MISSOULA – Outside of her studies, Mary Fahlman spent much of her time at the University of Montana helping students with autism navigate college life. She is part of the reason UM recently was ranked No. 7 in the nation by Best Value Schools for assisting students with autism.
“It’s our job as students to incorporate inclusion and kindness into our everyday lives,” said Fahlman, a senior who will start UM’s graduate program in speech therapy next fall. “Working with my fellow students has been really fun and has inspired me professionally.”
She assists with an organization called Mentoring, Organization and Social Support for Autism/All Inclusion on Campus (MOSSAIC), which was designed to support those who need just a bit more help.
“MOSSAIC helped me understand that there is more to an individual than what meets the eye,” she said. “Working as a mentor, I learned that differences should be celebrated, and uniqueness is beautiful.”
Jennifer Schoffer Closson directs MOSSAIC, which is housed in UM’s School of Speech, Language, Hearing and Occupational Sciences. She said students in the program are assisted with executive functioning, written language, social skills and inclusion. Through a multitiered system of support, most MOSSAIC participants receive direct speech-language therapy services, participate in peer mentoring and attend Tuesday evening meetings for social support.
“The individuals participating in MOSSAIC – both mentee and mentors – are creative individuals who each offer their own uniqueness to make MOSSAIC a beautiful intricate artwork,” Closson said.
She said UM is known for being an inclusive and diverse campus. All people are welcome, including those who experience neuro-diversity.
“UM supports people with diverse abilities through Disability Services for Students,” Closson said. “Conferences such as DiverseU and organizations like the Branch Center ensure that everyone belongs. Beyond this, students with autism and related disorders benefit from programs like MOSSAIC.”
For those interested in participating in the MOSSAIC program or becoming a peer mentor, email email@example.com.
Best Value Schools is an organization that helps people find the best education for their careers. It uses detailed, evidence-based methodologies to independently rank schools and programs across the country – from four-year undergraduate degrees on a traditional campus to online programs for mid-career professionals of any age.
Contact: Jennifer Schoffer Closson, director of UM’s MOSSAIC program, firstname.lastname@example.org.