JCU hosts the Asperger’s Symposium: Lecture about Aspergers Syndrome within higher education

October 28th, 2010

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, two out of every 10,000 children have Asperger’s Syndrome (AS). Boys are three to four times more likely than girls to have AS. 

John Carroll is hosting first Asperger’s Symposium on Nov. 9 from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. 

The keynote speaker is Jane Thierfield Brown. Brown is the director of Student Services at the University of Connecticut School of Law. 

In the lecture, she plans to inform the audience about how to help students with Asperger’s Syndrome integrate into a higher education setting. This topic is especially relevant to the Cleveland community because there are several high schools that work with students on the Autism Specter Disorder. 

Murphy said Meeks wanted to asked Brown if she could come to JCU, and the planning for the symposium snowballed from there.

“[Meeks] ran into [Brown] at a conference and mentioned to her that she wished Jane could come talk to JCU faculty and staff to educate them about Asperger’s,” Murphy said.

 According to Murphy, not only is the lecture for students to attend, but faculty are having their own lecture explaining how to deal with students with AS.

“It started there and has progressed into a symposium Tuesday, Nov. 9 for professionals [in the Cleveland area] (free to JCU faculty and staff), a free community lecture in the evening, and more lecture time specifically for JCU faculty and staff on Wednesday, Nov. 10.” Murphy said.

 “For Psych[ology] and Ed[ucation] students, the lecture is a direct educational benefit, especially us who will be working in the Cleveland area because there are two schools who work with students on the spectrum in the area,” said Murphy.

“For the general student body, the more you know about this population of students, the more you can positively interact with them which in turn will make JCU a more diverse and inclusive place,” she said.

If students wish to become more involved with the cause, John Carroll offers an internship program with the Cleveland Clinic to work with students who have Autism Spectrum Disorders.

“Students can help their friends with AS to model appropriate social interaction and provide direct feedback about their behavior. Furthermore, it will help AS students feel like a part of the community when they are treated like everyone else,” said Murphy.

AS is an Autism Specter Disorder, and it is characterized by having limited interests or unusual fascinations with a particular subject often excluding everything else from mind. 

These tendencies often cause those with AS to have repetitive routines, problems with speech and non-verbal communication, clumsiness, and sometimes unsuitable social and emotional behavior.  

The biology of AS, as well as with autism, has to do with structural abnormalities within the brain. 

According to the Asperger’s Disorder Homepage (, in comparison to autism, “there are fewer major structural brain abnormalities associated with Asperger’s Disorder than with autism. To our knowledge, a very small number of structural brain abnormalities have been so far associated with Asperger’s Disorder.”

All these factors become more of a challenge when AS students enter the soical, high pressure, college atmoshpere. 

Jennifer L. Murphy, graduate assistant for Services for Students with Disabilities, said this syndrome is being highlighted by JCU because of strong faculty expertise and involvement in the community. 

“Asperger’s is Lisa Meeks’ [Services for Students with Disabilities Director] and Tracy Masterson’s [Psych Dept] area of expertise.  They are working with the Cleveland Clinic to develop an Asperger’s program,” Murphy said.

This is an issue to be addressed on JCU’s campus because according to Murphy, “Asperger’s is an emerging population in higher education that has historically not been studied.”