Israeli Students with Asperger’s Strive to Earn College Degree

Ono Academic College, a university located in a Tel-Aviv suburb, recently began an initiative helping adults with Asperger’s earn a college degree in business administration.

While people with Asberger’s do not suffer from intellectual disabilities, they still often struggle with reading social cues and facial expressions, making communication- and holding a job- difficult. This special track is intended to cater to these students and work to cope with these career-based struggles.

“We find out what they need, and we try to make them understand that they don’t have to change their life to gain a bachelor’s degree,” says Professor Ilan Daniels, who oversees specialized programs at the school. “But they do have to change the way they think about themselves and an academic degree, and that is hard.

The program called Kfir- Lion’s Club- began in 2012. Beit Ekstein, an Israeli organization that provides housing, employment and educational services to people with developmental disabilities, approached the school asking to provide a course for students with Asperger’s.

After brainstorming, this single-course idea became a three-course program. This program proved successful and was extended into an entire five-year academic program.

“It allows them to fully use their cognitive skills while taking into account their social challenges and giving the opportunity to be part of a regular college campus,” Kfir’s coordinator, Ronit Ronen Man says.

Right now the program consists of nine students; two are currently working in the Ono IT departments and one hails from California. Yoav Friedman, a 31-year-old, American transplant who recently immigranted to Israel, has already owned a business and attended college in the States.

He decided to apply and enroll anyway.

“It’s very challenging, and I like the teachers and how they teach,” Friedman says. “They take time out of their day if you need extra help.”

To read what similar initiatives are being pursued in New York, read here: http://www.icare4autism.org/news/2013/12/senator-pushes-for-autism-support-services/

Source: Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs Press Release http://mfa.gov.il/MFA/Pages/default.aspx