Square One:  Launching a Campus-Based Autism Support Initiative

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A three-part virtual instructional series for higher education professionals interested in launching a campus program or initiative to support autistic and other neurodivergent students. Sessions will be held the week of June 5 on Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons from 3 pm until 4:30.

Autism support programs take many forms, from small initiatives located in a disability services office to a fully-staffed stand-alone program serving many students across campus. All of these programs have one thing in common: they began with an idea and a plan to implement that idea. This three-part live instructional series is designed for campus-based professionals who are interested in launching a new program, or taking an existing program or initiative to a new level.

Participants will be part of a planning cohort that will extend for up to a year and will be supported by an experienced mentor.


  • Laurie Ackles, Director, Spectrum Support Program, Rochester Institute of Technology
  • Jane Thierfeld Brown, Director, College Autism Spectrum

Who Should Attend

  • Program/initiative leaders, including those who have been newly charged with investigating possible program models
  • Disability support professionals considering a new initiative focused on autism and related neurodiversity
  • Senior campus professionals seeking ways to recruit, support, and retain more neurodivergent students

About the Program

Session 1:  June 5 

Creating a Plan

This session will focus on determining campus needs, setting goals, and engaging champions to gain buy-in for programming efforts.  We will discuss budgeting and financing options, staffing models, getting the word out about initiatives, and strategies for working with parents on their changing role. 

Session 2:  June 7

Building Initial Efforts

The most successful efforts start small and expand as resources and capacity allows.  This session will include discussions about building processes and programming that support the transition from high school to college and college to work, important considerations when establishing mentoring and coaching supports, and building campus capacity through comprehensive training efforts.

Session 3: June 9

Ensuring Success

The final session will discuss considerations related to improving existing supports, gathering data to evaluate success and working toward continuous improvement.  There will be ample time for Q&A.  Mentors will be introduced to begin developing your semester or year-long relationships.


  • CAN Members:  $550 (second participant from same school: $350)
  • Non-CAN Members:  $750 (second participant from same school: $450)

Registration includes access to three live 75-minute sessions the week of June 5, recordings of each session for review, all preparation and learning materials, and one year of mentoring as part of a group of other participants. The frequency of mentor meetings will be determined, in part, by the group based on needs and interests.

Registration Deadline

Midnight May 15, 2023

About the Instructors

Laurie Ackles

Laurie Ackles is a licensed social worker in upstate NY and has served as the Director of the Spectrum Support Program at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) since 2010. Under Laurie’s leadership, the Spectrum Support Program has become a national leader in addressing the complex needs of an expanding population of degree-seeking college students on the autism spectrum. Laurie is a trailblazer in her work related to helping college students on the autism spectrum prepare for successful employment after graduation. She serves as an advisor to Untapped Group, an Australian-based organization that is focused on creating a sustainable neurodiverse employment ecosystem that effectively connects neurodiverse job seekers on the autism spectrum with employers seeking diverse talent. Laurie is a frequent national speaker and the author of several publications.

Image of Jane Thierfeld Brown

Jane Thierfeld Brown is former Assistant Clinical Professor at Yale Child Study, Yale Medical School, Director of College Autism Spectrum and retired Director of Student Services at the University of Connecticut School of Law. She has worked in Disability Services for over 40 years. She holds an Ed.D from Columbia University, Teachers College. Dr. Brown consults with many families, students, school districts and institutions of higher education. Dr. Brown has appeared on Good Morning America, CBS News and NPR. She has co- authored “ Student with Asperger’s: A Guide for College Professionals,” (2009) Translated into Japanese (2017,)  “The Parent’s Guide to College for Students on the Autism Spectrum,” (2012) and “Behavior Management and Self-Regulation,” (2012) along with many textbook chapters and articles. Dr. Brown is married and has three children, the youngest being a 31 year old son with Autism.