Student with autism beats the odds with Austin Peay program

FOX 17 News

Returning back to school can be an anxious time for any student. But, for children with autism, it's even more trying, especially when they get ready to tackle college.

With autism rates doubling in the last two decades, one midstate university is rising to meet the need head-on.

Chloe Sybert feels right at home on her swing at Austin Peay State University. She said swinging back and forth in the center of campus makes her feel relaxed and helps her self calm from the stress of college.

“I was bullied in school a lot and picked on. I'm a social work major and I want to be able to go to schools to help people who have special needs who are getting bullied in their school,” Sybert explained.

Only about 20 percent of students with autism graduate college, but Chloe is certain she will turn her tassle with the support of a pioneer program at Austin Peay just for students on the spectrum.

Only a handful of places in the country have a collegiate full spectrum learning center, one program calls Clarksville home.

Officials said the program is similar to an individualized education plan, but on a college level. The Full Spectrum Learning model helps students like Chloe with social skills, studying techniques, tutoring, organization and interview skills.

“All I ever felt was labeled," Chloe said. "I had I.E.P. [independent education plan at public school] meetings and everything and now that I was in college, I wanted to be somewhat independent.”

Diamond Brant spends time working as a peer mentor at the Full Spectrum Learning Center.

“Imagine us being lonely, but having autism and being lonely is 10 times worse," Brant said. "You just feel like the world is against you, and I don't want anybody to feel that way.”

Chloe said without the help of the learning center, she's not sure she would have the courage to find her true passion or purpose. Now, she expresses herself by sharing her artwork on her Colors Of My Spectrum Facebook page.

"I probably wouldn't have been able to find a passion that I did," Chloe said. "Now I want to help other people with disabilities.”

Programs like the one at Austin Peay are rare at most colleges. The link below can help find schools with similar programs:

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