Bridgewater College launches new program for students with autism spectrum disorder

John Kenny Forrer Learning Commons at Bridgewater College
John Kenny Forrer Learning Commons at Bridgewater College(WHSV)
Published: Mar. 18, 2022 at 8:19 PM EDT
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ROCKINGHAM COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) - Bridgewater College has launched the Bridgewater Academic and Social Experience, or BASE, program. It is an individualized, student-centered program offered to students with autism spectrum disorder, or to students who feel they may benefit from the support provided.

Regina Wine-Nash is the assistant director for academic support and disability services at Bridgewater College, and she is now also taking on the role of the director of the BASE program. She said that this new program will add an extra layer of support for students on campus.

“For some time, our office has recognized the needs of students with autism spectrum disorder and observed that a lot of students would benefit from additional support,” Wine-Nash said. “Campus and college life can be challenging for a lot of students, especially for those with autism spectrum disorder who may experience some additional challenges.”

She said the BASE program takes a holistic approach to support, going beyond academics. The program offers mentors, transitional support, social support, vocational support, residential support, and, of course, academic support. Wine-Nash said it also offers support to parents.

To aid in the transition from home to residence hall life, students in the BASE program will move in early to get acclimated to their new surroundings. They will also be given a personalized campus tour based on their class schedules and routines before classes begin.

“This comprehensive list of services really serves to allow students to build and apply the strategies and self advocacy needed to navigate many aspects of college life,” she said.

While some students make connections attending events or joining clubs on campus, Wine-Nash said that can be intimidating for students with autism spectrum disorder. BASE program students will receive a variety of social support, including weekly meetings with specially trained program mentors as well as monthly group social events with other members of the program.

“This program really breaks down these supports to ensure that these students are creating connections in an environment that is most comfortable for them in order to obtain their goals,” Wine-Nash said.

While programs like the BASE program may be more common at large college campuses, Wine-Nash said it is hard to find at a small campus, which she thinks may draw other students to Bridgewater College.

“This program has the opportunity to reach and support students far beyond the Shenandoah Valley, so that is certainly our hope that we will reach a variety of students,” Wine Nash said.

The cost of the support program is $1,000 per semester.

For more information on the BASE program, click here.

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