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Bridges to Adelphi: A Model for Supporting College Students on the Autism Spectrum

By Mitch Nagler M.A., LMHC


All colleges must offer basic academic accommodations to all students, but not all colleges offer defined support programs for students on the autism spectrum (ASD).

Because individuals with ASD present with widely diverse problems and challenges, they need structured, yet flexible, support programs that are designed specifically for college students with ASD. These programs must be prepared to deal with the issues which can often create barriers to their success in areas such as academics, executive functioning, interpersonal communications, social relationships, employment, and involvement in the campus community.

A successful program must have the support of, and open and collaborative relationships with, the university administration and faculty.

The Bridges to Adelphi Program at Adelphi University in Garden City, NY is a leader in, and a model for, providing services designed to enhance life for college students diagnosed with ASD.

The Bridges Program, which started in January 2007 with 3 students, now offers services to 100 Adelphi undergraduate and graduate students who have self-identified with ASD, and/or other non-verbal learning disorders from across the country, and around the world.

Students are offered comprehensive, individualized academic, social, and vocational support services. However, since the focus of the program is not on labels or diagnoses, each student is viewed as a “whole object”. Therefore services are individually designed to meet each student’s strengths and needs, as well as a myriad of other variables.

Research has shown that the services that Bridges Program offers have been effective in a number of ways, including measuring retention rates and GPA. Average first-year retention rates for those enrolled in Bridges has been over 88% since 2012. And, since 2012, the average GPA for students enrolled in the Bridges Program has been consistently +/-3.30.

As the Bridges Program has matured and evolved, new challenges continue to emerge. Now that the first large cohort is getting ready to graduate, a clear need for programming that will help the students’ transition into meaningful, successful careers has become clear. Therefore, since last year, vocational services such as resume writing and job interview skills have been expanded. And this year we have started a Bridges Job Placement coordination pilot program. This entails having a representative of the Bridges Program go out into the community to educate employers on the benefits of hiring individuals with ASD, and then train and supporting the employers.

More information about the Bridges to Adelphi Program may be found at bridges@adelphi.edu



The Bridges to Adelphi Program was awarded two national NASPA awards for 2015:

– The Gold Award for the best College Student Health, Wellness, and Counseling support program in the country

– The Grand Bronze Award for the third overall highest rated program in all categories
The Bridges to Adelphi Program was awarded the 2015 LICSPA award for the Most Creative College Support Program on Long Island


Be sure to take a look at Mitch’s interview on Exploring Different Brains: http://differentbrains.com/college-transitions-different-brains-mitch-nagler-adelphi-university-edb-65/

60 Second Preview:




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Mitch Nagler M.A., LMHC is the Director of the Bridges to Adelphi Program, which currently offers comprehensive academic, social, and vocational support services to 100 Adelphi University undergraduate and graduate students who self-disclose with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), or other non-verbal learning disorders.

Mitch has authored several articles and a chapter in an edited textbook on college programs for students with ASD. Mitch often presents on the same subject at conferences and symposiums. Mitch also regularly consults to colleges across the country on the process of starting and running college support programs for students with ASD.

Mitch has a private psychology practice specializing in young adults with ASD and related conditions, in Merrick, Long Island. Mitch can be reached at mnagler@adelphi.edu.