Liz McCormick Published

Marshall University Expands Autism Support Program to Shepherd


The West Virginia Autism Training Center based at Marshall University has expanded its programs to Shepherd.

Shepherd joins Concord University as the second campus-based satellite site for Marshall’s autism services program.

Under this agreement, a full-time student support specialist will be available on Shepherd’s campus, and Shepherd faculty and staff will get training. Professors will receive support in their instruction to students enrolled in the program, and students interested in the field will have opportunities for clinical placement experience.

Marc Ellison, executive director of the West Virginia Autism Training Center, said in a news release that about half the students who have autism across the U.S. have average to above average intelligence — but have other significant problems that lead to unemployment or underemployment.

He said a significant reason for these issues is because of improper or ineffective support in higher education, or a lack of support entirely. 

“The transition to adulthood, especially for students who are at risk, is really an overwhelming experience,” Ellison said. “Universities have been working for years to figure out how to best support at-risk students. Because of things that have nothing to do with their intelligence, students with autism are perhaps the most at-risk in higher education these days.”

The West Virginia Autism Training Center was established in 1984 and has served nearly 3,000 families and more than 5,000 educators over the past 34 years.