Averett University in Danville Expanding Autism Studies Program

Danville, VA - Averett University is expanding its autism program. They've offered a graduate certificate in autism studies since 2007, But now, they are making it a department.

One in every 110 children born today has autism. Averett says the need for this program is stronger now than ever.
Before Heather Vipperman had her son Charlie, autism seemed like a foreign concept.

"I never really had a true understanding of what it was," said Vipperman.
Quickly autism became a household word. Vipperman's 7-year-old son now lives with the disorder.
"His brain is wired differently, so he operates differently," said Vipperman.
Averett University says they know people with autism learn differently, so you have to teach them differently. That's why they say they are continuing to develop their Autism Studies program.
"You're still educating the student, but you just have to look at it from a different perspective," said Jill Hamlin, Director of Autism Studies.
Soon, Averett hopes to combine their graduate certificate program with additional classes and advanced help to the community. They've created a department with Hamlin serving as the Director.
"The new things right now are heavily focusing on how to best meet the needs of the community," said Hamlin.
They even hope to one day turn the program into a concentration or possibly a minor. This way, they can teach students how to better teach those with autism.
"To really be able help them reach their potential is you just can't put a price on it," said Vipperman.
Vipperman says this type of program will educate not only the teachers and their students but also the community around them.
There is more they hope to do down the road, such as offer online classes and include arts studies.