The first cohort of Master of Autism Studies (MAS) students completed their initial semester of this innovative graduate program. One of the first courses students take provides them with an in-depth understanding of autistic people and their everyday lives.
Gateway: Autistic Experiences is designed to give students the opportunity to take the scholarly research on autism learned in the classroom and apply that to an individual person’s experience living with autism. The course focuses on teaching students how to identify similar and different challenges faced by those with autism, as well as how gender, culture, and other factor affect life with autism. At the end of the semester MAS students are paired with an autistic person in the South Bend community to study first person accounts of living autism.
The mentorship between the student and a person with autism gives our students answers to important philosophical questions such as “what type of language (person first language or identity first language) is preferred when describing people on the spectrum and why.” This helps students understand the perspective of autistic individuals and realize the subtle or vast differences in the way people conceptualize autism.
One student who completed her mentorship said, “During the Gateway class, I learned that autism is unique for each individual and it affects the individual, his/her family, community, and society. My mentor views autism as a superpower and is proud of the neurodiversity. Before this course, I was familiar with a few teenagers with autism, but learning from my mentor further emphasized how each individual is unique. I've learned so much from these summer courses and I am looking forward to the next semester of work!”