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Going To College With Autism

Conquer college with autism! Strategies, support programs, and success tips for students going to college with autism.

Transitioning to College with Autism

For individuals with autism, transitioning to college can be an exciting yet challenging journey. It is essential to have a plan in place to ensure a smooth transition and successful college experience. This section will explore post-high school planning resources, types of suitable institutions, and budgeting strategies to support the transition for autistic students.

Post-High School Planning Resources

Autistic students benefit from post-high school planning resources designed to support their transition to college [1]. These resources provide valuable information and guidance to help students and their families navigate the college application process. They offer insights into choosing the right college, understanding the support services available, and preparing for the academic and social challenges that may arise.

By utilizing these resources, students can gain a better understanding of their options and make informed decisions about their future educational endeavors. It is recommended to start exploring these resources early on to allow for ample time to prepare and plan for college.

Types of Suitable Institutions

When considering college options, it is important to identify institutions that are suitable for autistic students. Different types of colleges and universities may offer varying levels of support and resources tailored to the needs of autistic individuals [1].

Liberal arts colleges and polytechnic institutes are examples of suitable institutions that may provide an inclusive and supportive environment for autistic students. These institutions often prioritize individualized attention, smaller class sizes, and specialized support services, which can contribute to a more positive college experience.

Community colleges can also be a good starting point for autistic students, offering flexibility and a supportive learning environment. Additionally, community colleges can serve as a viable backup plan if other college options are not immediately available.

Budgeting Strategies for Transition

Transitioning to college involves financial considerations, and it is important to plan and budget accordingly. Autistic students and their families can benefit from developing strategies to manage the financial aspects of the transition.

Scholarships and financial aid opportunities specific to students with autism can provide financial assistance and alleviate some of the financial burdens associated with college. Researching and applying for these resources can help offset the costs of tuition, books, and other educational expenses.

Additionally, it is crucial to explore available financial aid options, such as grants, loans, and work-study programs. Understanding the financial aid process and deadlines can help ensure that autistic students can access the resources they need to pursue their education.

Creating a budget and tracking expenses can also contribute to a successful transition. By identifying and prioritizing necessary expenses, students can better manage their finances and make informed decisions about their spending.

By utilizing post-high school planning resources, considering suitable institutions, and implementing budgeting strategies, autistic students can navigate the transition to college with greater confidence and set themselves up for success in their academic journey.

Challenges for Autistic Students

Transitioning to college can present unique challenges for students with autism. It's important to understand and navigate these challenges to ensure a successful college experience. Some of the main challenges faced by autistic students include academic difficulties, social and sensory difficulties, and time management and organization issues.

Academic Challenges

Autistic students may encounter academic challenges that require additional support and accommodations. According to the DO-IT, University of Washington, these challenges can include difficulties with writing, organization, and schedules. Many students with autism face challenges in using traditional pencil and paper for writing tasks, and they may require alternative methods or assistive technology to facilitate their learning. Additionally, organization and time management skills can be areas of struggle for autistic students, particularly when faced with the increased responsibilities and demands of college life.

Social and Sensory Difficulties

Social interactions and sensory sensitivities can present significant challenges for students with autism. According to the DO-IT, University of Washington, social interactions, noisy environments, intense sensory stimulation, and changes in expected routines can be particularly challenging. The unstructured nature of college, such as lunchtime or free periods, can pose difficulties for autistic students who thrive on predictability and routine.

Time Management and Organization

Trouble with time management and organization is common among individuals with autism, and this challenge can impact their college experience. As mentioned by the Child Mind Institute, the multiple responsibilities of college life, such as living independently, taking care of daily needs, managing homework, and maintaining schedules, can be overwhelming for autistic students. It is essential for these students to develop effective time management strategies, organizational skills, and seek support to stay on track and succeed academically.

Understanding and addressing these challenges is crucial for supporting autistic students throughout their college journey. By providing appropriate accommodations, fostering social inclusion, and offering resources for time management and organization, colleges can create an environment that promotes the success and well-being of students with autism.

