New South Florida programs help students with autism as they head to college, find careers

WESTON, Fla. – Innovative new classes and programs in South Florida are supporting young people with autism spectrum disorder as they head to college and find careers.

Like many students diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, Jeffrey Schour, 18, has the test scores and grades to go on to college, but he struggles in other areas.

"Such as independent functioning, money management, time management -- so it makes it nearly impossible for these kids to be successful in a college setting," educational consultant Dr. Sandy Rizzo said.

Schour works on those skills with Rizzo after school and he takes part in the Bridges Program at Cypress Bay High School.

As part of the program, students with autism work on their social skills and take field trips like one to the Midtown Athletic Club in Weston.

That's where kids learn about jobs they can do after graduation, and together, they work on their social skills and gain confidence.

"I learned how to budget my own money, learned how to be independent, learned how to socialize and hang out with friends. It was fun," Schour said.

And now the fun can continue into college, like at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, where there's a program called Thrive.

It's a free program helping students like Schour to have successful college experiences,

"Mentoring these students academically, they have social gatherings, and leadership opportunities where they plan their social activities," Rizzo said.

Schour knows that college life might be difficult, but he's ready for the future.

"I am coping with the challenges by doing everything a real person does, and I'm doing good at it," he said.

The HDS Foundation supports both the Bridges program at Cypress Bay High School, as well as college mentoring programs like Thrive at UNF. 

Click here for more information that the foundation offers and about its fundraiser that will be held later this month.

About the Author:

Kristi Krueger has built a solid reputation as an award-winning medical reporter and effervescent anchor. She joined Local 10 in August 1993. After many years co-anchoring the 6 p.m. and 11 p.m., Kristi now co-anchors the noon newscasts, giving her more time in the evening with her family.