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Saturday, July 9, 2011

College Students with Autism

The Los Angeles Times reports:

Kerry Magro knew from day one that college wouldn't be easy.

On the first day of classes, Magro distributed cards to each of his professors letting them know he had autism.

"I pretty much had to be very vulnerable and say I have a disability," said Magro, 23, of New Jersey. "One of the big problems for an autistic individual is usually the communication and social issue. It's asking you to do something that your disability says you're going to have a problem with."

Magro will speak about "College on the Spectrum" Saturday during the Autism Society's national conference in Orlando at theGaylord Palms Resort.

In the United States, about one in 110 children are diagnosed with autism, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Waves of children diagnosed with autism during the 1990s are now approaching college age, said Jessica Dunn, director of an autism support program at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas.

And as Magro knows, the transition to university life can be especially rough. Many of the challenges — time management, independent living, making friends — are faced by all students, but autism's effects make them more difficult.

But programs to help college students with autism are sparse, Dunn said.

From Ferris State University in Michigan:

Students who are seeking support services from Ferris State University's Disabilities Services on the basis of diagnosed autism spectrum/pervasive developmental disorder disabilities are required to submit documentation to verify eligibility under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Protection under these civil rights is based upon documentation of autism spectrum/pervasive developmental disorder disability that currently substantially limits some major life activity including learning.

The following guidelines are provided in the interest of assuring that documentation is appropriate to verify eligibility and supports requests for reasonable accommodations, academic adjustments, and/or auxiliary aids on the basis of autism spectrum/pervasive developmental disorder disability that substantially limits one or more major life activities.

Documentation should validate the need for services based on the individual's current level of functioning in the educational setting. A school plan such as an individualized education program (IEP) or a 504 plan is insufficient documentation, but may be included as part of a more comprehensive assessment battery.

Persons with an autism spectrum/pervasive developmental disability must provide the following documents for a disability accommodation request:

  1. A recent diagnostic report from an appropriate professional OR physician's statement of long term disability, AND
  2. A completed Verification Form for Documentation of Autism Spectrum/Pervasive Developmental Disability.
  3. A completed student questionnaire is required for all students registered with Disabilities Services for the first intake interview with the student.

Documentation must be dated within six months of the student's application for services and include a case history.

The information and documentation that establishes Autism Spectrum/Pervasive Developmental Disorder Disability should be comprehensive in order to make it possible for a student to be served appropriately.