Helping students with ASD succeed within a college environment.

Comprehensive services for Defiance College students affected by autism.
Student working with peer advisor

Helping students with ASD succeed within a college environment.

Comprehensive services for Defiance College students affected by autism.
A ground-breaking approach to ensuring success for college students with autism.

Defiance College’s ASD Affinity Program supports students with autism in reaching their full potential. Varying levels of academic, social, and residential support assist students in meeting their personal and professional goals.

The innovative program accepts academically qualified college applicants who might require help in navigating the traditional college residential campus.

The ASD Affinity Program builds on Defiance College’s success with its Hench Autism Studies Program, in which high school students with autism receive high-school level instruction on the Defiance College campus in coordination with Defiance City Schools.

The ASD Affinity Program provides a quality academic experience with appropriate support services. The program fosters independence for young adults with autism by providing a residential campus experience with numerous services in place to maximize opportunities for success and entry into the workforce.

Participating students receive campus housing with support from trained resident advisors and peer interventionists. The program promotes social and personal growth with the assistance of peer interventionists and professional staff.

Thanks to the ASD Affinity Program, Defiance College enjoys a campus-wide appreciation for the contributions that students with autism bring to the DC community.


The ASD Affinity Program isn’t designed to provide a college-like or parallel experience for students with ASD; it is designed to support students with ASD as they have a true college experience.

Clarissa Barnes, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Special Education

Program Details

Admission Requirements

The ASD Affinity Program is designed for students who meet the following requirements:

  • Are 18-24 at initial enrollment
  • Have a documented diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (DSM-5); autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder, or pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) (DSM-IV-TR) (as indicated by a psychological evaluation)
  • Have an average intellectual ability (e.g., intelligence quotient > 80 as determined by intelligence testing)
  • Meet the Defiance College academic admissions requirements: Consideration for admission to the ASD Affinity Program also requires completion of the separate Defiance College Application for Undergraduate Admission
  • Are independent with self-care and hygiene skills (e.g., bathing, oral hygiene, shaving)
  • Are independent with all medication administration
  • Have no documented incidents of aggressive behavior toward others or self-harm within the last 5 years

Application Procedures & Required Materials

The following confidential documents must be submitted in order for ASD Affinity Program applicants to receive full consideration by the admissions committee.

Please fax any paper documents to 419-784-4101, scan and email to, or mail to Clarissa Barnes, ASD Affinity Program, 701 N. Clinton Street, Defiance, OH, 43512.


ASD Affinity Program Application
Includes student and parent performance level ratings (functional daily living, social skills, and emotional well-being assessment)
Application for Defiance College Undergraduate Admission


  • Current psychological evaluation or Evaluation Team Report (ETR)
  • Psychological evaluation or ETR must have been conducted within the last 3 years
  • Psychological evaluation or ETR must include the following information:
    —Results from intelligence testing (e.g., Stanford Binet IV, WAIS-IV)
    —Results from achievement testing (e.g., Wechsler Individual Achievement Test, Woodcock Johnson Tests of Achievement)
    —Please note: Results should include subtest scores and a detailed narrative
  • Documentation of ASD diagnosis/qualification of services
  • Most recent individualized educational plan (IEP) if applicable
  • Two letters of reference from high school teacher, counselor, therapist, and/or principal

After all print materials have been submitted and reviewed by the ASD Affinity Admissions Committee, candidates who meet the minimum admissions criteria will be contacted to complete an on-campus interview with the Director of the Hench Autism Studies Program and Coordinator of the ASD Affinity Program.

What’s Included

Participating students will benefit from:

  • Advising plus — Working with a specially trained academic advisor who will support the student selecting, navigating, and completing his or her college journey
  • Access to the ASD Affinity Living Lab — a dedicated space that includes study space with a computer and printer, a lab kitchen (stove/oven, microwave), and lounge space

Transition to college and prepare for employment
As students transition into their role as Defiance College students, our goals are to build the skills necessary for navigating college academics, independent living, and social life. Students are supported in their transition to college through the following components:

  • Weekly progress monitoring meetings with the program coordinator
  • Up to 8 hours/week of direct support with peer interventionists
  • Required study hours* (based on academic performance)
  • Required participation in student organization or ongoing social opportunity
  • The choice to live in Jacket Suites or a traditional dorm-style residence hall
  • Second-year students are eligible for paid Defiance College career experience during their spring semester

Transition to career
As students demonstrate success on campus, our goals shift from campus success to career preparation. Students are supported in their transition to pre-professionals based on individual needs. Available services include:

Direct Support Services

  • Monthly progress monitoring meetings with the program coordinator
  • Up to 5 hours/week of direct support with peer interventionists
  • Required study hours* (based on academic performance)
  • Required participation in student organization or ongoing social opportunity

Employment services

  • A semester-long workshop designed to prepare students to apply and interview for internships and entry level positions
  • Up to 3 hours/week of direct employment support with peer interventionist
  • Eligibility for a paid DC career experience (one per academic year)

Residential Services

  • Suite-style housing with a private bedroom
  • Up to 3 hours/week of direct residential support with peer interventionist

Life Skills Workshops
Based on availability, students may select skill-specific workshops to enhance their personal and professional development. Workshops include:

  • Personal health and safety
  • Household management
  • Personal finance
  • Leadership
  • Drivers training
  • Social media and technology
  • Employment and self-advocacy
  • Personal relationships and self-advocacy

Defiance College Paid Career Experience

The Defiance College Paid Career Experience is a semester-long campus-based employment program. During the first four weeks of the semester, students will be matched with on-campus employment opportunities related to their field of study, apply to appropriate positions, and participate in interviews. Once a student is hired to fill a position, he or she will work 3-5 hours per week for ten weeks. Supports provided during the career experience include:

  • On-site training for Defiance College Faculty and Staff who supervise Career Experiences
  • On-site training and supervision for participating students
    —Students will receive written, performance-specific feedback on a weekly schedule
    —Students will participate in performance review meetings with their employment supervisor and ASD Affinity Program Coordinator mid-way through and at the end of their career experience
    —Action plans will be created as needed to support students in developing the skills necessary to meet their employment responsibilities

Peer Interventionists

Each student in the ASD Affinity Program has a team of 2-4 peer interventionists.

Peer interventionists are Defiance College undergraduates who have been selected to work for the ASD Affinity Program based on faculty and staff recommendation.

All peer interventionists are trained and supervised by the program coordinator.

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