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THRIVE program director publishes paper detailing successes of program

Headshot of Dr. Tara RoweDr. Tara Rowe, associate director of Student Accessibility Services (SAS) and director of THRIVE, has recently published a paper in the Journal of College Reading and Learning detailing how the University of North Florida’s THRIVE program has helped students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) successfully navigate their college careers through peer mentoring and other specialized accommodations.

In the article, titled “Mentoring University Students with ASD on Campus: A Supplemental Program Model,” Rowe explains that while the number of students with ASD attending institutions of higher education continues to increase, typical accommodations provided by campus disability service offices often remain unchanged. Because of this, the need for support and “soft accommodations” continues to rise at an alarming rate.

To demonstrate how universities and other higher education institutions can successfully build and maintain programs that serve students with ASD while properly addressing their needs, Rowe conducted a research project on UNF’s Transition to Healthiness, Resourcefulness, Independence, Vocation, and Education (THRIVE) program.

THRIVE provides supplemental resources for degree-seeking students with ASD and focuses on four primary areas of need: social, independent living, career development and executive functioning skills. THRIVE is unique in that the program also includes a structured peer mentoring program that allows UNF students with ASD to serve as peer mentors to other students with ASD in addition to mentors without ASD.  

To measure the THRIVE program’s success and its positive impact on students, Rowe analyzed survey and GPA data from over 60 THRIVE students. Results from Rowe’s current study suggest that the use of structured peer mentoring positively impacts students with ASD, particularly with GPAs and program engagement. This evidence further emphasizes the importance of targeted supports that address the unique needs of students with ASD by incorporating opportunities for students to share feedback on the direct support they are receiving.

To learn more about the importance of structured peer mentoring and how the UNF THRIVE program has successfully changed the lives of students with ASD for the better, reach the full article online.

Rowe has worked with UNF since 2009. She completed her educational leadership doctorate at the University and collaborates with other institutions on supporting students with disabilities. She also serves as an adjunct instructor, teaching courses for the College of Education and Human Services where she centers her research on self-determination for all students. Rowe is passionate about supporting students with different abilities using campus resources to promote student success.