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Program helps intellectually disabled succeed in college - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Program helps intellectually disabled succeed in college

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CASTLETON, Vt. -

Castleton College student Dashiel Monder is right at home inside the school's student newspaper headquarters.

"It is a big strength for me and I really like doing it," Monder said.

Monder has autism and struggles with time management and interacting with others. He enrolled at Castleton last fall as part of the new College Steps Program -- an effort aimed at exposing students with intellectual disabilities to life on campus. He quickly found his niche writing video game reviews for the Castleton Spartan.

"I try to put in my point of view and other points of view from other critics and other game reviewers," Monder said. The young writer also knows what he has to leave out.  "Without sending out any spoilers or anything like that, which is a big no, no," he added.

"He knows more about gaming than anybody else -- I'm guessing -- and he's passionate about it and he showed up. He wanted to do it," said Professor David Blow, The student newspaper's advisor.

And just like the rest of the paper's staff, Monder is game for the give and take. "He interjects quite frequently. Sometimes we pull him back when he interjects but often times he adds a lot to the -- he's one of us now and that's really cool, Blow said.

The College Steps program at Castleton has students involved in a mix of academic, internship and extracurricular offerings. Combined they aim to help students socialize and become more independent. "I think that college for many folks -- it is a right of passage -- and like many of us, we get out not only the education that we receive but we also make friends, which is not always easy for everybody," said Lauren Merritt, Associate Director of the College Steps program.

For Monder, it's been one of the best parts of his experience, and has him eyeing a longer stay.
"Come back here for a full four years in this very great school --  I love this place a whole lot," Monder said.

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