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Campus Links gives students with autism confidence

Posted on October 06, 2016

A nonprofit organization dedicated to providing resources for families who have children with special needs ranked Grand Valley as among the top 10 U.S. campuses with services for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

In its rankings, Friendship Circle noted Grand Valley’s Campus Links program, which matches ASD students with a peer mentor to help them transition to college. See the entire list by clicking here.

Holly Miller, a senior majoring in Chinese Studies, was diagnosed with autism at age 4. She participated in the first cohort of Campus Links in 2012, and said having a mentor held her accountable and the program provided an immediate social circle.

“If I didn't participate in Campus Links, I’m not sure I would have been able to make the transition or been able to adjust to college,” said Miller, a native of Kentwood. “It helped me gain my independence from my parents.”

Campus Links is sponsored by Disability Support Resources; since the program was established five years ago, 30 mentees and 20 student mentors have participated.

Campus Links also gave Miller the confidence to participate in a study abroad program to China. She joined 10 other students on a faculty-led program to Shanghai and East China Normal University in April. Grand Valley has a partnership agreement with ECNU.

Miller has immersed herself in Chinese culture and language since she was a student at East Kentwood High School, and said traveling to China had been a lifelong goal. While there in the spring, she completed a thesis that focused on how China diagnoses autism and its education policies.

She earned a Gilman International scholarship that helped fund her trip to China. The Gilman Foundation requires scholars to complete a service project; Miller will host a campus presentation on October 18 that encourages students with autism to study abroad.

“Conquering China: Autism Style” will run from 4-5:30 p.m. in the Cook-DeWitt Center. It is approved for LIB 100 and 201 courses.

Miller is scheduled to graduate in April. She has been accepted into the graduate program at East China Normal University, where she plans to study politics.