X-Path helps students find community at Xavier

By Aleya Justison | Staff Writer

Both time and stress management are difficulties all college students face from time to time, but for first-year English major Maddie Schramm these skills can be more challenging to maintain. Schramm has autism spectrum disorder. However, she wants people to see that there’s more to her than that.

As a new college student, she faces the struggles of independent living, a new environment and homesickness. Schramm finds that she’s experiencing many of the same difficulties as her peers, yet she’s perceived as different.

“I feel like people don’t really understand what autism really is and what it’s not,” Schramm said. “People make it out to be like it’s some terrible mental condition, but it’s actually really not that hard to manage with the right support.”

At Xavier, Schramm receives support through X-Path, a service for students on the autism spectrum offered by the Office of Disability Services. In its second year, X-Path is a new program that offers a range of accommodations such as assistive technology and note taking assistance.

After being accepted to Xavier, a student can apply to join X-Path and services will start prior to move-in day. Housing accommodations and scheduling assistance are two aspects of the pre-term programming. These services continue for students throughout their time at Xavier, continually building a support system.

Aside from academics, X-Path is also a club of which Schramm enjoys being a member.

“I love the social aspect as well as being able to meet with people who can help me with the issues that I need. I’ve also gotten to make new friends through the X-Path program,” Schramm said. The group takes off-campus excursions like movie nights and has a monthly “Restaurant Club” to help foster a sense of community.

Additionally, Schramm hopes the Xavier community will see X-Path as more than just services and students with autism as more than just their disorder.

“(X-Path) should be respected just like all the other clubs and organizations, and I wish people would see us as people first and our ‘mental illness’ second instead of the other way around,” she said. “At times, it can feel like stigma overwhelms the social aspects of the group and labels students as simply receiving services.”

Beyond Xavier, Schramm aims to change the stigma surrounding people on the spectrum. While in high school, Schramm published a book that inspired her to become an English major. She wants her writing to inspire others as well.

Growing up, Schramm recalls feeling very lonely. “I didn’t really have a role model to look up to because no one else I knew had autism,” she explained.

Her passion for writing stems partially from her desire to support others.

“My goal in life is to become both a best-selling author and to inspire people with other disabilities to help them see that they, too, can succeed,” she said.

Schramm is confident that she made the correct decision in coming to Xavier, as it offers her a path to pursue her writing while providing her with a close support system.

Schramm hopes that even in a stressful time like finals season, students remember that this stress exists among all college students. This shared experience may even be a way to bring the Xavier community closer together, especially those living with autism spectrum disorder.