Grand River Solutions partnered with Boston University to produce a new online training about autism and providing counseling services to autistic college students. The training was designed for college sexual assault counselors who work with survivors of sexual assault and harassment. Therapists and other school personnel will also find the training helpful. Autism Training for Sexual Assault Counselors is now available free of charge from Boston University.

There is an urgent need for autism-focused, trauma-informed training because research demonstrates that autistic people are at higher risk for interpersonal aggression victimization in their lifetimes than non-autistic people. It can also be more difficult for autistic college students to receive support on campus. The new training is designed to improve the likelihood that college students who experience sexual assault will access high quality services from the counselors and other campus school personnel.

The project was funded by the Organization for Autism Research and was led by Principal Investigator Dr. Emily Rothman. The leadership team included Gina Scaramella, a sexual assault prevention expert and consultant, and Dr. Laura Graham Holmes, an autism researcher. They collaborated with six autistic people who had experience on college campuses and who also had experience with issues of sexual violence or harassment. Together with the Innovation Team from Grand River Solutions, the group developed a 90-minute, self-delivered, online learning experience.

The training walks through critical elements of best practices for college counselors who may provide services to autistic college students who have experienced sexual assault or harassment. The training modules build on foundational information about autism, demystify and address certain stereotypes about autistic people, and describe what to do and not to do when serving impacted students.

Emily Rothman: “We could not be more pleased to be able to offer this training resource to college sexual assault counselors, particularly because autistic people were part of the co-creation process. Autistic college students, like all students, need and deserve excellent counseling support options when they experience sexual assault. There is a lot of interest in this training, both from college professionals and other community-based sexual assault advocates. It is very meaningful for us all to have worked together on this.”

The modules of the course build upon each other and are intended to be taken in order. Upon completion of each module, there is a mini quiz that assesses understanding of the concepts. Participants will learn:

  • Foundational knowledge about autism
  • Understanding of the sexual assault prevention and response barriers that exist for disabled students/students with disabilities on campus, and potential solutions to some of those
  • Strategies and tools for providing more responsive and accessible counseling services to autistic survivors of sexual assault on campus

Grand River Solutions, the Title IX and Equity Firm that helped produce the training, believes that all students and employees, from every level and size institution, deserve equal access to their learning and working environments, free from harassment and discrimination. “Ensuring that students and employees with autism can access high-quality, responsive, and trauma-informed support systems is a vital part of our work,” said Dr. Cherie Scricca, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Grand River Solutions. “It was a pleasure for us to be a part of this project. Our Innovation Team will continue to focus on solutions that promote positive change and support our partners such as Boston University and the multitude of counselors and equity professionals who will undoubtedly benefit from this training.”

To take the course or learn more,