History & Principles
Founded in Lee, Massachusetts in 1984, the College Internship Program (CIP) originally served as a community-based alternative to institutions for students with Learning Disabilities. The program was founded to supply a transitional apartment program for individuals to learn the skills necessary to live independently. From the beginning, the program served as a psycho-educational alternative to traditional “medical model” facilities.
The founder, Dr. Michael McManmon, was profoundly influenced by the work on “Normalization” by Wolfensberger. The belief is that students with learning differences must live, learn and work in environments which duplicate normal real-life conditions.
With assistance from our Professional Advisory Board Members, CIP has developed comprehensive curriculum specifically for Asperger’s syndrome, high-functioning autism, nonverbal learning differences, ADHD and other learning differences. Further development in academic supports include tutoring, advising, executive functioning skills groups, study halls and academic liaison with colleges and universities.
As alternative or adjoined curriculum to academics, CIP’s career program offers services such as career counseling, employment skills classes, internship/job liaison, job coaching and internship/job support groups.
Developing social skills and social thinking is an important piece of independent life. CIP offers individual social mentoring, social thinking group classes and a social transition group for students transitioning out of CIP.
As a residential program, experienced staff work with students 1-on-1 in their own apartments assisting them in cooking instruction and safety, apartment maintenance and executive functioning and organization skills. Students are incorporated into CIP’s diverse and supportive learning culture in which all individuals are treated with respect.
Since 1984, the College Internship Program has expanded into five national centers of excellence with full-year, summer and Mploy program options.
CIP’s Founding Principles
Do What We Say We Will Do
We made a commitment to give the services we have stated and that we provide in our materials. We continually look at what we have written to make sure it reflects the program as it has evolved. We try not to make promises we cannot keep. We take our mandate very seriously and devote our resources to assisting students in reaching their goals. We understand the trust that families have put in us, and want to fulfill our obligations to provide the very best services possible.
A Culture of Learning
How do we stay open to feedback, receptive to change and continue to evolve and have satisfied consumers? We do that in many ways. We mentor a culture of learning for our students by involving them, parents, community members and professionals in the running of our centers. We accept feedback as neutral and want honest feedback.
- Student Council: The student senate is elected by the students and gives direct input on programmatic changes, activities and any area of student life. A representative attends the staff meeting to give direct input.
- Professional Advisory Board: The Professional Advisory Board is composed of Authors, Lecturers, and experts in the field of learning differences. They provide input on the program’s vision, curriculum development, and overall development.
- Feedback from Students and Parents: We continually survey our current and past students and parents in order to address every area of the program and develop insights into areas of improvement.
- Staff Development Meetings: Three times a year during student breaks our staff meet to debrief on the last term and look at all the areas that need to be improved or developed. Recommendations from the Advisory Board are looked at to find ways of implementation. The Parent Student Manual is brought up to date and all operational rules, and curriculum are open for revision. Student input is also looked at for possible changes to the program.
It's a Learning Difference, Not a Disability
In approaching our students it is of utmost importance that they come to believe that they were made the way they were on purpose and that they are not disabled but have learning differences. Most people learn in one way and they learn in another way.
We describe this by using the analogy of an apple computer vs. and IBM computer. An apple computer can do graphics and visual creative work. It can also be used to create music. IBM computers (PCs) virtually run the business world. We rely on them everywhere we go daily.
Is an apple computer disabled because it is in the minority of computers? The obvious answer is “no”. As individuals with learning differences we process the world differently than most neurotypical people (who are the majority of our world). We must learn to interface with the IBM’s who run the world. We must learn to speak their language.
It is as though we speak Chinese and the whole world is operating their systems with English. We must learn to speak the language of the world (for us that is a social language that we do not understand).
You Were Made For Good Purpose and Are Inherently Valuable
There is a good purpose to our learning differences. Under each one lies and asset which is a gem we must recognize and polish. We must continue to work toward understanding our good purpose.
When we say that we are inherently valuable, we mean that we don’t have to do anything to become valuable, we already are. This may seem trivial, but it is a huge realization when fully understood. Most of our students have been misdiagnosed, tested, treated, dragged to therapy, been given remediation, medication and anything else their families could try to get them help.
The problem is that this creates a second problem which is almost and in some cases bigger than the original learning differences. Pealing away the layers of the onion is necessary to get down to accept who they are the way they were made as being valuable and the way it is supposed to be. Whether their brother or sister went to Yale or their best friend has a girl friend and drives, they were made for good purpose and are inherently valuable.
Finding their good purpose and accepting who they are is the first step to becoming healthy self-actualizing adults. Self-awareness and self-acceptance are the keys that unlock the door to a happy and productive life. It’s like the difference between giving someone a fish to eat and teaching them to fish for themselves.
Our students with learning differences and Asperger’s Syndrome, know little about themselves and which aspects of these learning differences they possess and what they can do to interface with the neuro-typical world. Just getting them to pass classes or get a degree does not in most cases solve the primary problem which is social competency based.
They can easily end up being 35 in an apartment on a SSI check isolated from former friends and family members and under-employed or unemployed. Many of them can work for people that should be working for them. They often are the most knowledgeable person on a job, but have the least amount of power, salary or job security. This is the crux of our philosophy in dealing with them. They need to understand this very clearly and be given the assistance to learn the social competencies necessary to not only survive, but also flourish.