Meeting Summary: Post-Secondary Programs & Supports

Meeting Summary:

Post-Secondary Programs & Supports

Burnaby Public Library, McGill branch



Please note that many post-secondary institutions offer information meetings in February & April

For students who wish to enroll in September. Check their websites for upcoming info sessions!


Post-Secondary Programs & Supports: A Summary of Two Meetings, January 10 & February 7, 1019

Following is my attempt to summarize our two full meetings on Post-Secondary programs & supports available to ASD individuals (and others). Both meetings were very informative, with good questions from the audience, and with presenters committed to the success of ASD in their post-secondary studies.

On January 10, our guest speakers were:

Jacquie Arndt, MA, Accessibility Services, Student Affairs and Services, Douglas College

T 604. 527. 5486

Kathryn Moscrip, Instructor, Education & Employment Access Program, Capilano University


 Pat Foreman, Instructor for Acccess Programs for Persons with Disabilities, and

Seanna Takacs, Learning Specialist, Accessibility Services, Kwantlen Polytechnic University

604.599.2246   laura.vail@kpu.caDF

On February 7th, our guest speakers were:

Michael Mandrusiak, Psy.D., R.Psych., Associate Director, Student Access and Well Being, BCIT     604-456-1174    604.451.6963

Janet Mee, Director, Centre of Accessibility, UBC


Mitchell Stoddard, Ph.D., R. Psych., Director, Centre for Accessible Learning, SFU

Suzanne Leach, Reg. O.T., Disability Access Advisor, Autism Mentorship Initiative (AMI) Program Coordinator, SFU

The biggest and most obvious difference in the offerings of these post-secondary institutions is that, in addition to Accessibility Centres, Capilano University, Douglas College, and Kwantlen Polytechnic University have programs specifically oriented to persons with Special Abilities. BCIT, UBC and SFU do not have programs dedicated to persons with Special Needs, but do have Accessibility Centres to assist these students who are registered in regular degree granting programs.

All of the post-secondary programs expect that the student will manage themselves and their studies more independently than they did in high school. However, the programs for people with Special Abilities are transition-to-adulthood programs, designed to give individuals the life and employment skills that they will need to succeed in employment, and to gain the self-knowledge that will help them find their employment path after completion of the program. These programs are preparation for employment, but may also lead to University or further post-secondary training programs.

What was common in all of our speakers’ presentations was an emphasis on the importance of registering, and registering early, with the Accessibility Services Center at whatever institution you choose to attend. If you will be enrolling in a regular program, and seeking accommodations, such as extra time to complete an exam, or a special setting for writing exams, is it best to gather your documents, and apply for accommodations in advance of the start of your studies, so that they are in place when you need them. The required documentation will include forms that your doctor will need to fill out and sign on your behalf. Your doctor may or may not have in-depth knowledge of your condition, and may not have experience filling out these forms. While some of the post-secondary institutions can assist with these forms, I would recommend that you consult Disability Alliance BC regarding this process.

An Aside: Disability Alliance BC (see our SPS Archives – Meeting Thursday, April 19, 2018 “Are There Supports That I Am Eligible for?”, Sam Turcott, Director of the Advocacy Access Program, Disability Alliance BC  604-872-1278) 

For many of our Square Peg Society members, the extent to which their disability affects their day-to-day functioning, the challenges  that they have with organizing and managing their time, with multi-tasking in order to complete daily life chores, and with understanding and negotiating around the performance expectations in their studies and work, may not be readily apparent to others. Neither are the tolls on their physical and mental health easily understood.

Many physicians do not recognize these challenges in people with “invisible disabilities”, and do not have the language needed to describe these challenges to functioning in such a way that meets the criteria required by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for a Disability Tax Credit, the primary level of documentation. Disability Alliance BC is experienced with the forms and language, and can assist you in preparing a form that will describe your challenges in such a way, that will save your physician time, and enable him or her to sign the form in good conscience. Having this documentation is key to not only the Disability Tax Credit, but also to starting a Registered Disability Savings Plan, receiving accommodations at Post-Secondary institutions, applying for and receiving Accessibility Grants & Scholarships, and accessing some employment and mental health supports and programs. In short, it helps to offset that many challenges that your student and your family experience every day.

