Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Do Autistic Adults Go To College

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Aging Out Of Supports Kids On The Spectrum Struggle

Where do children with autism go after they “age out” of school or graduate?

Beth Arky

Vassar junior Zoe Gross knows her strengths and weaknesses all too well. So while she gets good grades, the 21-year-old is aware that she does things more slowly than most people, including getting dressed in the morning, transitioning between activities, and writing papers. It makes college an even greater challenge. When you take into account that when Im living on my own it is difficult for me just to keep myself washed, fed and in clean clothes, she says, it means that I cant do the schoolwork as fast as the professors can assign it.

Gross is on the autism spectrum, and her struggles with life skills and executive functionthe mental processes that involve things like planning, time management and multitaskingleave her feeling depressed and anxious. I get sick a lot because my immune system is shot, she says. I got strep and mono in one semester. Of course, this adds to her anxiety and trouble getting things done. Every semester I am absolutely miserable by finals. After finally hitting a serious rocky patch, as she puts it, Gross decided to take a break this semester.

‘far Too Many Are Struggling’: Are Universities Failing Autistic Students

The number of students with social impairments is growing rapidly, but they dont always get the support they need

Matthew Moffatt, who is autistic, struggled when he started at De Montfort University. When I saw how busy my lecture theatre was, it was terrifying, he says. My sense of panic is through the roof and Im not very good at controlling it. It just builds really quickly I start shaking and want to leave.

He hadnt wanted to go to university because he didnt think he would fit in, and he hated the idea of presentations and busy lectures. I didnt like school, but college said I was good at maths and should do something I enjoy, he says.

Moffatt is one of a growing number of autistic students, many of whom find UK universities ill-suited to their needs. According to the Office for National Statistics, the number of students with social and communication impairments has increased from 2,815 in 2010-11 to 10,595 in 2017-18. Some need extra time to process information, feel intense anxiety in social situations, and find noise and bright lights distressing.Earlier this year, the Higher Education Commission launched an inquiry into the experience of disabled students, including autistic students, to look at why so many achieve below their potential. Although universities must comply with the Disability Act and the Autism Act, approaches vary, and experts say institutions are failing their autistic students.

Autism Schools And Education Facilities

Another consideration in looking at colleges is what kind of post-college preparation exists. Some colleges offer internships, job interviewing skills, and help with job planning; some are primarily focused on getting the student through the college but have no preparation for post-college life.

Yes, even though you may have been focused on college since kindergarten, life goes on and theres increasing emphasis on providing support for employment opportunities and skills for young adults on the spectrum.

College is another step in a path that is highly individualized, and paths can be bumpy. Many students have setbacks, drop classes to adjust the load, or change schools; this is true for all students, not just those with ASD.

As colleges learn to provide better support to autistic students and students learn to ask for what they need, the success rate will be rising. The track record of students with autism will be improving as understanding and awareness are increasing steadily.

This article was featured in Issue 109 Attaining Good Health.

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Education For Autistic Adults

Education is a personal choice for autistic people, the same as it is for anyone else. Different resources and options may be helpful based on your specific needs.

For example, an autistic adult who requires a significant amount of day-to-day support may need their parent or primary caregiver to help advocate for them and connect them with education and resources.

If youre autistic and dont need as much support, you might choose to enroll in college or enter the workforce as you transition to adulthood.

Here youll find some ideas for autistic adults and parents of autistic adults who are interested in pursuing education into adulthood.

Remember That Social Skills Matter

10 Ways to Prepare Your Autistic Child for College

Academics are usually at the forefront of college. However, social relationships are among the most challenging aspects of college life. Making new friends can feel especially daunting to students with ASD. Some peers may say or do hurtful things. As a result, students with autism may close themselves off and avoid social activities.

Dr. Sush recommends that students identify the qualities of a good friend. Parents, teachers, and students can discuss the importance of making new connections, says Dr. Sush. They can also discuss strategies for making friends and accessing support.

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What Can A Student With Autism Do To Increase Daily Living Skills Before Going To College

If a student with autism is graduating from high school and is still having difficulty with daily living skills, there are a number of things they can do to prepare for a successful transition to college life. Also, there are lots of wonderful resources available to help neurodiverse students succeed in college.;

College Autism Summit 2021

The Summit brings together scholars, practitioners, administrators, employers, and self-advocates to discuss evidence-driven strategies that help support college students with autism and related learning differences.;

ACE is an online curriculum designed to provide resources and training for campus career services professionals who support autistic college students.

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Education After High School: What Are The Options

More and more students on the autism spectrum are deciding to pursue education beyond high school. One reason for this is the recognition by post-secondary institutions that autistic students can be not only qualified, but also successful students, particularly when given needed supports. As a result, there are more and more post-secondary programs to choose from.

Most people think of traditional college when they think of post-secondary education, but there are other options, ranging from pre-college programs to vocational training to personal development classes offered in the community. The paragraphs below outline some of the most popular programs. Accommodations , which may be required under Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 or Subpart E of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 , as well as any additional supports that may be available to college students, are discussed in separate articles.

Pre-College Programs:

With more and more students with disabilities wanting to go to college, a number of programs designed to prepare students for the experience have been developed. Sometimes these programs are available to students while they are attending high school; others are specifically designed for students who are high school graduates.

Traditional Four-year Colleges or Universities:

Community Colleges:

Vocational Schools:

Other Community Programs:

Online Education:

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Autism And College: Your Comprehensive Preparation Guide

Autism Goes To College Trailer | Can people with autism go to college?

Any new college student faces challenges while adjusting to campus life. However, for students with autism, this transitional period can be incredibly daunting and sadly, this hinders many adults with autism from seeking post-secondary education.

Research suggests that approximately 17 percent of young adults with autism enrolled in a four-year college program; and while just 39 percent earn a degree, barriers to graduation are rarely about grades alone. After all, approximately half of the population diagnosed with autism showcase an average to above-average intellectual ability.

Feeling isolated is a major concern for more than 75 percent of college students with autism, which is why its so important to take a proactive approach when selecting a school. The ultimate goal is to be as prepared as possible, increasing the students chances of success heres how to tackle autism and college.

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College Students With Autism Have Low Graduation Rate

The transition from high school to college proves challenging for adults with autism

Photo by Alexa Buechler

Members of ASU’s Autistics on Campus meet to discuss their week during a club meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017, on the Tempe campus.

The transition between high school and college can prove to be difficult for individuals with autism, and their college retention rates remain low despite resources to help them complete coursework.

About 50,000 Americans with autism enter adulthood each year and about one-third of these young adults attend college after high school, according to Autism Speaks.

Jennifer B, a sophomore with autism studying informatics, said in an email interview that students with autism are as smart as any other college student and have plenty of potential.

But autistics are often given very little support, especially once we become adults, because the focus is on the parents feelings instead of the autistic persons well-being, she said.

The Data Regarding Adults with Autism

Jessica Rast, a research associate at the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute, helped author the National Autism Indicators Report: Transition into Young Adulthood study.;

The study followed students in special education programs through high school and up to eight years after high school.

Rast said that while the numbers increased, these students had an extra two years to complete their degree.

The Stigma Surrounding Autism

Transitioning from High School to College

For Parents Of An Autistic Person

If youre parenting an autistic person who requires a high level of support, you may be used to advocating for their educational needs.

As your autistic child enters adulthood, it can help to remember that public schools are typically responsible for providing services to autistic people of up to 22 years old. After this, any other educational or employment opportunities will likely be organized by you.

It can help to start researching these opportunities early to get a head start on this process. Talking to other parents of autistic adults can also help you gather information and ideas about resources that may exist in your community.

One resource that could help you get started is this guide to academic success from the Autism Society.

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Autistic Burnout: An Often

During an autistic persons life, there may be times when they seem to lose skills or show more obvious signs of autism. For example, a toddler who had a vocabulary of a dozen words may stop talking altogether. A social teenager may find it harder to make appropriate eye contact or take turns in conversation, despite having learned these skills as a child.

This phenomenon is called autistic burnout . Autistic burnout can be very distressing for the autistic individual and their family, especially if they dont know what is happening. However, it is important to note that autistic burnout is not necessarily an omen of permanent regression or skill loss. Recovery is possible.

A Roadmap To Learning Beyond High School

Why do so few students on the autism spectrum go to college?

Planning for life after high school can be a daunting but exciting task. It is important that you know that your education does not need to end after graduation. We are all lifelong learners. Regardless of your level of need, there are options that can help you gain skills and experiences that will empower you to live an adult life that is as fulfilling as possible. This brief roadmap is designed to help you get started.

