Academic Supports For College Students With An Autism Spectrum Disorder: An Overview
Marci Wheeler, MSW
Each year more information about the college experiences of those on the autism spectrum is written by their parents, professionals and these students on the autism spectrum. Temple Grandin a biopic movie of Temples life premiered last year on HBO, and won several Emmy and other awards. Included in the film, of this very accomplished woman with autism, is a significant look at Temples experience at college. This film also reminds us that fellow college students need information to better understand their peers on the autism spectrum and how to include and support them. There is much more to college life than academics. Intellectually these students are often very bright but many may face a variety of hidden challenges that can undermine their ability to navigate a typical college campus and perform well in class. This article will discuss some of the challenges and possible academic supports for students on the autism spectrum.
Professors and other instructors need to be aware of possible supports that a student on the autism spectrum might find necessary to participate in class and complete classwork. The following six sections briefly state a common concern for most students and list some possible issues and accommodations. Each student on the autism spectrum has unique needs and should work closely with instructors and other college staff to design an individualized plan of proactive support and response to challenges if they arise.
Autism Accommodations In College
While colleges are required to provide accommodations to students with disabilities, many of the accommodations that a student receives in high school are no longer available at the post-secondary level. In addition, individuals with autism do not typically understand how to advocate for their needs, which can hinder their ability to obtain the help they require. That is why all arrangements should be made prior to admission.
It is important to note that each college is unique in terms of the level of support provided. Some offer the bare minimum in terms of legal requirements, while others go above and beyond. When it comes to your college of choice, it is best to schedule an appointment with the Disability Support Services Office.
During your appointment, discuss the services and level of support surrounding accommodations, including reduced course loads, priority registration, the possibility of substituting one course for another, extended testing time, and accessing note-takers .
When requesting specific accommodations, be sure to document your requests. Documentation should include:
- The identification of a clear diagnosis
- The most current information, as disabilities change over time
- History relating to the students medical, educational, and development limitations and support
- Diagnosis supported in terms of current treatment, cognitive testing, clinical evaluations, etc.
Hold A Professional Development Session On Autism
Its so important to teach faculty about autism awareness, too. If youre a school administrator, consider holding a professional development session on teaching students with autism or sharing a few resources.
For example, the Regional Educational Laboratory Program has put together a helpful resource for administrators on how educators can support students with autism during remote learning.
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History Should Be Presented
Provide relevant educational, developmental, and medical history in support of the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder and the functional limitation. Information about the students history of receiving school accommodations and current use of accommodations helps College Board understand the nature and severity of the students disability and the need for accommodations. Teacher observations are often helpful as well they may be recorded on the Teacher Survey Form.
Accommodations On The Job
Employment Tool Kit
A majority of employees with autism require some type of accommodation in their employment. Some of those accommodations are easy and inexpensive to implement, while other accommodations require a more thoughtful plan. This section of the Employment Tool Kit offers information on different types of accommodations that may apply to you or others. It is also important to note that oftentimes in employment the job responsibilities can change according to the needs of the business.
Accommodations are often needed not only to get the job but to keep the job, as those tasks and possible supervisors can change.
Universal Design for Accommodations
Universal Design is defined as, the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design. Center for Universal Design, NC State University Employers who participated in the Autism Speaks Employment Think Tank in June 2012 agreed that neurotypical employees also benefit from the supports put in place for their co-workers with autism. Visual reminders, simplified job descriptions, and traveling interviews where job candidates observe employees performing the job for which they are being considered are useful for all company employees. Frequently, productivity can be increased for all employees with these universal accommodations.
Job Accommodation Network
Interacting with Coworkers:
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Autism Spectrum And The Americans With Disabilities Act
The ADA does not contain a list of medical conditions that constitute disabilities. Instead, the ADA has a general definition of disability that each person must meet. A person has a disability if he/she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having an impairment. For more information about how to determine whether a person has a disability under the ADA, see How to Determine Whether a Person Has a Disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act .
