State officials and local lawmakers tout West Chester University opportunities for students with autism

WEST CHESTER — State Sen. Carolyn Comitta (D-19th Dist.) and State Rep. Christina Sappey (D-158th Dist.) joined Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry Secretary Jennifer Berrier on Tuesday and Acting Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services Meg Snead at West Chester University to reinforce Governor Wolf’s administration’s commitment to promoting competitive integrated employment for people with disabilities and highlighting a program that helps students with autism make the transition from high school to college and ultimately to the workforce.

“Our communities, our workplaces and our universities are all enriched by the contributions of people with disabilities,” Berrier said. “Barriers to competitive integrated employment hurt everyone. Programs like D-CAP in West Chester – which break down these barriers – meet the individual needs of students with autism, but we are all beneficiaries of this commitment to inclusion.

West Chester’s Dub-C Autism Program, or D-CAP, is one of many programs across the Commonwealth supported by the Wolf Administration’s 2017 initiative to provide financial and administrative support to students with autism in their pursuit higher education and competitive employment. The initiative is supported by the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation or OVR of PA Labor & Industry.

Through this program, OVR supports D-CAP students by helping them identify a career path and prepare for competitive and integrated employment. The OVR also provides financial aid of up to $2,500 per student per semester to those attending D-CAP, depending on the level of support needed. The program currently provides financial support to 52 students in the program.

The DHS Office of Developmental Programs provides services and supports to Pennsylvanians with autism spectrum disorders and their families and caregivers. This includes services that support inclusive and meaningful employment for adults with autism.

“DHS is committed to creating a future that includes people with autism as fully integrated members of our communities, and we are grateful that West Chester University is a partner in this effort,” Snead said. “Schools, universities and workplaces that welcome the talents of everyone, including people with autism, are an essential part of our efforts to build an inclusive community and a strong economy. I encourage other universities and workplaces to consider West Chester as a model of opportunity and support for Pennsylvanians with autism.

On Tuesday, representatives from both departments joined Comitta and Sappey at the D-CAP Center to see the program in action, meet students and learn how the D-CAP program has made West Chester University a more welcoming and inclusive campus.

“The Dub-C program for autism is a leading example of autism acceptance in action,” Comitta said. “While early childhood education and intervention remain important for young people with autism, higher education and career-focused programs like this address a vital need to support and empower all students to succeed in our communities and workplaces Students and people with autism bring diverse and unique talents, perspectives and contributions.

“Thank you to all who continue to prioritize the inclusion and acceptance of autism in Commonwealth schools, universities, organizations and businesses.”

“It was wonderful to join Senator Comitta, Secretary Snead, Secretary Berrier and the students of the Dub-C Autism Program today,” Sappey said. “We’ve learned so much about autism over the past 20 years, so it’s really encouraging to see inclusion in practice here. Neurodiverse people want to be productive members of the community, just like all of us. , and this supportive programming enables young people to move forward in their education and on the path to self-reliance.I am extremely proud of West Chester University for their leadership in this area.

The D-CAP program has expanded to include several on-campus academic autism readiness retreat summer programs for students with autism. West Chester’s HYPE program – High School Youth Preparation for Higher Education – also prepares students by helping them gain experience in an area of ​​interest, exposing them to a university environment and improving their integration skills. community. Program includes after-school classes with hands-on learning experiences during the school year at the Southeastern Pennsylvania Autism Resource Center, peer mentorship, parent education and support program and a summer program that includes on-campus classes and experiences at West Chester University.

“West Chester University is deeply grateful to Governor Wolf and his administration, particularly the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation at L&I and the Office of Developmental Programs at DHS, for supporting initiatives that make a difference in the quality of lives of students with autism,” said Chris Fiorentino, president of West Chester University. “We strongly believe that if a student is accepted into West Chester University, it is our responsibility to do everything we can to help that student succeed and cross the finish line. Our Dub-C for Autism program is an important example of how the university’s access mission is intentionally implemented every day inside and outside the classroom. I couldn’t be more proud of our D-CAP students and those D-CAP leaders who work diligently to ensure that the program and its expanded initiatives are transformative for everyone involved. Inclusion is an uncompromising priority for West Chester University and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

More information on autism at https://www.dhs.pa.gov/Services/Disabilities-Aging/Pages/Autism-Services.aspx.

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