benefits. Group activities that involve physical recreation can be coordinated.
- Working on Speech Patterns: Some students may express a need for additional help in the area of verbal communication. Faculty from the Communication Disorder Clinic can discuss voice inflection, use of slang language, or ways to overcome certain speech patterns. Students have opportunities to role-play and work on carrying on a two-person conversation.
- Wellness: Many students who use CSAS services benefit from additional education regarding appropriate social interactions, reading social signs and cues, sexually transmitted diseases, alcohol, appropriate conduct, stress management, managing medications, drug interactions, anxiety, appropriate use of the Internet and gaming, personal hygiene, isolation, depression, making friends, dating, etc. Coordinated efforts with the Alexander Health Center and Counseling Center provide opportunities for students to learn about these issues and discuss concerns in a safe environment.
- Academic Assistance: Students receive individualized academic support as well as access to tutors, academic skill building workshops, and weekly one-on-one academic counseling meetings. Students who qualify will be eligible to receive academic accommodations such as note taking assistance and exam accommodations. CSAS will collaborate with faculty to address special learning needs of students in the program. Students will also receive priority enrollment to get classes that best fit their schedules and needs. Many students benefit from writing skills training but might not seek it out on their own. Faculty from the English Department and Writing Center can provide tips on writing effective papers and putting feelings and personal perspectives on paper. Faculty from students’ various majors can be available to discuss specific issues and recommendations regarding academic planning.
- Housing and Living with Roommates: The Residential Life Staff are another resource. Members of the staff can come and speak about setting limits with roommates, sharing a room with a stranger and dealing with differences and conflicts. Additionally, students can learn skills for independent living. Students have the option to live in suite-style housing with other students participating in the program where they will have a private bedroom and a common living room area. This is beneficial for transitioning to the college environment and for promotion of social skills.
- Career Counseling: The Career Center staff are available to discuss resumes, job interviews, ideas for summer employment, appropriate dress for interviews and how to carry oneself in an interview setting. Students can practice in a supportive environment.
- Oral Presentations and Self Confidence: Faculty and staff in the Communication Department and Communication Disorder Clinic can provide information on preparing to give presentations for classes or interviews. This time is used discuss ways to make an oral presentation in the classroom and improve self-expression and combat anxiety and nervousness. Students can role play and practice with the assistance of supportive faculty/staff and peers.
- Volunteering Opportunities: Many studies have shown that people derive multiple benefits from community service work while contributing to the good of others. The Volunteer Center and Student Activities can connect participating students with various opportunities to volunteer and thus meet new people, work toward achieving a goal together as a group, and socialize while participating in a positive and engaging experience.
III. Suite-Style Housing
Students have the option to live in suite-style housing with other students participating in the program where they will have a private bedroom and a common living room area. This is beneficial for transitioning to the college environment and for promotion of social skills. Students will maintain a private room while having the option to engage socially in a small common area with other students. Participating students tend to be studious and academically-driven, but may want to work on skills in community living and engagement.
IV. Resource Center—development in progress
The Center for Student Academic Success is creating a digital and physical resource library for parents, students, and mentors throughout the TU community with books, articles, and videos about various topics related to people with special needs. While this is a work in progress, the Resource Library is collecting reference materials for students, peer mentors, faculty, and parents who seek further information about the impact of a disability in a collegiate setting. Prospective and current students can benefit from materials about campus and community resources to physicians, counselors, clergy, and support groups.
V. Sensory Room
Students have access to several Sensory Rooms open during working hours: on the 2nd Floor of Hardesty Hall at CSAS, on the 3rdFloor of Chapman Hall, and at the Testing Center for students with disability accommodations in McFarlin Library. Sensory Rooms are therapeutic places for students to de-stress with or without various sensory inputs. CSAS’s Sensory Rooms offer weighted blankets, tactile materials, fidgets, yoga mats, coloring books, puzzles, sensory lighting, limited noise and noise-cancelling headphones, white noise machines, sensory materials, bubble lights, pin art, sensory seating options, and relaxing projected imagery.