Helpful Accommodations For Autistic Students
Look closely at the rows of smiling faces in your classroom. Chances are, one or two of those smiles belong to a child with autism.
As their teacher, it’s your job to provide these students with a quality education. Be an ally for your autistic students by modifying your classroom, your teaching habits, or both.
Weve outlined seven ideas for helpful accommodations for students with autism. We focused on suggestions that come with low costs and easy implementation, but know that there are many more useful suggestions out there. Use this list as a starting point as you create a classroom that helps all students.
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Executive Functioning Accommodations For Autism
Ive got an entire article on executive functioning accommodations for autism and other learning differences, but Ill share a few of the highlights here.
Have all assignments broken down into smaller chunks, usually with separate deadlines
Keep to the schedule
Try to help them predict their day as much as you can. Changes can be distressing for autistic children, so teach them to keep a calendar, agenda book, or other schedule. Write down the anticipated structure of every day and go over it with them. When changes must eventually come, and announce them ahead of time, when possible.
Provide graphic organizers
This helps autistic kids to visualize their plans and organize their thoughts. For kids who have trouble initiating activities, writing graphic organizers also can provide a clear starting point and help map out the process of writing a paragraph, story, or essay.
Effective Accommodations For Students With Autism
Anyone working in Higher Ed disability services will be familiar with the challenge of providing support across a range of needs. Learn how we can help, here.
Anyone working in Higher Ed disability services will be familiar with the challenge of providing support across a range of needs. Supplying assistive technology for institutions around the US, we know how tough that can be.
Thatâs why we wanted to focus specifically on accommodations for students with autism, and steps your institution could take to improve outcomes for these students.
Autism is a complex condition that creates a wide range of potential limitations for learners. Here, we break down the key takeaways from some recent research on the subject and present you with 6 measures that have been shown to help.
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Functional Limitations Should Be Described
Explain how autism spectrum disorder currently impacts the students academic functioning and ability to participate in College Board exams. Functional limitation can be documented in a variety of ways:
Offer Accommodations For Students With Limited Motor Skills
Some students with autism may have more trouble with activities that require fine motor skills than others. In an article with the Indiana Resource Center for Autism, renowned scientist and advocate Dr. Temple Grandin suggests offering accommodationslike typing on a computer instead of writingto mitigate these challenges.
When it comes to specific accommodations, it may depend on the individual. Its always a good idea to reach out to a students family to determine the best resources for their child.
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Accommodations Do Not Alter What The Student Is Expected To Learn But Rather Make Learning Accessible To The Student
They allow the student to demonstrate what they know without being impeded by their disability. Students are required to complete the same assignment or test as other students, but with a change in the timing, formatting, setting, scheduling, response and/or presentation. They do not alter in any way what the assignment or test measures.
Accommodations can be referred to as good teaching practices. Here are some common accommodations made for students with Aspergers, high functioning autism, and other related disabilities.
Have a set routine.
Does your child require a visual schedule? Do they need prior notice of any changes in their schedule? Does your child require transitions between classrooms before or after the other students?
Extended time to complete the assignment or test.
How much time does your child require to complete the assignment or test?
Physical arrangement of the classroom and preferential seating.
Where can your child sit so that the teacher is readily accessible? Where can they sit so that distractions, both auditory and visual, are minimized? Who will be the best classmate for your child to sit next to? Does your child require a quiet area to retreat in times of high stimulation or when overwhelmed?
Varying of activities.
Allowing for different ways of responding.
Do they need to respond verbally? Does your child need to complete assignments or take tests using a computer or other device?
Format of materials is changed to meet the students needs.
Create A Comfortable Classroom
Sometimes students are unsuccessful because they are uncomfortable or feel unsafe or even afraid in their educational environment. Providing an appropriate learning environment can be as central to a students success as any teaching strategy or educational tool. Students with autism will be the most prepared to learn in places where they can relax and feel secure. Ideas for making the classroom more comfortable include providing seating options reducing direct light when possible and minimizing distracting noises .
