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Applications now being accepted for ASCEND Program


Applications are now being accepted for the new ASCEND Program at Missouri State University-West Plains (MSU-WP).

The ASCEND (Autism Support Can Empower New Directions) Program is designed to help area students with autism transition into college and toward a life of personal success and independence.

The program, which is the first of its kind in this region, offers specialized support services to students so they can successfully navigate a traditional college path and reach personally-chosen goals, university officials said.

Program director Mikala King said ASCEND is open to traditional and non-traditional students with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnosis. Applicants can be new or current students.

“There is no age cap. If you are currently attending or going to attend MSU-WP, you can apply for the ASCEND Program,” King said.

How to apply

New students wishing to apply need to complete several steps, including:

• an application for admission to MSU-WP

• the ASCEND Program application

• provide documented evidence of a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD)

• provide a copy of the most recent IEP or 504 Plan from the high school setting

Current students need to complete the ASCEND Program application and provide the other documentation, King said.

Students who currently do not have documented evidence of an ASD diagnosis, but want to apply to be a member of the program, can work with university officials to obtain the necessary documentation, university officials said. 

Selection process

Once the application has been submitted and reviewed, students will be contacted to schedule a short, informal interview with King. The interviews can be in person or via Zoom, and parents are welcome to join, she said.

A committee will review applications and select students based on several criteria. These include demonstrating:

• sufficient emotional and independent stability to participate in all aspects of coursework and campus environment

• the ability to accept and follow reasonable rules and behave respectfully towards others

• the desire to attend the Missouri State-West Plains ASCEND program and adhere to the policies regarding attendance and participation in their program of study

• the potential to successfully achieve his/her goals within the context of the ASCEND program’s content setting

Those accepted into the program will be notified by mail.

A limited number of students will be admitted into the program, so applications need to be submitted as soon as possible to be considered for selection this fall, King said. Normally, the application and selection process will begin in early winter for the following fall semester.

Program fees

There is a fee to participate in ASCEND. The cost is $3,000 per semester, in addition to regular tuition and fees for courses. The fee is put in place to ensure the needed materials and program team members are available, King explained.

When students have demonstrated success at MSU-WP and less support and skill building is needed, students can then move from ASCEND to ASCEND-M (maintenance) at a cost of $1,500 per semester, she added.

King said several financial aid options are available to help students cover the costs of the program, including vocational rehabilitation programs which are already in place in the area.

For more information about the ASCEND Program, contact King at MikalaKing@MissouriState.edu or visit WP.MissouriState.edu/ASCEND.



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