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Marquette program helps students with autism adjust to college life

Posted at 11:21 AM, Sep 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-24 19:56:12-04

MILWAUKEE — About 1 in 100 college applicants are on the autism spectrum. Marquette University has a new program to help those students adjust to college life.

On Your Marq focuses on academics, social skills and independent living. Blaise Black is about a month into his freshman year at Marquette.

"It's been very strange so far. I mean, I don't think anyone goes into college knowing exactly what to expect," said Black.

Black decided to enroll in On Your Marq to help with the adjustment. Program Director Emily Raclaw said it helps students navigate college life.

"They're fine academically. They've all been traditionally admitted into Marquette. It's just that extra layer of support they need to be successful," said Raclaw.

Raclaw has a lecture every week. Students also meet with a grad coach. For Black, that's Mackenzie Heinen, who wants to be a speech language pathologist. Together they focus on academics.

"We talk a lot about the organization, schedule management, general life skills," said Heinen.

Junior Keelyn Gross is studying physical therapy. She is Black's peer mentor.

"Students who wouldn't normally choose to come to Marquette or normally choose to go to college now realize they can do it." — Emily Raclaw, program director

"How to get through the dining hall situation, the laundry and how to figure it all out," said Gross.

Black said without his coach and mentor college life would be even harder to adapt to.

"It would be very very difficult. I don't even know if I can put into words," said Black.

On Your Marq is designed to be part of the students' curriculum all four years.

"We start the first two years focusing on their transition to the academic landscape and the last two years helping them really discover those skills and talents they have and how to translate those to the workforce," said Raclaw.

They also have access to a lounge, work spaces and a sensory room.

"Students who wouldn't normally choose to come to Marquette or normally choose to go to college now realize they can do it," Raclaw said.

Five students are in the program this year. Marquette hopes to triple enrollment next year. For more information, click here.