Purpose

SOCIAL Gators GATORS is a program for UF degree-seeking students who want to enhance their skills for a more enriching college experience. This program is designed for students on the autism spectrum and others interested in improving their social communication skills.

A collaborative effort between the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD), the Counseling and Wellness Center (CWC), and the Disability Resource Center (DRC). SOCIAL Gators focus on developing skills in social interaction, independence, career readiness, and academics through the provision of four services: mentoring, weekly group meetings, and online learning modules.

About SOCIAL Gators

Mentors
Degree-seeking students with autism spectrum disorder are paired with peer mentors in an effort to increase engagement in university life. The peer-mentors provide support in navigating social aspects of university life such as participating in campus life events, interacting with instructors, classmates, and roommates, and networking with research mentors and potential employers. Mentors and student participants meet monthly to set goals and reflect on progress.

Weekly Group Meetings

The weekly meetings are designed to address issues such as health and wellness, social communication, stress management, executive functioning, career seeking, and self-advocacy, and more.

Online Modules
A CANVAS page is offered in addition to the in-person support of SOCIAL Gators. It contains modules with social communication resources and is designed to help students track progress on goals they are working to achieve.

Email SOCIAL Gators for more information at: SOCIALGators@ufsa.ufl.edu.

Students who are interested in participating in SOCIAL Gators should click here for the application. Students are admitted into SOCIAL Gators on an ongoing basis and appropriate course placement will be established upon admission. Admission to SOCIAL Gators does not guarantee admission into the University of Florida. The applications to the University and to SOCIAL Gators are separate processes.

Applications to SOCIAL Gators will be considered complete and accepted only if the following are included:

  • Completed Application form
  • Documentation of an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis
  • Registration with the Disability Resource Center (DRC)
  • Registration with Center for Autism & Related Disabilities (CARD)
The Autism Advisory Board is comprised of faculty, staff, students, and community members who are dedicated in supporting the needs of UF Students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This initiative relies on the input of this advisory group to direct the efforts of SOCIAL Gators. The advisory board is committed to fostering the Division of Student Affairs’ initiative to further diversity and inclusion efforts, and to continually improve the campus climate for students and staff.

 

Gerry Altamirano
DRC Assistant Dean/ Director
GerardoA@ufsa.ufl.ed

Mary Benedict
Parent
mbened@earthlink.net

Regina Bussing
Chair and Professor, Department of Psychiatry
rbussing@ufl.ed

Kathy Chambers
Student Affairs / Parent
kathy123@ufl.edu

Ernesto Escoto, Chair
CWC Director, Clinical Assistant Professor
eescoto@ufl.edu

Ritzy Luque Ettinger
CWC Case Manager
rettinger@ufl.edu

Pam Ginn
Associate Professor, Veterinary Medicine / Parent
ginnp@ufl.edu

Ann-Marie Orlando
CARD Associate Director, Research Assistant Professor
aorlando@ufl.edu

“AJ” Afzal Qureshi
Student

Natasha Maynard-Pemba
CWC Associate Training Director
maynpem@ufl.edu

Sarah McConnell
CWC Psych Intern
s.mcconnell@ufl.edu

Mary Neil
Student

Susan Nittrouer
Chair and Professor, Department of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences
snittrouer@phhp.ufl.edu

Sondra-Lori Smith
Associate Professor, School of Human Development and Organizational Studies in Education
ssmith@coe.ufl.edu

Gregory Valcante
CARD Director
valcante@ufl.edu

Jennifer Weis
ASD Program Coordinator, College of Medicine
jenniferweis@ufl.edu

If you have any questions regarding SOCIAL Gators, please contact the Disability Resource Center at: 352-846-6332

SOCIALGators@ufsa.ufl.edu

FAQs

The role of SOCIAL Gators at UF is to enhance the college experience for students with autism spectrum disorder.
SOCIAL Gators are comprised of students, mentors, and professionals who are interested in supporting students on the autism spectrum as well as those with related disabilities.
To register for the program, complete the online application form. A representative from SOCIAL Gators will notify you within one week of your completed application submission. Applications are accepted for both Fall and Spring semesters, and should be submitted one month prior to the start of the semester you plan to join.
An autism diagnosis is not required at the time of applying to the program, however, you do need to identify as being on the autism spectrum or have an autism-related disability.
SOCIAL Gators provides mentoring, weekly group meetings, and online learning modules. The weekly meetings are designed to address issues such as health and wellness, social communication, stress management, executive functioning, career seeking, self-advocacy, and more. Students also meet with a peer mentor who provides support in navigating social aspects of university life. You can find out more information under the ‘Program Components’ tab above.
There is no charge for program services at this time.
You can make an appointment with one of the SOCIAL Gators staff by emailing SOCIALGators@ufsa.ufl.edu or by calling the Disability Resource Center at 352-846-6332.
Yes! SOCIAL Gators offers an online component so that online students can access materials and participate in online discussions and mentorship opportunities.