TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Adults with autism are now able to earn a degree at Stillman College.
Stillman College has signed a memorandum of understanding with Arts ‘n Autism that allows students in the Learning Independence for Education and Employment Program (LIFEE) to take classes for academic credit and pursue any degree the college offers.
In 2018, LIFEE students began taking Stillman courses for audit only. The program has progressed quickly, and now LIFEE students are also taking classes for degree pathways.
“The LIFEE program does a tremendous job in helping move young adults with autism to greater independence,” said Dr. Cynthia Warrick, president of Stillman College. “By creating the opportunity to earn a degree at Stillman, we’re providing an important path to help LIFEE students to achieve independence and have brighter futures.”
Students in the LIFEE program have graduated from high school and are ready for either work or college. The program includes vocational preparation with supervised work experience in the community. The LIFEE program began in 2011.
Arts ‘n Autism’s enrollment agreement with Stillman is the latest outgrowth of its LIFEE program at Stillman, which has been housed at the college for four years. The LIFEE program recently relocated across campus to Knox Hall, a dormitory that provides more space and resources to enhance the life skills component of the program.
Currently, eight of the 18 LIFEE students are taking degree-earning courses at Stillman. Those eight students currently enrolled have an A-plus average, said Debbie Glass, LIFEE executive director emeritus.
Glass says that interest in the LIFEE program has increased in recent weeks.
“We’re getting interest from students who have autism who’ve heard about (Arts ‘n Autism) and already wanted to go Stillman, and now they’re calling us about services we provide to help make that happen,” Glass said. “Just last week, we interviewed four new prospective Stillman students.”
Stillman Provost Dr. Mark McCormick said the LIFEE students pursuing degrees at Stillman will have access to the same classes and resources as other Stillman students and will learn alongside their peers. LIFEE will support each participant with their classwork, homework, projects and preparation for class, while Stillman faculty will provide extended time to take tests or extending deadlines, among other accommodations.
“The growth of the LIFEE program at Stillman is directly related to one of Dr. Warrick’s early initiatives of our campus being open to the community,” McCormick said. “We’re proud to see our partnership reach a new milestone, not just for the LIFEE participants, but also for our Stillman students, specifically our special education majors, who’ll have the opportunity to participate in collaborative education with their counterparts from LIFEE.”