All invited to attend ASCEND Program open house

Officials with the ASCEND Program at Missouri State University-West Plains (MSU-WP) invite all to attend their open house from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Sunday, April 2, at the Lybyer Technology Center, 605 W. Main St., in West Plains.
The drop-in event, which will take place in Lybyer Room 101, will give area residents an opportunity to learn more about the program for autistic students and the services provided.
Implemented in last year, the ASCEND (Autism Support Can Empower New Directions) Program is designed to help area autistic students 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.
"I am excited about our open house! Families are welcome to come and hear about the program from our staff, current students and their families," ASCEND Program Director Mikala King said. "Members of the Campus Influencers/Student Ambassadors program will be available for tours, and we will have applications for the ASCEND Program available for future students to fill out, as well."
King said officials chose April 2 for the open house because it is National Autism Awareness Day. "What better day to showcase our autism program by having an open house that day!," she said.
To learn more about Autism Awareness Day and how it all began, visit http://NationalToday.com/World-Autism-Awareness-Day/.
ASCEND Program officials not only want to celebrate autism awareness, but neurodiversity awareness as a whole, King said.
"According to Child Mind Institute, 'neurodiversity' is a popular term that is used to describe differences in the way people's brains work," she explained. "The idea is that there is no 'correct' way for the brain to work. Instead, there are many ways people perceive and respond to the world, and these differences are to be embraced and encouraged.
"We want our community to know that our campus welcomes all of the diverse methods of student learning, even if the way a student learns is unique," she added.
The open house kicks off a week-long celebration of neurodiversity at the university, King said. In addition to the open house, there will be an interactive art project in Hass-Darr Hall; a night of poetry hosted by the student organization HOPE, whose purpose is to increase awareness of mental health issues faced by students at MSU-WP; and a training session on neurodiversity in the classroom for faculty and staff.
For more information about the ASCEND Program, the April 2 open house or the neurodiversity events planned for the week, contact King at 417-255-7275 or MikalaKing@MissouriState.edu, or visit the ASCEND Program website at WP.MissouriState.edu/ASCEND.
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