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There are many differences between the structure, routine, and required supports of high school compared to college. 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.

Students in STEP receive services in four main areas: academic supports, executive function development, social strategy supports, and daily living transitions. The program is mindful of skills needed as students transition to college life and general education coursework as well as later transitions for advanced coursework in their major and career planning.

All students who are initially admitted and agree to participate in STEP take part in the Full STEP program. STEP has limited enrollment, an interview and application process, and a commitment of 8-10 hours a week from students if they are living on campus. 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 in self-regulation.

STEP Mission

To encourage and foster self-confidence, self-advocacy, and growing independence in college students with autism; 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. 

Our Approach

We use structured supports, scheduled guidance, skill-teaching, individualized coaching, peer and graduate mentors, all to foster independence and accountability for our students.

In order to directly address executive function, academic, social, and daily living skills, STEP provides the following opportunities:

  • Early move-in that allows for a calmer transition from the home to residence hall life;
  • A personalized campus tour focused on the individual’s schedule/routine before classes begin;
  • Individualized peer mentorships that work to facilitate the transition to university life;
  • STEP meeting –Weekly one-on-one meeting with STEP staff for academic and problem-solving guidance to track projects, performance, goal-setting, goal-execution, and self-awareness skills;
  • STEP Class – Weekly one-hour ‘class’ with staff. Topics include:
    • "College 101" basic college survival skills
    • Executive functions (e.g., strategic planning, task organization, initiation, prioritization, time management, self-monitoring, self-direction)
    • Executive function coaching services to guide development of self-appraisal and successful strategy use
    • Social perspective taking and situational appraisal skills
    • Use of social communication skills
  • Regularly scheduled academic study tables in a positive work environment;
  • Weekly meeting/social event with mentor;
  • Monthly group social events to enhance the opportunity for friendships, active involvement on campus, and vocational skill development;
  • Regular contact with parents to allow for optimum teamwork between the individual, campus supports, and the family;
  • Parent updates for academic and overall progress (3 updates per semester);
  • ‘Mini-diagnostic’ evaluations of executive functions and social perspective taking skills, for new STEP students, completed in conjunction with the EIU Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic;
  • 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.



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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