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Neurodiversity Initiative at Chestnut Hill College

Neurodiversity Initiative at Chestnut Hill College

image of St. Joseph Hall on blue banner with text - "join an inclusive environment where neurodiversity is celebrated!"

 

Chestnut Hill College recognizes that the transition to college is a time of significant change for many young adults. For neurodivergent individuals diagnosed with Autism, ADHD, and other learning differences, excitement and anticipation of college is frequently coupled with a sense of nervousness about these important next steps.  

To set the stage for individual success, it is important to identify a college that offers support specific to the needs of the neurodivergent community—one with an inclusive environment that focuses on developing individuals and their relationships with others. Through its mission, inclusive campus, ideal faculty-to-student ratio, and student-centered model of teaching, Chestnut Hill College fosters such an environment and has developed programming specifically designed for neurodivergent individuals. The Neurodiversity College Program (degree program) opened in the Summer of 2022 and the Neurodiversity Life Skills through Career (LSC) Program will be opening in Fall 2023. You can learn more about both programs below.

Chestnut Hill College offers an inclusive environment where neurodiversity is celebrated! Our program focuses on the following:

  • Values of diversity, equity, and inclusion including recognition of the value in brain differences to empower student advocacy-authenticity
  • Collaborative support model that is student-centered, promoting an authentic college experience
  • Extensive faculty expertise and staff training on neurodiversity
  • Innovative strengths-based approach to supporting student transition and engagement while focusing on individual growth and success
  • Campus-wide activities that are neurodiversity affirming including faculty and staff workshops to reframe thinking on neurodiversity
  • Importance of self-determination for all students to lead to empowerment

*Chestnut Hill College is member of the below organizations promoting neurodiversity

logos for neurodiversity partners Chestnut Hill College is a member of: PIHEC, CAN, NEN

 

Neurodiversity Summer Bridge and College Program (Degree Program) - Available Now!

As a part of CHC’s Neurodiversity College Program, degree-seeking students are provided an affirming and collaborative experience that is individualized to address their needs and interests. The program goal is to support a student’s journey to reach the pinnacle of their college experience, emerging prepared to be an independent, innovative thinker, contributing to and engaging with a global society using their unique skills.  

 

Summer Bridge Program

Chestnut Hill’s Neurodiversity Program starts with a dynamic Neurodiversity Summer Bridge program that is taken the summer prior to freshman year (or the summer before matriculation for transfer students). The program is designed to help students acclimate to college and life on campus as students will explore the nuances of campus life, take a 3-credit class, and start building a social network. Independent living skills and executive function strategies will be facilitated by campus staff to foster student autonomy on campus. Students are invited to live on campus for one of the six weeks, plus have opportunities for experiential, community-based learning in Philadelphia and the surrounding area, taking advantage of Chestnut Hill College’s prime location. Following completion of the three-credit summer program, students have the flexibility to take fewer courses in the fall, easing their transition to their first full semester. 

The Neurodiversity Summer Bridge is designed to: 
 

  • Acclimate incoming students to campus life

  • Develop a social network of peers and mentors 

  • Explore emotional wellness and regulation practices 

  • Build skills in self-advocacy and independence  

  • Introduce academic engagement and expectations 

  • Provide experiential learning in Philadelphia and surrounding areas 

 

College Program

After completion of the summer program, students then begin the regular college school year in the fall, either as a resident or a commuter, participating in campus life and the Neurodiversity Program for all four years of their undergraduate experience.   

As part of the College Program, students will work closely with Chestnut Hill College's Office of Career Development. This starts with a four-year targeted plan to build a career map, which is conducted in the student's first year. From there, students will benefit from continued mentorship as well as community and employment connection opportunities affiliated with organizations such as:

  • Top College Consultants
  • Praud
  • Integrate for Good
  • Specialisterne
  • Neurodiversity in the Workplace
  • Integrate Autism Employment Advisors
  • DisabilityIN - Next Gen Employment Planning
  • Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP) with the federal government

 

Following their College Program experience, neurodivergent students will have achieved success and built a toolbox of strategies across the AISE (Academic, Independent, Social, and Emotional) domains. We can expect College Program graduates to:

  • Achieve a degree and remain in good academic standing for the duration of their stay at CHC
  • Achieve placement in a career of the student’s choice based on their strengths within 6-12 months of graduation (this includes employment as well as further educational opportunities)  
  • Be prepared to live independently within the community 
  • Establish effective relationships with community members
  • Utilize self-regulation and self-advocacy skills
  • Engage and participate within the community with autonomy

 

 

Learn More about CHC's Center for Accessibility and Learning Services!

 

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CONTACT INFO

For additional information on the Neurodiversity Initiative at Chestnut Hill College, or to sign up for the program, contact Laura K. Sibbald (215-248-7087), Associate Director of the Center for Accessibility and Learning Services (CALS). 

Laura Sibbald

Laura K. Sibbald, M.A., CCC-SLP, ASDCS, CYMHS

Associate Director of the Center for Accessibility and Learning Services
Neurodiversity Initiatives

Laura K. Sibbald, MA, CCC-SLP, ASDCS, CYMHS is a nationally certified speech-language pathologist, autism spectrum disorder clinical specialist, and certified youth mental health specialist who has extensive experience supporting the social-emotional and pragmatic language needs of students and families. She has developed and implemented a variety of professional learning opportunities surrounding social-emotional competence, promoting independence, and trauma-informed practices at the state and national level. 

 

Laura has had over a decade of experience in the public-school setting, working as an SLP and an instructional specialist for special education and autism in the Washington, DC metropolitan region. To further her education and support her students, Laura earned Relationship Development Intervention (RDI) Educator Certification and Administrator I Certification in Educational Leadership and Supervision.  Laura is a coauthor of the Trauma-Informed Social-Emotional Toolbox for Children & Adolescents (PESI, 2020) and the Parenting Toolbox (PESI, 2018). Both workbooks provide practical strategies on pragmatic language and executive function skills that can readily transfer into clinical and educational professional practices. Laura has been an invited speaker at a variety of events across the country, including PESI’s 2022 Autism Symposium, where she had the privilege of working with noted neurodiversity advocates Dr. Stephen Shore, Dr. Temple Grandin, Emile Gouws, & Dr. Barry Prizant. She has tailored workshops for school systems, state associations, university campuses, and private businesses focused on the empowerment of neurodivergent learners.

 

Laura is a member of the College Autism Network, the Pennsylvania Speech-Language Hearing Association- DEI Committee, and the Maryland Speech-Language and Hearing Association- Multicultural Affairs committee, focusing on the promotion of equity practices in diverse communicators. She is an active ASHA member, serving as a topic committee member for the 2022 ASHA Convention in business practices for speech-language pathology. Laura graduated from The George Washington University in 2011 with a Master's in speech-language pathology. She is the chair of the Alumni Advisory Council for the Speech-Language Hearing Science Department at GWU. She currently resides in Philadelphia, PA, and works as the inaugural Associate Director of the Center for Accessibility and Learning Services / Neurodiversity Initiatives at Chestnut Hill College, continuing to empower the achievement of students who learn differently. 

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