When BOND began in 2010, the goal was to create a program that would connect MSU students who have Autism Spectrum Disorders with one another as a way to foster new friendships. Now, three years later the BOND program has done that and so much more, making a huge impact on MSU’s campus and on all of the students involved.
BOND or Building Opportunities for Networking and Discovery began in response to the growing need for additional supports and outlets on campus for students with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Through a variety of activities including peer mentoring, skill development workshops, individualized curriculum, and experiential learning opportunities (ELOs), students in the BOND program make the connections and gain the skills that they need in order to feel comfortable at MSU and to reach their full potential.
According to Molly Newman, BOND Coordinator, “the vision of the BOND program is to meet people with similar interests and challenges, connect with others, enhance and practice social and coping skills, explore effective social and community interaction, and build self-esteem and person concept.”
This past semester, under the leadership of Newman and RCPD Specialist Renee Craig, approximately fifteen students continued the vision of BOND through a variety of innovative activities and experiences.
One BOND participant, Quentin, highlights his experience, saying that, “Through BOND I have gotten to meet a lot of great people and experience a lot of great activities. I have also learned useful study skills and have gotten help applying and preparing to go to grad school. BOND is a really great program for students on the Autism Spectrum."
Throughout the course of the fall semester, students met with their RCPD Specialist or the BOND Program Coordinator as they needed. In addition, BOND hosted one to two experiential learning opportunities (ELOs) per month, which included on campus events at the Wharton Center, outings to Uncle John’s Cider Mill, a day at Zap Zone, and even an exciting trip to Cedar Point.
BOND participants at Cedar Point for a weekend of roller coasters and fun!
With the dedication of staff and students along with the generosity of RCPD donors, BOND offered a host of other opportunities for students. Some of these included goal setting meetings and workshops that incorporate skill development such as stress management, study strategies, or relaxation techniques. Many students initiated their own events for the group including social gatherings like dinners, movie nights, game nights, and campus sporting and theater events. Nate, another BOND participant, says that the program activities have allowed him “to interact with others and help with speaking and social skills.”
The chance to connect with other students with Autism Spectrum Disorders while raising awareness throughout campus is an important opportunity that provides comfort and inclusion for all students involved.
Molly Newman says that “our mission for this past semester was to continue to expand the program and focus on our program vision… For next semester, we would like to continue increasing student participation both through ELOs and peer initiated gatherings. We would also like to incorporate more peer mentoring or mutual mentors to promote connections with peers and help students learn from each other’s' experiences, challenges, and success.”
Newman feels that the impact of BOND can be seen in the way that it “provides MSU students with a unique opportunity to connect with peers on campus…and it allows students with and without disabilities to network and learn from one another.”
The impact of these BOND interactions cannot be overstated, because for many like Nate, “Being in BOND has helped me to understand that I am not the only person with [an autism spectrum disorder] and that we are all special and gifted in many ways.”
Interested in joining BOND this semester? Contact Molly Newman or Renee Craig for more information!