CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – A Clarksville mom is fighting to bring higher education programs for special needs students to the city.
Paige Bates’ 20-year-old son, Tyler, is autistic. While he just received his high school diploma, she said options for summer programs and higher education are limited.
“He has good skills in some areas and deficits in others,” said Paige Bates. “Now he just kind of sits around and plays video games and loses a lot of the skills he worked so hard to gain in high school.”
Bates started an online petition in hopes of bringing attention to the issue and encouraging Austin Peay State University to start a program where students with intellectual disabilities can take college classes and learn life skills.
“There are a lot of other kids in this community in the same situation as Tyler,” said Bates. “This could help him developmentally and help him work on his social skills and communicate with others a little more easily.”
Bates said the petition has already attracted almost 400 signatures and she hopes that proves there is a need for this type of program in the community.
“A lot of people have shared the petition, and all the support makes me feel really good,” said Bates.
Bates said Vanderbilt University, Lipscomb University and University of Tennessee-Knoxville have programs for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities, but she would like to see something available in Clarksville.
Bill Persinger, Executive Director of Public Relations and Marketing at Austin Peay released a statement:
“Helping students with Autism is something Austin Peay has been doing for some time. Students who have enrolled with a disability can receive assistance through our Office of Disability Services. We have several students with autism who met the requirements of admission to the university and are enrolled in the various degree programs the university offers.
There has been some discussion among our faculty about the possibility of establishing programs for autistic students who may not meet the admission criteria, including the exploration of grant opportunities for such non-credit programs. Establishing such a program brings complex financial and planning challenges that take significant time, but is definitely a topic of discussion at Austin Peay.”
Here is a link to Bates’ online petition: http://on.nc5.co/1FryaOp
Bates said she is optimistic with enough support she will be able to meet with officials at Austin Peay to discuss the program soon, and would like to see a program up and running in about a year.