Mosaic is a multifaceted and comprehensive program developed to support the holistic needs of UTC students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). This program has been in existence since 2008 and was developed out of the request and expressed needs of students with ASD. Due to the director’s previous experience with ASD and the drive to provide this population of students with the support they may need, the program has grown into one of the most comprehensive programs in the country.
This program began with research and stumbling until the administrators were able to bring out an expert in the field to discuss the development. Dr. Jane Thierfeld Brown visited with the program administrators and staff, offering advice and direction during the development phase. Perhaps the best advice she offered was to develop a credit bearing course to attach to the program. This has been the staple of our program and is what keeps the students engaged.
Over the past three years, program administrators and staff have researched and visited other programs that provide comprehensive support to this population of college students in an attempt to develop Best Practices. We visited and researched notable programs that have been doing this work for a number of years. We were pleased to know that many of these programs were also interested in what we do at UTC. We determined the parts of many programs that could be distinguished as Best Practices and used these components to ensure that we are providing the most comprehensive services on a consistent basis.
These components include (1) A credit bearing course with a fully established curriculum with a letter grade attached, (2) Academic/Life Coaching, (3) Peer/Faculty Mentoring, and (4) Required supervised study hours.
(1) Credit Bearing Curriculum: This curriculum is made up of four yearlong courses dedicated to the development of the social skills needed to navigate through a college career. Each subsequent year builds on the skills developed during the previous year. The curriculum is written and structured based on the latest research in the field.
Year 1: Charting the Course: Navigating the social roadmap of college
This year focuses on the transition into college and becoming independent. The curriculum has components regarding understanding ASD and the impact, developing independence, self-advocacy, and navigating the different levels of relationships at college among other topics.
Year 2: Discovering a new path: Rerouting your view
The curriculum for this year focuses primarily on reframing the students’ view of ASD and seeing the truly positive qualities that often get lost among the difficulties. In addition, students focus on the unwritten social rules and develop tools for how to manage these rules that are so difficult to navigate.
Year 3: Trekking the summit: Exploring the trail from school to career
The curriculum for this year builds on the newly developed view of the students’ individual strengths and builds on developing an understanding of how these strengths can work best in the school and work environment. In addition, students learn to recognize strengths in others to best navigate how to build effective teams. Student then explore major choices, work experience, job shadowing, internships, mock interviews, and resume building as tools to better prepare themselves for the work force.
Year 4: Defining the journey: Arriving at your career destination
The focus of this year is to build on all the pieces of the career puzzle. Getting students to recognize all the parts that work together to make them marketable is vital. The focus of this year is real work experience through job shadowing, supervised internships, volunteer experience, career fairs, major internships, etc. All while providing the very direct and structured feedback needed to develop good soft skills for the work place.
(2) Academic/Life Coaching: Participants in Mosaic meet with a coach to develop solid academic and social skills each week. Each session with a coach is focused on the individual needs of each student at the time of the meeting. Some students may meet two times per week while others meet once per week. During each session, students discuss course requirements for other classes, time management difficulties, grade accountability, roommate difficulties, communication difficulties, confusion about requirements, etc. Grades are checked with the student frequently to help monitor academic progress throughout the semester.
(3) Peer/Faculty Mentoring: During the first two years of the program, students are partnered with a trained peer mentor who is student who displays leadership and social understanding on the college campus. In addition, these mentors have either a desire to learn about ASD or have an existing knowledge about ASD. As students progress into the junior and senior levels of education the mentoring focus shifts to faculty in their designated majors. These faculty members serve in the role of networking, professional development guides. Again, offering very direct feedback about the needed skills and introducing students to the real life application of their gained knowledge in the field helps to set them up for professional success.
(4) Required supervised study sessions: Participants in Mosaic are required to complete no less than four hours of study sessions in the Disability Resource Center per week. When reporting to study hours, students inform coaches of what he or she will be studying during the timeframe. At the end of the study session, the student then reports what he or she accomplished. This allows coaches to determine if students are making use of good study habits, or if there are distractions interfering. This time requirement also allows for students to naturally develop support systems to help themselves and others in the community. Evening study hours are available two days per week.
The most recent addition to our program is an informal lunch group called Aspergirls. This lunch group is a need that has developed out of the growing population of girls with ASD enrolling in the program. This program is informal and has no agenda other than meeting as a group and talking about shared experiences. Program staff have received very positive feedback about this simple addition to the Mosaic Program.
- For more information on MoSAIC, please click here
You may also contact:
Michelle Rigler at 423-425-4008 or Michelle-Rigler@utc.edu
Amy Rutherford at 423-425-2202 or Amy-Rutherford@utc.edu
- For more information on Autism and/or Aspergers, please click here
To read articles about the MoSAIC program, please click the following links: