Going To College With Autism

June 6, 2024

Empower your college journey with autism! Discover strategies for success, support services, and graduation rates.

Transitioning to College

Transitioning to college can be an exciting yet challenging time for individuals with autism. Proper transition planning and considering living arrangements are important factors to ensure a successful college experience.

Importance of Transition Planning

Transition planning plays a crucial role in preparing individuals with autism for the transition from high school to college. While schools typically begin transition planning with students and their families around the age of 14, thinking about college even earlier can be beneficial. Transition planning involves creating a roadmap that outlines goals, supports, and strategies to help students navigate the college environment.

By starting the planning process early, students can begin building the necessary skills and accessing resources that will aid their success in college. Transition planning may involve identifying academic accommodations, developing self-advocacy skills, and exploring support services available on campus.

Living Away from Home Considerations

For many individuals with autism, the prospect of living away from home during college can present unique challenges. It's important for families to consider whether their child is ready to live independently or if alternative options closer to home, such as attending a community college, may be more suitable.

Living away from home comes with increased responsibilities and the need for self-management skills. Autistic students may face difficulties with organization, time management, and maintaining routines. Exploring housing options that provide a supportive environment or seeking out roommate arrangements with understanding peers can help ease the transition.

It is essential for families to have open and honest discussions with their child about living away from home, taking into consideration their unique needs and abilities. By making informed decisions about living arrangements, students with autism can have a smoother transition to college life.

Transition planning and considering living arrangements are vital steps in empowering individuals with autism to navigate the college experience successfully. By starting early and being mindful of individual needs, families can help their children transition to college with confidence and set the stage for a fulfilling academic journey.

Support Services for Autistic Students

When it comes to supporting autistic students in their college journey, there are various services and resources available to help them succeed. In this section, we will explore two important aspects of support services: organizational tools and strategies, as well as college transition programs.

Organizational Tools and Strategies

Trouble with organization is common among individuals with autism, and the transition to college can bring new responsibilities and challenges [1]. Utilizing the right organizational tools and strategies can make a significant difference for autistic students as they navigate college life.

Visual schedules, planners, and alarm clocks are valuable tools that can help individuals with autism manage their time and stay on track. Visual schedules provide a visual representation of daily routines and activities, allowing students to have a clear understanding of what they need to accomplish. Planners can help students keep track of assignments, exams, and deadlines, ensuring that they stay organized and meet their academic responsibilities.

In addition to visual tools, utilizing technology-based tools and apps can also be beneficial. There are apps available that help with time management, task organization, and reminders. These tools can assist students in maintaining a structured approach to their college experience.

College Transition Programs

Many post-secondary institutions recognize the importance of providing specialized support for students with autism. As a result, they offer training and certification programs, as well as individualized and group support services tailored to meet the unique needs of autistic students.

For example, the University of Alabama offers the Autism Spectrum Disorders College Transition and Support Program (UA-ACTS). This comprehensive program provides academic and behavioral support for students with autism, equipping them with the skills and resources necessary for success. It is important to note that this program incurs a cost of $3000 per semester.

Similarly, the University of Arkansas offers the Autism Support Program, which provides intensive assistance for students with high-functioning autism, Asperger's syndrome, PDD-NOS, and non-verbal learning disability. These programs aim to create a supportive environment that fosters academic growth, social development, and overall well-being.

By participating in college transition programs, autistic students can benefit from specialized guidance and support that addresses their unique challenges. These programs can provide a sense of community, opportunities for skill development, and access to resources that can enhance their college experience and increase their chances of success.

Support services for autistic students play a crucial role in their college journey. By utilizing organizational tools and strategies and taking advantage of college transition programs, autistic students can thrive academically and personally during their college years.

Educational Support for Autistic Students

When it comes to supporting autistic students in their educational journey, there are specific strategies and programs that can make a significant impact. Two key components of educational support for autistic students are Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and Evidence-Based Practices (EBPs).

Individualized Education Programs (IEPs)

Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) play a crucial role in providing tailored support for autistic students. An IEP is a legal document that outlines the educational goals and accommodations for a student with disabilities. The goal of an IEP is to ensure that the student receives the necessary support and services to access an appropriate education.

To create an effective IEP for an autistic student, it is important to identify the target behaviors and set specific goals. The goals should be individualized and focus on the desired behavior change. The IEP should also include information about the accommodations, modifications, and support services required to help the student succeed.

Evidence-Based Practices (EBPs)

Evidence-Based Practices (EBPs) are strategies and programs that have been proven to be effective in teaching appropriate behaviors and skills while decreasing inappropriate behaviors for individuals with autism. These practices are based on research and have been shown to improve outcomes for students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) [5].

The National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorder has identified 27 evidence-based practices for improving outcomes for students with ASD. These include strategies such as visual supports, social narratives, and structured teaching. Educators and practitioners should consider the specific needs of the student, gather baseline data, and select the appropriate evidence-based practice to address the target behavior.

Implementing evidence-based practices requires collaboration among educators, practitioners, and families. It is essential to consider factors such as the student's individual needs, the expertise of the staff, and the availability of resources when selecting and implementing an evidence-based practice.

By utilizing individualized education programs and evidence-based practices, educational institutions can provide effective support and interventions for autistic students. These strategies ensure that students receive the tailored assistance they need to thrive academically and reach their full potential.

Challenges Faced by Autistic Students

Transitioning to college can present unique challenges for autistic students. It is important to understand and address these challenges to provide appropriate support and resources. This section will explore the social and academic challenges faced by autistic students, as well as the impact of sensory overload and mental health on their college experience.

Social and Academic Challenges

Autistic students often face social challenges in a college setting. According to a study published by the NCBI, autistic students self-report significant difficulties with social interactions, loneliness, and lack of interpersonal skills. Some students may experience social isolation and find social activities forced and unnecessary.

In addition to social challenges, autistic students may encounter academic difficulties as well. Time management, group work, and studying motivation can be particularly challenging. However, it is important to note that autistic students also possess academic strengths, such as the ability to focus in detail on one subject and proficiency in academic writing and research skills, as highlighted by the same NCBI study.

To address these challenges, it is crucial for colleges to provide support services that focus on developing social skills, fostering social support opportunities, and increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) among students, faculty, and staff. Creating a supportive and inclusive environment that values neurodiversity can greatly benefit autistic students in their social and academic pursuits.

Sensory Overload and Mental Health

Sensory overload is another significant challenge faced by many autistic students. Changes in routine, crowded environments, and loud noises can be overwhelming and lead to sensory overload. Autistic students may have heightened sensitivity to these stimuli, which can negatively impact their ability to focus and concentrate on their studies. It is important for colleges to provide sensory-friendly spaces and accommodations to help mitigate the effects of sensory overload.

Mental health challenges are also prevalent among autistic students. Anxiety and depression are commonly reported, and it is essential for colleges to provide mental health support services tailored to the unique needs of autistic students. These services may include counseling, therapy, and access to mental health professionals who are knowledgeable about autism.

By understanding and addressing the social and academic challenges faced by autistic students, as well as providing support for sensory overload and mental health, colleges can create an inclusive and empowering environment for these students. With the right resources and support systems in place, autistic students can thrive academically and socially during their college journey.

Success Strategies for Autistic Students

Transitioning to college can be an exciting yet challenging time for autistic students. With proper preparation and support, they can navigate the college experience successfully. Here are two key strategies that can contribute to their success: preparation in high school and having supportive professionals in college.

Preparation in High School

High school serves as a critical period for autistic students to assess their readiness for college and lay the groundwork for a successful transition. It is essential to evaluate various skills across different areas to thrive in college, regardless of academic capability.

During high school, students should consider the need for special accommodations or support in college, particularly if they are currently on an education plan like an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or a 504 plan. Seeking guidance from school counselors or special education professionals can help students identify the resources and accommodations available to them in college.

Additionally, high school is an opportune time for autistic students to develop essential skills that will benefit them in college. These skills include time management, organization, self-advocacy, and effective communication. By honing these skills, students can enhance their ability to navigate the challenges they may encounter during their college journey.

Supportive Professionals in College

Having supportive professionals in college is crucial for the success of autistic students. These professionals, such as advisers, counselors, or faculty members, play a vital role in recognizing and nurturing student talents while providing the necessary support for their growth.

Supportive professionals can assist autistic students in accessing the appropriate accommodations and resources available on campus. They can guide students in understanding the differences in laws and supports between high school and college regarding disability services. These professionals can also help students navigate the social and academic challenges they may encounter while providing the necessary encouragement and guidance.

By building positive relationships with supportive professionals, autistic students can feel empowered and confident in their college journey. Open communication and regular check-ins with these professionals can ensure that students receive the necessary support to thrive academically, socially, and emotionally.

By implementing these success strategies, autistic students can enhance their college experience and increase their chances of achieving their academic goals. With proper preparation and the support of professionals, they can overcome challenges and embrace the opportunities that college has to offer.

Statistics and Graduation Rates

When considering the journey of individuals with autism pursuing higher education, it's important to examine the statistics and graduation rates within this population. Understanding the numbers can provide insights into the challenges and successes experienced by autistic students throughout their college years.

Disability Statistics in Higher Education

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), in the 2015-2016 school year, 19% of undergraduate and 12% of graduate students reported having a disability. This includes individuals with various conditions, such as being Deaf or hard of hearing, having a learning disability, or having a physical, mental, or emotional condition.

It is important to note that these statistics encompass a wide range of disabilities, and specific data regarding autism is not available. However, these numbers indicate the presence and significance of students with disabilities in higher education.

Graduation Rates for Students with Disabilities

Graduation rates for students with disabilities reveal both achievements and areas for improvement. In a four-year college setting, about 49.5% of students with disabilities who enrolled in 2011 completed a bachelor's degree within six years. This figure is in contrast to the approximately 68% graduation rate among students without disabilities.

When focusing specifically on students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the postsecondary completion rates remain significantly lower. Research shows that only 39% of students with ASD complete their college education, compared to 59% of their peers in the general population and 50% for students with all types of disabilities. This data highlights the unique challenges faced by individuals with autism in higher education.

To further emphasize the importance of support and strategies, it's worth noting that even gifted autistic students face graduation hurdles. Only 39% of gifted autistic students who start college manage to finish, compared to 64% of all students nationwide. These statistics underscore the need for targeted support and resources to enhance the success rates of autistic students in higher education.

While graduation rates for students with disabilities demonstrate progress, it is crucial to continue advocating for inclusive practices and comprehensive support systems. By addressing the unique challenges faced by autistic students, colleges and universities can work towards improving graduation rates and ensuring that all individuals have an equal opportunity to succeed in their educational pursuits.


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