College Launches Autism Initiative

Academic and Community Programs Developed to Assist Adults with Autism

Release Date: Wednesday, June 29, 2011

PHILADELPHIA, PA –Chestnut Hill College will launch this fall a two-pronged academic and community initiative to assist individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).

Responding to a rising need in the community for more services for a growing ASD adult population, the School of Graduate Studies has developed two academic programs and is forging community partnerships to provide therapeutic services, interventions, and state-mandated special education programs for individuals with ASD.

Although ASD is most commonly linked with children, the number of adults with ASD is growing. The most recent state census estimated the number of adults with ASD in Pennsylvania will rise from 3,800 in 2010 to more than 10,000 in 2014. “There’s clearly a dramatic need for cost effective programs for adults,” said Steven Guerriero, Ph.D., dean of the School of Graduate Studies. “With this initiative, we’re developing a unique and beneficial niche.”

A new concentration in the Clinical and Counseling Psychology program will focus on ASD across the lifespan. The four courses may also be taken as a post-graduate certificate or licensure preparation credits. This program responds to Pennsylvania’s Bureau of Autism Services determination of a critical need for more counselors who are well trained in mental health issues associated with autism.

A new 12-credit professional certificate focused on the needs of adults with ASD will also be offered in the fall. It is geared to professionals in various human services positions, including those in the medical, employment, education, and public safety fields. The curriculum will address current and historical research and quality-of-life and family issues faced by adults with ASD. It will also provide training for professionals to serve and guide adults with ASD and their families to maximize independence and self-determination. Friends and family members of adults with ASD can also apply for this post-bachelor professional certificate.

“We’re very optimistic about the initiative, not only in terms of attracting people to these programs but providing essential and practical education to assist an under-represented population,” said Guerriero. “It’s mission-driven.”

In the future, the College hopes to expand the initiative to develop public outreach activities and direct-services programs for adults with ASD with the help of Rosemary Mullaly, J.D., an expert in special education law who has helped the College in developing the curriculum and proposals for state and federal funding.

For more information, please visit the website at


Steve Highsmith speaks with Paul Haughton, Ph.D., chief psychologist at CORA Services about the lack of services for autistic adults and current autism initiatives being developed with the College.