First Lets Ask The Question: Can Someone With Autism Go To College
In 2000, the reported ratio of children born with autism was 1 in 150, and by the year 2010, this ratio increased to 1 in 68. This has resulted in the need to create more autistic-friendly learning programs and environments.
While high school graduates with autism showcase many strengths, including great attention to detail, a passionate interest in select topics, and an excellent memory, some of the core challenges these students face include:
- Difficulty with the social world that surrounds them
- A strong preference for routine
- Possible symptoms of anxiety and depression
- Issues with self-regulation and executive function
- In some cases, delays in specific life skills
Although these challenges can make college difficult, with the right level of support, young adults with autism can not only succeed at college but if placed in the right program, thrive. In many cases, its best for students to stay close to home and opt for a smaller institution. That is why community college programs are often so beneficial.
So, when it comes to the question of whether or not someone with autism can go to college?
The short answer is absolutely!
When seeking a post-secondary education as an adult with autism, some of the most important considerations to make include:
- If a student is staying away from home, their own dorm can reduce stress
Recommended Accommodations Should Be Justified
Provide a detailed rationale for requested accommodations, focusing on:
For example, students requesting extended time should document difficulty taking timed tests and include standardized scores on timed and untimed or extended time tests.
See documentation guidelines for frequently requested accommodations for requirements specific to extended time, breaks, reading and seeing accommodations, recording responses, use of a four-function calculator, and assistive technology.
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Tips For Students With Autism Who Are Going To College
This guest post is by Kerry Magro, CEO and Founder of KFM Making a Difference.
College can often be a difficult transition for those on the autism spectrum. When I was growing up on autism spectrum, getting into college was my first big dream. Now that Ive graduated, Im currently pursuing my doctoraldegree.
I wanted to share 11 questions I frequently get asked by from studentson the autism spectrum who are pursuing a post-secondary education.
1. As a college student affected by autism, what is one of the main things I need to know?
A big difference between college and high school is that in high school you generally have a structured plan for your accommodations called an individualized education program . However, in college that no longer exists, so you must advocate to your disability support group on campus to receive your own accommodations
2. What are some accommodations I can receive in my classes?
Individuals on the spectrum receive accommodations only if they register with their disability support group. They will then receive accommodations based on their needs. This can include extended time on tests, tape recorders for classes, individual note takers, etc.
3. Do I have to pay for accommodations?
4. Will faculty or fellow students be informed that I am on the autism spectrum?
5. Is on-campus living for me?
6. Will tutoring be available for my courses?
7. Are there any restrictions on how many courses I can take?
Autism And College: Your Comprehensive Preparation Guide
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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What Is The Purpose Of Giving Students Accommodations Or Modifications In School
The purpose of the accommodations and modifications is to provide the student with what he/she needs to be most successful in school. It is a way to level the playing fieldwith peers by removing any barriers to learning that could be caused by the disability.
Just like a student who is visually impaired would receive books written in braille or books on tape so they could learn the material, students with other kinds of disabilities or conditions benefit from accommodations and modifications as well.
Learn About The Learner From The Learner
Oftentimes, educators needing information about a student will study the individuals educational records. While these documents are certainly one source of information, they are seldom the most helpful source of information. Teachers wanting to know more about a student with autism should ask that student to provide information. Some students will be quite wiling and able to share information while others may need coaxing or support from family members. Teachers might ask for this information in a myriad of ways. For instance, they might ask the student to take a short survey or sit for an informal interview. One teacher asked his student with autism, to create a list of teaching tips that might help kids with learning differences. The teacher then published the guide and gave it out to all educators in the school.
If the student with autism is unable to communicate in a reliable way, teachers can go to families for help. Parents can share the teaching tips they have found most useful in the home or provide video of the learner engaged in different family and community activities. These types of materials tend to give educators ideas that are more useful and concrete than do traditional educational reports and assessments.
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