February 25, 2023


When The Autism Spectrum Student Support Program (ASSSP) soft launches this semester at The Catholic University of America, with an official start this fall, it will bring an innovative program to the campus with an emphasis on accessibility.

In fact, Catholic University will be the the first campus in Washington, D.C. to offer this direct support to autistic students.

The landmark addition to The School of Arts and Sciences received a $315,000 pledge in November from Board of Visitor member Mary Riggs Cohen (MA ‘84, PhD ‘90). 

Cohen’s generous donation was “100% instrumental. It would not exist without it,” added Barrueco.

Associate Dean of Graduate Studies and Psychology Clinical Director Dr. Sandra Barrueco and Psychology Chair Dr. Brendan Rich will lead the program to provide critical supportive services and resources to students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) as well as train faculty and staff to support those students.  

Prior initiatives and pilot studies within the University have been key building blocks for the ASSSP’s existence. Barrueco and Rich will Implement a weekly, hour-long group program that utilizes didactic discussions and interactive role plays to augment skills most challenging to emerging adults with autism spectrum disorder adjusting to college life.

In addition, they will build the capacity of faculty’s and staff’s knowledge, experience, and skills, as well as developing systemic and sustained change through workshops, recorded webinars, training materials, ASSSP Ambassadors, and an advisory committee.

Undergraduate and graduate students will be trained in engaging with the autism spectrum student community, and increasing their interest and abilities to enter this field, resulting in long-term, ripple effects in the external community when they graduate.

“The goal of ASSSP is to enhance the well-being and outcomes of Catholic (University) students with autism spectrum disorders through the provision of both clinical and non-clinical services, and provide a welcoming environment to prospective students,” Barrueco said.