However, this is an emotionally difficult experience. As families we want to support and encourage our ASD family members, and to do so, we try to focus on their skills and abilities – the things that they can do. Unfortunately, in our social service system, when applying for these supports, the focus is what our people cannot do. In filling out these forms our people will be asked to describe in detail the areas of difficulty that they have, and the physical and emotional toll that these challenges have on them. It is demoralizing, but, as far as I know it is the only path to leveling the playing field, for them to get the accommodations and supports that they need to achieve their potential. Hold your nose, and get the job done, and let your supported individual know that this is the system, it is a formality, and it does not define them.

However, a complete psycho-educational assessment may have value for you and your family, beyond bolstering your documentation. Some people find it to be a relief, an explanation for their differences, something that they can research and explore in order to better understand themselves so that they can seek out the care that best meets their needs.

You are an Adult Now: BCIT, SFU, & UBC

The presenters emphasized that a student’s maturity, motivation, time management, organizational and communications have a significant impact on a student’s ability to function in, and ultimately, to succeed in post-secondary programs. It was recommended that students consider taking a Gap year, working, or registering part-time as ways to ease into post-secondary. All noted that the post-secondary programs are hard, and the number of programs options huge. Therefore, the better that one knows oneself the greater the chances are of choosing courses that you will like and do well in. Janet Mee stated that few people today take a full 5 courses each term, and, in fact, in most programs, taking 3 courses is considered full-time enough to get a transit card, and to apply for loans and grants. BCIT, however, offers only a limited number of part-time courses, more due to scheduling (instructors and classrooms) limitations, but will accommodate a student’s need to attend part-time, if they can. When in doubt, ask. That BCIT students are largely in full-time programs and typically, students move as a unit with their cohort. Though BCIT full time programs are known for their intensity, ironically, the banding together of students in a difficult program, can help to overcome the social isolation that students in other institutions experience. The question to ask would be, can this social cohesiveness be maintained while reducing the course load for ASD students, perhaps by allowing them to take their required courses over an additional term?

Students on the Spectrum often come to University with good grades, but tend to flounder somewhat towards the end of their second year or into their 3rd year. Mitchell Stoddard suggested that this is likely due to a variety of factors, among them deficits in the soft skills – the conceptual thinking, executive functioning required in upper level courses, more collaborative or group projects where good communication & social skills are assets, poor social integration on campus, and increased anxiety & depression. Janet Mee also recommended participation in clubs or social activities on campus as contributing to a successful and happy University experience.

Instructors/teaching staff  It was recognized that professors at our universities have good knowledge of their subject matter, (Janet Mee described the profs as being “content rich”, and having many demands on their time), but not necessarily do they have strong teaching skills or an awareness of or knowledge of the learning styles of people with autism. Though the Accessibility Services departments have tried, at various times, offering awareness seminars for their educators, these are generally not well-attended. They continue to make themselves available to profs who ask for support. So, it would seem that students need to do due diligence, and check out reviews on Rate My Prof, and/or ask other students. The instructors in the Accessibility programs at Cap, Kwantlen, & Douglas are more likely to have a background in Education, and experience with/knowledge of ASD individuals.

Counselling/mental health supports Each of the institutions offer personal, as well as academic counselling, and many students, ours and others, are, at points in their academic program, anxious and stressed. Therefore, counselling services are busy, and, although emergency contacts are available, counselling appointments need to be booked in advance. Often there are a limited number of appointments covered under the Student Health Care Plan, and our students often require more frequent individualized psycho-therapy, and therapists participating in the health plans, though qualified, may or may not have autism experience. The trend is toward group mental health support programs, but these, as well as social skills training workshops, have not generally been well-attended. One of our members commented, at the meeting, that some programs be made mandatory. I am wondering if participation in meditation, CBT, yoga, mindfulness, and/or social skills programs could be tied to accommodations – that a student would need to attend one of these stress reduction/skill building workshops each term in order to receive accommodations such as extended time for exams, note takers, alternate exam setting?

Peers programs Most of the institutions have some sort of PEER mentorship program. This is a good way for a new student, unfamiliar with a University setting, to be introduced to the buildings, services, and procedures in the company of someone closer to their own age. The students who have registered to become PEERS mentor are genuinely “helping” people, many of whom are students in education or psychology, who also want to build their roster of experience on their resume. Once the mentored student (the mentee) knows their way around, and assuming that their academic program is going well, the role of the PEER mentor is limited. In some institutions, the PEER relationships are almost entirely one-on-one, and therefore, for the safety and security of both PEER student and PEER mentor, are restricted to on campus activities. Introductions to the mentor’s friends are prohibited, as are attending social events, such as parties, with others outside the mentorship program, so the relationship cannot evolve, as any other typical friendship would. In institutions where PEER tutoring is offered, the relationship is more clearly defined as a teaching assist. There could be a place for PEER mentors to facilitate social connectedness, as this is what some ASD students are most looking for, but the relationship would have to be conceived of differently. PEER mentors and mentees would need to be meeting with other mentors and mentees right from the start of the year, and not necessarily be one-on-one. For example, mentors would participate in club activities with mentees, depending on the best fit for a given activity. PEER mentor would be encouraged to introduce mentees to other students. PEER mentors could participate in Social Skills training workshops with their mentees, modelling effective social skills. As was noted, success at University depends as much on the “soft skills” and overall well-being, as on courses passed, to prevent university from becoming another example of being on the outside looking in for our students.

