Autism Initiative at Mercyhurst (AIM)
In 2008, Mercyhurst introduced the Autism Initiative to meet the needs of the growing population of university students diagnosed with autism. This program helps students build a foundation of self-advocacy, social, vocational, and academic skills to work toward success during college and after graduation.
The AIM Program emphasizes academic, independent, social, emotional, executive functioning, and vocational (AISEE-V) domains with trained Student Support Coordinators to support neurodiverse students during all the stages of their college journey. The AIM department empowers students to become academically and socially engaged members of the Mercyhurst University community. A Career Path Coordinator serves as a liaison to help students network with neurodiverse employers and assists students in acquiring meaningful employment after graduation.
The AIM Program offers specialized housing, academic resources, a healthy relationship curriculum, career path classes, social skills programming, special gatherings and events, vocational and experiential travel opportunities, a comprehensive driving program, and AISEE-V advising weekly meetings with an assigned Student Support Coordinator. We also have two licensed staff that run The Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills (PEERS®). The AIM program supports referrals to the Learning Differences Office for specialized accommodations.
Admission to Mercyhurst University does not guarantee admission to the AIM program, and students must complete a separate application and interview process with the AIM admissions team. Space is limited, applications are accepted on a rolling admission process, and early application is suggested. Students in AIM pay additional fees for the enhanced services they receive.
The AIM program also offers national and international training, consultation, and speaking engagements. Training can include speaking with families and groups or guiding other higher education institutions and service providers in implementing autism support programming.
The AIM program also offers the CREATE summer program -- one of the top college readiness programs in the country -- for adults with autism. This nationally acclaimed summer experience simulates the on-campus living experience to help neurodiverse students determine if they are ready for the demands of college life. Students live in a Mercyhurst residence hall, eat in the dining hall, enroll in a three-credit college course, and interact with fellow students in various social settings. The students also participate in the College 101 Series and the Mini-Series Lectures, which help students learn about college offices and expose them to different faculty and lecture styles. Space is limited, and early application is suggested.