UM Delivers Programs for Students, Children with Autism

April 02, 2014

MISSOULA – April is autism awareness month and The RiteCare Speech, Language and Hearing Clinic at the University of Montana is delivering programs to support UM students, Missoula College students and school-age children with autism or related disorders.

The clinic is promoting autism awareness and inclusion at UM and MC through a new program called Mentoring, Organization and Social Support for Autism Inclusion on Campus, or MOSSAIC.

The program is directed by Jennifer Closson, a RiteCare clinic director of pediatric services, and Bethany Rigles, research associate for UM’s Rural Institute. It is in its second year of development and is designed to assist college students on the autism spectrum by offering them free services.

 MOSSAIC matches peer mentors, who are juniors and seniors in the UM Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders, with mentees who are on the autism spectrum or have similar disorder, and need assistance.

Mentors work with students to develop academic-related skills such as planning, organization, social support, advocacy and prioritization, among others, that are necessary for student success. Students with autism, Asperger syndrome, related disorders, social challenges or organizational challenges are encouraged to inquire about MOSSAIC services.

The RiteCare clinic also offers a program to support school-age children with autism or related disorders in their social-skill development. Youth Engagement Through Intervention, or YETI, employs evidence-based practices. The UM Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders and School Psychology program provide interdisciplinary intervention to support children with autism.

Participants –Yetis –receive individualized attention in working on conversation skills, making friends, telephone skills, dealing with disappointment and telling jokes, among others.

“The Yetis respond favorably to the highly structured and engaging activities,” Closson said.

YETI is offered each semester for eight weeks with space for four to six participants. Each session lasts one and a half hours.

This summer, the clinic will host its second annual YETI Day Camp. This camp will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 16-20 with space for 10 Yetis.

To learn more about the YETI program or the camp, call Closson or Anisa Goforth, UM assistant professor of psychology, at 406-243-2405; email jennifer.closson@mso.umt.edu or anisa.gorforth@mso.umt.edu; or visit their office, located in the lower level of Curry Health Center at 634 Eddy Ave.

To learn more about MOSSAIC, call Closson or Rigles at 406-243-2405; email jennifer.closson@mso.umt.edu or bethany.rigles@mso.umt.edu; or visit their office, located in the lower level of Curry Health Center, at 634 Eddy Ave.

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Contact: Jennifer Closson, The RiteCare Speech, Language and Hearing Clinic assistant professor and clinic director of pediatric services, 406-243-5261, jennifer.closson@mso.umt.edu.