Step 1: Preparing for Postsecondary Education

It is never too early to start planning for the future! Ask to meet with your guidance counselor to begin to explore all available options. You might be able to try out some of these options while youre still in high school or over the summer. Take advantage of career exploration classes and campus tours to help you prepare for what is expected at different settings. If you are planning to go to a traditional college, keep in mind that you will need to obtain a high school diploma or a General Education Diploma .

Understand the Law

Your Individualized Education Program will not transfer with you from high school to postsecondary education. The laws that govern accommodations after high school include the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. These laws ensure equal access and non-discrimination, but there is no guarantee of progress or success.


Step 2: Choosing Your Path

  • 2-year Technical Schools or Community Colleges
  • Cooperative Education Programs
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    My Experience At College

    I have autism, and I went to college, earning both a Bachelors and a Masters degree. I was very fortunate to have a generally good college experience. Almost all of my instructors understood that I was different and that I had special needs.

    Most of my professors and the disability services office worked with me to provide the right accommodations. I did not live in a dorm because I was able to drive to college from home.

    The only negative experiences I had at college were primarily with other students. I am not good at socializing, but I tried. Sometimes, I found myself getting shunned and frowned-upon. I also discovered that many students did not know what autism was. Some even believed that autistic people were monsters waiting to snap, which is not true at all. In spite of these difficulties, I did make some wonderful friends who did understand me.

    ASD students need special accommodations to thrive. One of our challenges is socializing. On-campus, we often have a hard time making friends and getting plugged into college groups.

    So, the question is, what can parents and college staff do to support us?

    Here are some helpful tips and information that I can share based on my own experience attending college.

    What This Study Adds:

    Using national data, the authors of this study found that youth with autism are at high risk for no postsecondary education or employment, especially in the first 2 years after high school. Findings highlight the need for improved transition planning.

    What will my childs life be like as an adult? Will college or employment be possible? Pediatricians often are asked questions like these by parents of a child diagnosed with a lifelong condition. These questions can be especially difficult to answer for a child diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder . Approximately 50000 adolescents with an ASD will turn 18 years old this year in the United States; however, there is little population-based evidence about the distribution of postsecondary educational and vocational outcomes among young adults with an ASD.

    Nationally representative estimates of postsecondary education and employment outcomes can help clinicians talk with parents about the range of potential young adult outcomes for children with an ASD. Examining correlates of these outcomes can help identify subsets of youth who are at particularly high risk for disengagement from education and employment and inform policies currently being formulated to serve this expanding population.

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    Finding A College Program For Students With Autism

    This is the fourth in a series of articles, which first appeared in, examining the research and reality of the transition to adulthood, with advice from experts who have studied the process and young adults who have lived it.

    Regardless of where a student falls on the autism spectrum and whether he was valedictorian or left high school without a diploma, there is a U.S. college program for him. But it probably will take some research to find the right fit. Here are some resources and tips that can help.


    Students with intellectual disabilities can receive U.S. federal grants to attend approved programs at any of 30 colleges and universities, including big names such as Clemson, the University of California and Vanderbilt. Students in these comprehensive transition and postsecondary programs focus on academic, vocational and independent living skills. They generally attend some classes or job training programs with nondisabled students. For a list of schools, see the Federal Student Aid website.

    Not every state has an approved CTP program. However, that doesnt mean there are no options near you. You can search by state for programs at That website lists two-year community colleges and four-year schools that have programs and services for students with intellectual disabilities.


    Understand That The Transition To College Will Be Full Of Ups And Downs

    S#!T Ignorant People Say To Autistics

    Even with the best-laid plans, setbacks happen. When students with ASD have a plan of action to handle setbacks, they can rebound quicker. Students may want to find a mentor who can help.When students struggle, reaching out to a trusted person is the most important thing they can do, says Dr. Lee. They should never feel ashamed. The real shame would be struggling so much that they need to withdraw from college.

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    Increase Your Social Support Network

    Find a neurodiverse/autism support group to have a supportive community of peers that understand you. If the college you attend or the college town does not have in-person groups there are online support groups available.

    Also, you should think about participating in a community of people who share your special interest/hobby. Join a club that has regular meetings so you get positive social interactions and structure in your life. Lastly, you could consider volunteering and doing something you care about deeply and that aligns with your values and allows you to meet people with similar interests and values.;

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