Elms College, autism, and me

In just two hours, I am headed over to Elms College to introduce their new Graduate School concentration in Asperger’s/autism. I’ll be speaking to students at 4, followed by a reception for friends of the college, mental health professionals, and local educators. I’ll also be doing a public reading and book signing in their auditorium at 7.

The Elms is a small college in Chicopee, right near Robison Service. They have been educating teachers and mental health professionals from this area for many years, and they are now about to roll out the autism program nationally.

Their courses, which will use my book (among other materials), are taught by Dr. Kathy Dyer. Dr. Dyer is well known for her work with autistic kids at the River Street Autism Program at Coltsville in Hartford, Connecticut. We’ve worked together to prepare a teacher’s guide to my book. You can download the guide from the educator’s page of my website.

Elms is preparing to offer their courses to everyone online as well as in the classrooms here in Chicopee. I am pleased to announce that I’ll be working with the Elms on two fronts: First, I’ll be talking with their students and faculty to make whatever contribution a 10th grade dropout can make to a graduate school. Second, I’ll be acting as a spokesman to bring attention to the school and its programs.

I’ll also be talking about my new scholarship initiative for The Elms.

Those of you in education know how hard it can be to return to college for graduate course work. Even when a school district pays for tuition, costs of books, course materials, and child care may put programs like ours out of reach for many. To address that concern I have founded a scholarship fund to provide living expense assistance on a case-by-case basis.

I am pleased and proud to announce that the fund is off to a great start, with six $1,000 founding donations, from me, my therapist friend TR Rosenberg, and local business leaders Wayne McCary of the Eastern States Exposition, Joe Partyka, Paul Picknelly, and Bill Wagner of Chicopee Savings Bank.

I’ll have more news soon on how any of you can donate to the Elms scholarship, or how you can apply to receive assistance as an Elms graduate student.


John, this is fantastic. The Aspergian kids have a very tough go as they straddle both worlds. I've heard there's a really good book about it......

(PS) Tomorrow?
Polly Kahl said…
That's great I went to college in a community college at age 25, after thinking I was stupid (excuse the word) for years. I did so well I continued on, getting my associates, bachelors and masters degrees in eight years. I couldn't have done it without financial aid from donations similar to the one you have set up. Then I went on to help others who had been hurt the same way I had been. There's nothing like paying it forward. Congrats on making a difference in the lives of others. It's beautiful when it all comes around like that.
Anonymous said…
Pretty cool how you were a roadie for KISS! Ever do that with the Who or the Stones?

I'm married to a fellow Aspergian, BTW?

John Robison said…
Sara, I didn't work for the Stones myself, but their stage manager had his car at my shop just a few weeks back. We still see a lot of musicians at my place . . .
ORION said…
What a wonderful legacy John! Way to go!
Aprilynne Pike said…
Wow, go John. You are positively amazing. You've got a salute from me . . . as the wife of a graduate student (law school) I'm afraid you don't get a contribution from me, but maybe someday. This is the kind of thing I would love to contribute to.
m said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
87, that is a funny comment! I will John. And I snapped a photo for you last night at Bruce Springsteen. I'll blog it later today.

Unknown said…

I went to Elm's for your book reading last night, it was inspirational!
As a Special Education teacher myself , I am looking forward to reading your book. Allowing me to sit in the shoes of a few of my students. Thank you for this!

Melly said…
As a teacher feeling herself being pulled by some cosmic force towards grad school AND working with kids with autims I find this very very exciting. :) Thanks, John, for all you're doing to teach the world about kids like my sweet boy.
Melly said…
That's "autism." *the English teacher blushes at her typo*
John, as a mother of a daughter with a nonverbal learning disability, I read your book with utter amazement. I laughed and cried, but mostly you have given me hope beyond any of the other books I have read (and there have been MANY). Although people with "spectrum disorders" always seem to be portrayed with a kind of "unhuman/robotic" quality...your humanity has shown through your book more so than all the rest. It has been six years since my daughter Tori's diagnosis and because of my understanding of social skills deficits and other areas effected by NLD and spectrum disorders, she has had the help and intervention she needed. I have seen a little scared rejected girl with no friends blossom into a teenager with many friends and a passion for musical theatre. She, like you, is a fabulous writer and has talents that no one else has. Her so called "social skills" deficits have also shielded her from peer pressure and the need to do things just to feel accepted by others. I admire her bravery, confidence and commitment to being herself with no excuses. I only wish I felt that way at 14 years old. People like you, willing to share your story, give parents like myself hope and joy. God bless you and your logical mind!!! Thank you.
Michelle O'Neil said…
John, this is wonderful. It's not just the Aspergians who benefit, bit the typicals as well. With the right understanding, (brought by well trained teachers) these kids get to experience the Aspergians in a whole new way, and don't miss out on the gifts they have to offer.
Appletini said…
Wow, that is great...a program with an emphasis on autism :)
Unknown said…
well good grief, John R. the success is just pouring off of you. i'm going to give you my name now: the energizer bunny...you just keep going and going; however, i think giving could be added to going. well done.
shauna said…
Hey ever in NC? I'm a special ed teacher AND the proud parent of a six year old Aspergian child (who is a genious btw). This book is so great! I'm on the J.O.B, and he is starting to come home from school with comments like "Momma, they found a program that works for me", and "I'm special because my nose is sensitive which means that I can smell more than everybody else". Seriously, I would never change him and he has stopped saying that he is bad. Although, living and dealing with him can be difficult. For example, he's in ISS today for hitting another kid. He will always be loved and cherished by me!

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