How the Autismerica club helps students with autism adjust to college


Gabriella Gallardo

A parent with her son went up to COD Counselor for students with disabilities, Michael Duggan. 


Michael Duggan works with all disability groups, including those on the autism spectrum, deaf, blind, learning disabled and more. He’s been at the college for 18 years. In addition, he developed the COACH program, which serves students with intellectual disabilities at the college, and COD Buddies, a mentoring program for students with disabilities.


The parent expressed, “I come from a world community where there is no one like my son with autism. He’d like to meet more people like himself. Can you help him with that?”


From that moment, Autismerica became the club where many who are on the autism spectrum and their supportive family members can connect and gather. Members converse and play video games, play Kahoot and much more. Due to COVID-19, in February 2020, the club quickly moved virtually. The club meets through Zoom and has not missed a monthly meeting nor has the amount of members dramatically decreased. 


On April 8, Autismerica hosted their second to the last meeting for the spring 2021 semester. The group meets on the second Thursday of every month, and the next meeting is scheduled for May 13 at 7 p.m.


The club conversations are inclusive because everyone has a chance to speak and is continually respected. 


More importantly, the club is a way for students to apply what they learned from their COD class, called “Interpersonal Skills for Life and Work”,  such as:

  • Anxiety management
  • Developing relationships (friendships, romantic peer to peer, etc.)
  • Developing organizational and college success skills
  • Recognizing and expressing feelings
  • Confrontation skills


Autismerica not only encourages current COD students who are on the autism spectrum and their family members to join, they even invite students who graduated or are not enrolled at COD to join their meetings. 


Sam Novack is a community member who has found a new sense of belonging since becoming a member of Autismerica.


Community Member Sam Novack shared, “I’ve been going because I like it. I got to fit in and then the other thing is wanting to meet other autistic people and just let me know there are other people who are alike. It gives me something to look forward to and then wanting to meet other people.”.


In addition, Duggan encourages others who are not on the autistic spectrum to join the meeting.


“All are welcome at our meetings. Anyone who wants to be a part of our group of positivity is welcome.”


For more information about Autismerica email [email protected] or visit