Matt Clokus is a freshman at George Mason University (GMU), a computer-enthusiast and also autistic. In honor of National Autism Awareness Month, his mom, Colleen Clokus, a VP of Workforce Solutions for Employment Enterprises, Inc., spoke about his enrollment with the Mason Autism Support Initiative (MASI).
The MASI program is in its third year at GMU and currently has 20 students enrolled. “This is a program that supports kids with autism and helps in transitioning them into college life,” Colleen says.
For autistic people like Matt, big changes and new environments can be intimidating, and attending the largest public university in Virginia is no exception. That’s where the MASI program comes in; it serves as a support system for him academically, emotionally and socially. He meets with a learning strategist twice a week to go over a shared GoogleDoc calendar with his assignments. This agenda and routine follow-up helps him plan his time management with all of his courses.
Matt and his MASI peers also have access to private testing rooms, are allowed extra time with test-taking and have additional support in the University’s writing and math centers. These support tools may seem minor, but they make a big difference in Matt’s college experience.
He also meets with a peer mentor once a week to make plans for attending monthly social events, like game night and bowling. Colleen explains that, “the peer mentor has really gotten him to break out of his shell.” The events could be campus-wide or solely with the MASI program students.
The application process was detailed and required interviews with Matt and his parents. But once they knew he was accepted, it was a major achievement. “He [Matt] was thrilled. I know that my husband and I were touched.” One year later and Matt is thriving with great grades and has even been invited to speak to his High School special education group about navigating the transition from High School to college.
“He put it in a good way by saying ‘You know, you don’t think you can make it. But look, you can and I’m doing that.’”