Tracking Success As in the overall population generally, the incidence of students with autism is increasing significantly. At SFU approximately 1000 students per year register with the Centre for Accessible Learning. Of these, approximately 6% have autism. Of the 44 ASD students currently registered with the Centre, 2 people have withdrawn from university, 2 have graduated, and 80% are still working on their programs. Though BCIT has really good job placement, post-program, there are no records of how their ASD students are doing. Neither do UBC and SFU have good statistics on their ASD alumni. One would hope that Cap, Kwantlen, and Douglas are tracking the graduates of their Special Abilities programs, and we will have more data on this in the coming years.

Below is an overview of the programs offered for people with educational or employment barriers. Please check the websites of the individual institutions for more detail.


VEST is designed to assist people with disabilities or barriers to education & employment identify career paths, develop work skills, and generally, to prepare them for future education, training and/or employment.

Career and Employment Preparation (CAEP) This 14 week full-time program helps you to research the job market, and to use your skills and abilities to choose a career. You will learn stress and time-management techniques, effective communicate techniques, and will build your self-confidence to enter the work force or pursue further training. The program includes real-life, on-the-job experience, and earns you a college citation upon completion of the program requirements.

Transitions Program is a part-time, 16-week program for students with special needs and/or learning difficulties in Grade 12 or Grade 12+, aimed at assisting students in making successful exits from secondary school into training or workplace settings. Students are introduced to post-secondary education opportunities, examine future training possibilities, and address the steps/skills required to obtain more education and/or entry into the work force.  Students will explore their strengths and interests, develop employment goals, good work habits, social and communication skills, problem-solving skills, and time management skills.

Students will participate in the program for half days, either at the Coquitlam Campus or doing fieldwork, and return to their high school for the remainder of the day. The program is comprised of both classroom work and fieldwork. In addition, student will be required to complete two 5-week practicum placements.

Graduates of Douglas College VEST programs have obtained employment in a wide range of fields including: retail and wholesale, distribution and warehousing, assembly, food services, customer service, hospitality and tourism. For more information:  604 527 6367 or by e-mail at

Accessibility Services at Douglas College can help students identify their learning strengths and needs, provide educational support – tutoring, study skills, and exam preparation, access accommodations, such as readers/scribes, note-taking assistance, additional time for writing exams, and alternate locations for writing exams. They can also facilitate counselling services and connections to other community-based disability services that might be required.

Kwantlen Polytechnic University   Access Programs for People with Disabilities: Certificate

The Access Program for People with Disabilities Department offers two ten-month program options for adults with a permanent disability or a combination of learning difficulties that hinder scholastic success. The program prepares students for employment, volunteer work or further education. The program starts in September of each year. There are information sessions for 2019/20 classes in February & April 2019. To register:

Accessibility Services at Kwantlen Polytechnic University can help students plan accommodations, apply for disability grants (,connect to campus and community supports.  604.599.2001

Top of FormCapilano University’s Education and Employment Access program is a one year Certificate program, beginning in September each year, and designed for post-high school young adults, who may have barriers to success in education and employment. These barriers may include learning difficulties (ADHD, dyslexia or autism spectrum disorder) and/or mental health issues such as anxiety or depression.

Courses focus on developing the skills and strategies to be an independent learner in a university or employment setting. Through assessment, classroom work and individualized support students will explore career and education options, set goals and create a specific plan to achieve them. Classes emphasize skills such as practical communication, resume writing, interviewing skills and student success strategies. The second term includes a practicum in a sector of the student’s choice.

Requirements for acceptance in the program are reading and writing comprehension at Grade 4/5 level, independent self-management skills and motivation to achieve goals. Students with either the Dogwood or Evergreen certificate are encouraged to apply. High school transcripts are not required.

