Flutie Foundation grant boosts wellness at Landmark

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PUTNEY — Landmark College recently announced it has received a $16,000 grant from the Doug Flutie, Jr. Foundation for Autism in response to a funding request for the College's Physical Education and Wellness Initiative.

The funding will have a direct impact on students with Autism Spectrum Disorder currently enrolled at the College. It will also provide for the development of a model that can be shared with other educational institutions.

"Research has linked increases in physical activity with improvements in social skills for this population of students," sayid Landmark College President, Dr. Peter Eden, adding that both Antioch University's Center for ASD and the American College of Sports Medicine wrote letters of support for the grant based on its potential as a professional development tool. "We are grateful to the Flutie Foundation for supporting our mission through this generous award."

The Initiative is rooted in a specialized college transitional program run by the College's Social Pragmatics Program in 2015. Certain students with an ASD diagnosis were identified and recommended for enrollment in a course designed using evidence-based best practices for familiarizing them with the basic principles and social skills needed to take part in sport and exercise opportunities.

While Landmark College serves students with a variety of learning differences, including learning disabilities — such as dyslexia, executive function challenges, and ADHD, the population of students with ASD has increased over the past five years. As ASD diagnoses increase nationwide, studies show that less than one-third of these individuals complete a postsecondary degree, stressing a need for new educational models, according to Eden.

"We know that neurodiverse individuals with ASD are innovative thinkers capable of enormous accomplishments. They shouldn't be deprived of their opportunity to succeed in college and then help change the world," said Eden. "We feel that our history with students who learn differently, and our strategic plan for the ASD Physical Education and Wellness Initiative will redress this issue."

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