Support Programs for Autistic Students

For students with autism, having access to support programs in college can greatly enhance their academic and social experiences. Here are three notable support programs designed to assist autistic students in their college journey:

Bridges to Adelphi Program

Adelphi University offers the Bridges to Adelphi Program, which provides comprehensive support for students with nonverbal learning disabilities, including autism. This program focuses on helping students develop essential skills such as organization, time management, and independent living skills. Students enrolled in the program meet with academic coaches and learning strategists twice a week to receive individualized guidance and support. Additionally, they have the opportunity to participate in open group social skills and support meetings, fostering connections with other students facing similar challenges. The Bridges to Adelphi Program also pairs students with a student mentor, who serves as an additional source of guidance and support throughout their college journey.

Autism Support Program at Drexel University

Drexel University recognizes the unique needs of students with autism and offers the Autism Support Program to provide free and confidential support services. This program is specifically designed to assist Drexel students with autism and related disorders. The Autism Support Program offers individual peer mentoring, allowing students to receive personalized guidance from mentors who understand their experiences. Students also have the opportunity to attend seminars, which aim to promote a better understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) within the college community. The Autism Support Program at Drexel University is committed to fostering an inclusive and supportive environment for autistic students.

College Supports Program at Eastern Michigan University

Eastern Michigan University offers the College Supports Program, which caters to students with Asperger's Syndrome and related social communication disorders. This fee-for-service program provides a range of support services to help students navigate college life successfully. The College Supports Program includes options for life and social skills support, ongoing consultations with faculty and housing services, mentoring, counseling, and parent support. By addressing the unique needs of students with Asperger's Syndrome, Eastern Michigan University aims to provide a supportive and inclusive environment that fosters academic and personal growth.

These support programs are just a few examples of the resources available to autistic students in college. It's important for students and their families to explore the support services offered by their prospective colleges or universities to ensure a smooth transition and a fulfilling college experience.

College Success Programs

For students with autism, navigating college can present unique challenges. Fortunately, there are several college success programs available that provide specialized support and resources to help students thrive academically, socially, and emotionally. Two notable programs in this realm are the College Success Program at Eastern University and the COMPASS Program at Fairleigh Dickinson University.

College Success Program at Eastern University

The College Success Program (CSP) at Eastern University is specifically designed to maximize the potential of students living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) during their college years. The program focuses on academic responsibility, social interaction skills, and independence. Through the CSP, students receive comprehensive support in various aspects of college life, including academic goal setting, social skill development, and everyday living skills.

The CSP at Eastern University offers individualized guidance and mentoring to help students with autism navigate the academic demands of college. This includes assistance with time management, study strategies, and test preparation. Additionally, the program emphasizes the development of social skills, providing opportunities for students to engage in social activities and form meaningful connections with peers.

COMPASS Program at Fairleigh Dickinson University

The COMPASS program at Fairleigh Dickinson University is a two-year program designed to provide academic and social support to college students with Asperger's Syndrome. This program offers individualized academic support, counseling, and group therapy sessions to help students succeed academically and navigate the social challenges of college life.

The COMPASS program at Fairleigh Dickinson University recognizes the unique needs of students with Asperger's Syndrome and provides tailored support to address these needs. Students receive personalized attention and guidance to help them excel academically, including assistance with organization, time management, and study skills. Furthermore, the program offers counseling and group therapy sessions to support students' emotional well-being and social development.

By participating in college success programs like the College Success Program at Eastern University and the COMPASS Program at Fairleigh Dickinson University, students with autism can receive the specialized support they need to thrive in college. These programs provide a range of resources and assistance, enabling students to develop academic skills, foster social connections, and achieve their full potential during their college journey.

Strategies for College Success

When it comes to navigating college with autism, there are several strategies that can help students thrive academically, socially, and emotionally. By utilizing accommodations and support services, engaging in transition planning and self-advocacy, and understanding and disclosing disabilities, students with autism can set themselves up for success in their college journey.

Accommodations and Support Services

Colleges and universities are required to provide equal access for students with disabilities, including those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (504). Students with ASD can receive accommodations through a 504 Plan, ensuring that they have the necessary supports and resources to excel in their studies.

