Bridges: Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the Bridges Program?

LeTourneau University offers additional support to students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and the faculty and staff who work with them through its Bridges College Success Program for Students with an innovative college support program that provides research based, customized supports for students to facilitate their successful transition to college and entrance into competitive employment after graduation.

Through Bridges, students gain the necessary skills to pursue an academic degree in a field of their choice with Bridges staff serving as the liaison between the enrolled students and the university system assisting the student in navigating the academic and social nuances that are fundamental to college life. The program aims to create an inclusive and supportive environment where students with ASD can thrive academically, socially, and personally by offering specialized support and services.

Q: Why is a specialized program needed?

Research indicated that as many as 50% of 25-year-olds with Autism Spectrum Disorders have never held a job despite having the skills and expertise necessary to excel in the workplace. Unemployment and unemployment in the autistic community is a serious problem and an under-utilization of a valuable resource.

Many students with ASD have no problem meeting the academic standards for acceptance into college. However, once they arrive on campus, they may have extreme difficulty in balancing the academic and social complexities that are fundamental to college life, and in many cases, resulting in failure to finish their education. This challenge is often due to a lack of self-management and self-advocacy skills needed to independently organize and manage life away from home. This is compounded by the normal stressors associated with transitioning from high school to college. As students move toward independent living, they may not know who to contact for help or how to initiate such contact.

Q: How can Bridges help?

The Bridges program uses a wraparound planning process to build an individualized support network, which pairs each student with an undergraduate peer mentor who provides mentoring and navigational support. This relationship empowers students to problem-solve their concerns more effectively and efficiently with peer support.

Additionally, the Bridges coordinator works with each student to

  • Identify the student’s strengths, interests, and career goals
  • Coordinate services and supports both on campus and in the community
  • Guide the student in making informed decisions and being pro-active
  • Address potential stress behaviors and problem solve ways to manage stress
  • Practice self-advocacy
  • Provide strategies to develop skills in time management, organization, and planning
  • Explore possible career paths related to a student's interests
  • Help each student develop skills related to interviewing, resume writing, and applying for internships
  • Address life skills areas such as hygiene, organization, independent living skills, social norms, friendships, etc.
  • Coach and provide supported and strategic education in transitioning from home to campus life
  • Provide targeted instruction in social skills

Q: What services are offered by the Bridges program?

Through its wraparound planning process, Bridges surrounds each student from all angles with the high touch resources they need to thrive.

Bridges offers support during new student orientation to allow new students to explore the campus with their peers, but also provides a separate new student orientation to allow students to explore the campus in a manner that meets their individual needs. They are also allowed to check into their dorm rooms a day early to reduce moving day chaos.

Students receive individual coaching sessions with an autism specialist on a weekly basis. Each student works with the autism specialist to develop a personal care plan with individual goals designed to meet personal and academic issues, self-advocacy support and training, vocational supports, and supports in executive functioning deficits such as time management, organization, and/or impulse control. Regular coaching meetings help students plan for success, discuss progress, determine areas of concern, and solve problems through issues that can hinder college success. The autism specialist provides feedback, offers possible solutions to problems, and assists students in self-advocacy through the use of scripts and role play.

Students also participate in weekly group social skills and support group meetings so that they have an opportunity to connect with others like themselves.

Bridges students also participate in monthly community outings which provide an opportunity to practice social skills in a supportive, real-life setting. 

The Bridges coordinator works with faculty, staff, and university departments to facilitate student success and increase awareness of the needs of students with ASD.

Undergraduate peer mentors provide social support and host scheduled study group time during the week to allow students to gather to study.

Q: Who is eligible to participate in the Bridges program?

The Bridges program is open to LeTourneau students enrolled in the traditional undergraduate program who have a confirmed diagnosis of autism by an appropriate medical provider, typically a licensed psychologist. To provide individualized attention to each student, only a limited number of students are accepted into the program.

Students submit an application and participate in an interview with the Bridges program coordinator. They also submit a letter of recommendation from either an educational source or someone who knows them well. They must be committed to making changes and to attending scheduled meetings and events. They must also agree to have pertinent program information released to parents and to provide pertinent information from previous educational and treatment providers to program staff.

Q: My student does not speak in front of others they do not know, and parents are not allowed to attend the student interview. How do you manage interviews with students when the parents are not allowed in?

Our goal is to build rapport with any student that comes into our office by providing a calm and welcoming environment. We recognize that we will not obtain the full picture of a student in one meeting, but we do learn useful information and can start to form general ideas of motivational levels for a student to participate in services. We only use the information students give us as a guide to develop support plans. If we receive consent from the student, parents can schedule a separate interview with the Bridges coordinator. Additional interviews would be considered as needed.

Q: How many classes does my student need to be enrolled in to participate in Bridges services?

A student needs to be enrolled in a minimum of two courses (6 hours) in the traditional undergraduate program to participate in Bridges. However, LETU considers a full-time student as one taking 12 hours. Thus, students are encouraged to speak with their advisors and financial aid counselors if they plan to take fewer than 12 hours in a semester. In addition, students who receive services through Texas Workforce Commission must take 12 hours.

Q: Does my student have to live on campus to participate in Bridges?

Students are not required to live on campus to participate in Bridges. However, they are strongly encouraged to do so due to the increased social opportunities that residence life affords. Whether students live on campus or off campus, they are expected to attend all Bridges events.

Q: Does a student admitted into Bridges need to re-apply every semester or year?

No. Students admitted into the Bridges program are enrolled until dismissed. They can be dismissed through self-selection or through agreement between the coordinator and student that services are no longer needed or that the student will not benefit from additional services. If a student elects to no longer participate in the program, he/she needs to send this information in writing to the coordinator of the program no later than the last day of the semester prior.

Q: Is there a fee for participation in Bridges?

Bridges is a highly specialized program and like most college programs for students on the spectrum, there is a fee for participation. At LETU, that fee is currently $4000 per semester. It is separate from any course fees or tuition. The Bridges coordinator will work with the student/family to coordinate with outside sources such as scholarships, grants, and Texas Workforce Commission to attempt to offset all or part of this fee.

Q: Who can I contact for more information?

Contact the Bridges coordinator LeAnne McClure-Oliver at (903)233-4478 or email for more information.