John Miller is currently a student at Northern Essex Community College. John was born with Autism (ASD) and in his pursuit to become a paraprofessional, he realized he might struggle in college without the supports he received in middle school and high school, which had allowed him to thrive and succeed. Once John decided to enroll in college, he knew he would benefit from unique college support services to help provide him with more structure and tools for success in his new educational environment. Thankfully, John then found the College Navigator program through his service coordinator at Massachusetts' Department of Developmental Services.
“What I liked the most about interacting with Easterseals staff was telling them what my plan was for each day of the week, and then telling them what work I had to for each subject... this was a great way for them to check once a week to see my progress through my semester.” -John Miller
John’s quote demonstrates a common oversight by the public regarding people with autism in the college setting, wherein such potential students don’t necessarily struggle with the tehcnical subject matter. Instead, these student’s disability causes (solvable) challenges that are related to social and organizational skills such as time management and proper communication with peers and professors. College Navigator was developed by Easterseals Massachusetts in 2017 to address unmet needs like John’s and help students with disabilities form an educational structure that is suited to their specific needs to succeed – something that is sorely lacking from post-secondary education. 94% of high school students with learning disabilities receive academic support services as opposed to only 17% of students receiving those services in college.
“They gave me different strategies of how to handle my schedule along with homework and free time, they would give a chart to fill out of what my full schedule of a certain day would be like.” -John Miller
Morgan Waite, John’s College Navigator, met one-on-one with John throughout the semester to ensure he had the tools and confidence to stay on top of his coursework without getting too stressed out. College Navigator Counselors cater to each student specifically, meeting on campus as often as needed to ensure a student’s success.
“They encouraged me to try the different strategies for managing my time. Easterseals showed me how to balance doing my homework while also getting some free time in. Not having fee time was a big stressor for me previously.” -John Miller
John’s story is a shining example of College Navigator’s individualistic approach. He had the freedom to succeed independently, receiving tools and guidance from Easterseals along the way.
After receiving transition services from ESMA, John hopes to earn his associate degree and pursue a career as a paraprofessional! John’s experience is an example of the full spectrum of Easterseal’s core mission; providing equal opportunities for people with disabilities to live, learn, work, and play in their own local communities. At the highest level, the underlying goal of Easterseals is to identify where gaps in opportunities are most salient and then address these gaps with innovative programming. Creating successful settings for people with disabilities in the college setting is the perfect example of a modern concern for people with disabilities in 2020, especially since people like John have so much to offer to the education and labor force!
Learn more about Easterseals Massachusetts’ College Navigator Program here.