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Transitioning to the University Environment: The transition to a post-secondary university education environment involves many new experiences and some challenges. There are many differences in the nature of structure, routine, and supports available to students in high school as compared to a four-year university. This brochure explains some of these differences and provides a comparison of services provided by the fee-based STEP program for students with autism and other services provided by the Academic Success Center at EIU for students with disabilities.


STEP Mission:

  • To encourage and foster self-confidence, self-advocacy, and growing independence in academically-ready students with autism;
  • To assist these students in gaining a greater understanding of themselves while supporting their efforts to assume responsibility and control over areas of their lives as young, adult college students;
  • To understand students’ strengths and weaknesses, and help them learn and apply skills and strategies to successfully navigate the communication, planning, and problem solving demands of college life. 


STEP Services: Students in STEP receive services in aspects of executive functions; self-appraisal and advocacy; insightful and flexible social communication; social engagement on campus, and orienting and adapting to the routines of college life. STEP is not a special education program nor is it designed or intended to teach, re-teach, or modify the academic curriculum requirements of the University or the courses your college student enrolls in. 


Our ApproachWe use structured supports, scheduled guidance, skill- and strategy-teaching sessions, individualized coaching, peer and graduate mentors, and professional speech-langauge pathologists with expertise in adolescent and young adult development to foster independence and accountability. In order to directly address executive function, academic, social, and daily living skills, STEP provides the following opportunities:

  • Early Move-in dates, extended orientation events, and personalized campus navigation tours promote transition from home to residence hall life
  • Color-coded schedules help students anticipate daily expectations, monitor time and location, and plan ahead
  • Structured Study Tables facilitate dedicated study time in quiet, low-key, positive atmosphere
  • Individualized peer mentorships offer social and interpersonal supports adapting to university life
  • Weekly individualized coaching meetings help students identify priorities, anticipate problems, organize efforts for the week, improve monitoring of projects and performance, set and evaluate goals;
  • College 101: Weekly small group meetings for all new students to acclimate to college routines, orient to expectations (e.g., syllabi, email, study strategies, college schedules, office hours, etc)
  • Academic Engineering: Weekly small group session for those students who need continued support learning to monitor grades, due dates, etc.
  • Social Navigation: Weekly small group focusing on expanding social perspective taking and flexible social thinking
  • Procedural Executive Functions: Weekly small group work developing insight, self-awareness, strategic planning, task monitoring/initiation, time management, organization and prioritization skills
  • Executive Function & Social Coaching: Weekly small group work to guide transition to self-directed use of EF skills and strategies
  • Work-Life Transition: weekly small group to support developing resumes, identify work or internship opportunities, expand communication skills to prepare for interviews, etc.
  • Monthly Social Events: enhance the opportunity for friendships, active involvement on campus, and vocational skill development
  • Written reports twice each semester provide parents with analyses, updates of progress and needs, and goals for the next semester; phone calls and/or email with parents are also utilized to maintain communication
  • Education and Advocacy: STEP supports students in unexpected or high-stress situations; we engage in outreach and collaboration with offices across campus to facilitate students' success as they work to meet university requirements and expectations
  • Clinical Analysis & Referrals: Record review and assessment of executive functions, social communication, and/or language/reasoning skills
  • Clinical speech-language therapy services – We may recommend intervention to support communication development (e.g., language processing/language disorders, executive functions, social perspective-taking skills, etc.). No additional cost is required for these services.


STEP Students: We are ideally geared towards those students with a diagnosis of autism who are academically transition-ready for the college classroom and who desire to participate in our program as they strive to become responsible for the success of their college career and goals. Candidates for admission to STEP have typically been enrolled in college-preparatory level courses in high school and/or community college. We are a good match for students who have the ability to direct parts of their day without the need for 1:1 support or extensive modifications to their homework assignments, but who still need guidance organizing, prioritizing, planning, and monitoring the completion of their homework. We are also a good match for those students who have some degree of accurate self-awareness as we support their efforts to learn about and respond effectively to the social and communication situations of the college environment. 


STEP Admissions: STEP has limited enrollment, an application and interview process, and a commitment of 11-12 hours a week from students. All students who are initially admitted and agree to participate in STEP take part in the Full STEP program. Students who demonstrate success at EIU and need less support for continued success (per STEP reports and STEP director recommendation) may transition to the STEP Maintenance program, where they develop more independence and self-regulation.

Related Pages

Contact Information

Eastern Illinois University STEP Program

1311 Klehm Hall
600 Lincoln Ave.
Charleston, IL 61920
(217) 581-6361
Fax: (217) 581-7105

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