There will be an information meeting hosted by Capilano U’s  Education and Employment Access on February 28, 2019 in the Birch Building, room BR342.

Capilano University’s Accessibility Services

The University recognizes its obligation to provide academic accommodations to ensure an accessible and inclusive educational environment. Accessibility Services facilitates academic accommodations and associated services for students with disabilities. Incoming and current students with disabilities who are requesting an academic accommodation need to self-identify and register with Accessibility Services. Capilano offers Counselling Services for students for issues that might hinder their personal or academic success. The sessions are free and confidential, are intended for short term problems, but may need to be booked ahead, though emergency resources are also provided.


See below for the names of and links to some grants & scholarships. Many, but not all, are contingent upon also applying for a Canada Student Loan.

Student Aid BC

National Educational Associations of Disabled Student (NEADS)

Canada Student Grant for Persons with Permanent Disabilities (CSGPPD) (Full and Part-time)

British Columbia Access Grant (BCAG)

BC Supplemental Bursary for Students with a Permanent Disability (SBSD)

Canada Student Grant for Services and Equipment for Persons with Permanent Disabilities (CSGP-SEPD)

Learning Disability Assessment Reimbursement (Kwantlen)

UBC- Disability Resource Centre Endowment

Lime Connect is an organization to provide opportunities in business and technology for people with special needs. Lime will be hosting a networking event for members in Vancouver in October 2019. To apply for their scholarships the student would need to join the Lime Connect network. There are two scholarships each year for students pursuing business related degrees, and for students pursuing degrees in computer science and computer engineering.


The following are SFU listings of Awards based solely upon financial need and satisfactory academic standing.




















Waiting for confirmation on Feb 7th (Jan 3, 2019)

Resources list:


Jan 3: For Jan 10: Ok from Jacquie Arndt, Douglas, Kathryn Moscrip, CapU, Laura Vail (not fully confirmed) , Kwantlen

            For Feb 7: Ok from Suzanne Leach, SFU, Janet Mee, UBC, no ( from Cheryl Sokol & Michael Madrusiak) BCIT



SPS Meeting: January 10, 2019 Post-Secondary Programs & Supports: Part 1: Douglas, Kwantlen & Capilano

Introduction 3 min (Joette)

Overview of Program, 10- 13 min for each Presenter

(Below  is what we would like the presenters to talk about; if these points are not addressed, perhaps we could ask some of them in the general discussion part? Some institutions may have Accessibility programs; others may have an Accessibility Centre offering services for students with special needs).

  • What is the mandate of the Program/Centre?
  • When was the program/centre established?
  • How many students are in the program/use these services each year?
  • Who is eligible for this program/services?
  • If there is a program, what is the length of the program, and what courses are offered?
  • What is the age range of students served?
  • Does the program accept students on a part-time basis?
  • Are there supports beyond supports for academic success – ie, social, mental health? Are there any programs to encourage social inclusion for ASD students?
  • Who and how many people are employed in this program/centre?
  • Are you aware of any grants or scholarships specifically directed at ASD students? If not, where would you suggest that we look to find this information?












Prepared questions to be asked of the Presenters, followed by general questions and discussion.  7 questions, 6 min each question; can be asked of more than one presenter. See name of person to ask question.


  1. Are you tracking the number of students who register with your accessibility centre graduate? (Louvain)


  1. Do you assisting with students finding employment path after graduation? (Louvain)


  1. Is there mental health counselling available to students? Doctor’s referral required? Wait lists? Number of sessions limited? Are these services offered on campus? Through Skype? (Nicole)


  1. Aside from counselling are there any Anxiety & Stress reduction , CBT/DBT/Mindfulness/yoga programs available to students on campus? What programs or training are offered to Professors, Instructors, or students in classes with neirodiverse students? In other words, what is being done to increase awareness of (mental health issues, autism, other disabilities) among those who teach the neurodiverse students? (Nicole)


  1. Are there any programs to encourage social inclusion for ASD students, beyond a list of clubs? Peer support in clubs, sport or social activities? Are social programs similar to PEERS offered?  Any programs about personal safety for vulnerable students? (Joette)
  2. Do you or how do you include families in supporting ASD students? (Deb)


  1. Are you aware of any grants/scholarships specifically for ASD students? If not, where would you suggest that we look to find this information? (Deb) Two: one for students pursuing business related degrees, and one for students pursuing degrees in computer science/computer engineering.


General Discussion & Questions: 30 min


Conclusion/Thanks (Fred)