40,000 students on the autism spectrum projected to graduate fro

40,000 students on the autism spectrum projected to graduate from high school in the next 10 years

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LUBBOCK, Texas -

Forty thousand students on the autism spectrum are expected to graduate from high school in the next ten years.

South Plains freshman Javier Smith plans to transfer to Texas Tech to pursue a degree in Radio Television and Film.

"I have Aspergers, I can't pick up on social cues. Socializing is hard for me, that's what Aspergers does. It makes you immune to these social tendencies and how to socialize," Smith said. 

Originally from Austin, Javier is adjusting to living away from home, and takes advantage of what the Burkhart Center offers.
It's a service providing help for people on the Autism spectrum.

"They have helped me in the aspect of showing me how to talk, how to introduce myself better, and basically to not be afraid of talking to new people. They make me feel like just another person and not to think of myself in that way," Smith said. 

Taylor Brooks, a learning specialist at the Burkhart Center, said the focus is on the students needs.

"Ultimately the goal is to link the students up with the resources they need to be successful both academically and socially in any kind of setting that they might need help with," Brooks said. 

The center uses an "intake process" to learn about the prospective student before they start at Tech.

"We talk about what it is that they're needing, what it is that they are trying to achieve academically, what their long term life goals are, where do you want to be career wise and does Texas Tech provide the resources that you need. Is this program going to be a good fit?" Brooks said. 

The learning specialists emphasize it's there to help and not there to do it for the students.

"You need to wake up, you need to remember to shower on a regular basis, you need to study, you need to make time for studying. For a lot of our students, they need to remember where their classes are going to be. Texas Tech has a huge campus. We'll sit down and talk with them and help them decide on the quickest way to get from point A to point B," Brooks said. 

Kristen Holcomb, a learning specialist at the Burkhart Center says the organizations on campus play a big role in the process. 

"Partnering up with student organizations for these events allows students to join a community that shares their interests," Holcomb said.  

Holcomb says the end result makes everything worth it.

"Seeing them feel accomplished because they got to set the goal, they got to succeed at what they wanted to work on and they've succeeded in making progress," Holcomb said. 

"I am very happy with the Burkhart center being here as support for me in any time that I need. They have helped me out in a lot of ways, one with this job. I get to do what I love. Making videos and doing photography," Smith said.

Javier plans to get a job in video production after he graduates in a few years. 
 

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