To access accommodations, students should reach out to the disabilities services office at their college or university. Almost every institution has such an office where students can obtain information about available accommodations and learn how to access them [3]. This office serves as a valuable resource, providing guidance and support throughout the college journey.

Accommodations for students with autism can vary depending on individual needs. Some common accommodations include extra time on exams, note-taking assistance, preferential seating, and access to quiet or sensory-friendly spaces [4]. These accommodations aim to create an inclusive and supportive learning environment, allowing students to reach their full potential.

Transition Planning and Self-Advocacy

Transition planning is crucial for students with autism, and it is recommended to start thinking about college even before high school. Transition planning involves setting goals, exploring post-secondary options, and developing the necessary skills for college life. By starting early, students can gain valuable self-advocacy skills and learn how to communicate their needs effectively.

Teenagers with autism can learn to advocate for themselves by actively participating in Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings and understanding their rights and accommodations. These skills will enable them to confidently request the services and supports they need once they transition to college.

Additionally, students should familiarize themselves with the resources available on their college campus, such as academic support centers, counseling services, and student organizations. These resources can provide guidance, mentorship, and a sense of community, which are essential for a successful college experience.

Understanding and Disclosing Disabilities

Understanding one's own disabilities and strengths is vital for college success. Students with autism should take the time to learn about their unique learning style and sensory processing needs. This self-awareness can help them seek appropriate accommodations and advocate for their needs effectively.

When it comes to disclosing disabilities, the decision is personal and should be based on individual circumstances. Some students may choose to disclose their autism diagnosis to professors or college staff, while others may prefer to disclose only to the disabilities services office. Disclosing disabilities can help ensure that necessary accommodations are in place and that professors and staff have a better understanding of the student's needs.

By employing these strategies, students with autism can navigate the college environment more effectively. Accommodations and support services provide the necessary tools for academic success, while transition planning and self-advocacy empower students to take charge of their college experience. Understanding and disclosing disabilities help create an inclusive and supportive environment, fostering a positive college journey for students with autism.

Navigating College with Autism

Transitioning to college can be a challenging experience for students on the autism spectrum. While they may face unique obstacles, understanding and addressing these challenges can greatly contribute to their success. In this section, we will explore some of the hidden challenges, communication and social skills, and sensory processing issues that students with autism may encounter in a college setting.

Hidden Challenges

Students on the autism spectrum often face "hidden challenges" that can adversely affect their ability to navigate a typical college campus and perform well in class. These challenges may include difficulties with attention, social interactions, and sensory processing. As a result, they may appear inattentive, bored, rude, defiant, or even under the influence of drugs. It's important to recognize and address these hidden challenges to provide appropriate support and accommodation to students with autism.

Communication and Social Skills

Communication skills can be a significant hurdle for students on the autism spectrum. They may process verbal exchanges more slowly, struggle with sarcasm, idioms, and literal interpretations of language, and have difficulty understanding gestures and body language. These challenges can impact their ability to participate in class discussions, engage in group work, and fully comprehend course material [4].

To support students with autism in their communication and social skills, accommodations may include providing lecture notes, study guides, allowing longer response times, and utilizing written forms of communication. These accommodations can help students better understand and engage with course content, fostering a more inclusive learning environment.

Sensory Processing Issues

Sensory processing issues are another common challenge faced by students on the autism spectrum. They may experience extreme sensitivity or under-sensitivity to environmental stimuli and the five senses. Additionally, some students may experience synesthesia, which can further impact their perception of sensory input.

To accommodate students with sensory processing issues, it is essential to create an environment that supports their unique needs. This can include allowing the use of hats, sunglasses, and earplugs to manage sensory input. Providing sensory items and allowing students to choose their seating arrangements can also contribute to their comfort and overall learning experience.

By recognizing and addressing the hidden challenges, communication and social skills, and sensory processing issues faced by students with autism, colleges can create an inclusive and supportive environment. Accommodations and support services tailored to their specific needs can help these students navigate college successfully and achieve their academic goals.


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