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Friday, November 27, 2015

Students with Disabilities and Higher Education

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss  higher education, and adults on the spectrum.
By most measures of economic well-being, young college graduates surpass their peers with less schooling. And this disparity is greater than in earlier generations. To some extent, then, the fate of autistic people hinges on their ability to get college degrees. About a third of autistic high school graduates eventually go on to some kind of postsecondary education, at least for a while. That rate is higher than one might have expected years ago, but lower than for all other disability groups except intellectual disabilities or multiple disabilities. The numbers are increasing, largely because early identification and intervention have enabled autistic students to advance farther than before. “Behavioral therapy at an early age has really opened doors,” said a Ventura College instructor who has worked with ASD students for many years. The ABLE Act will also reduce some of the economic barriers to college attendance. Unfortunately, we know very little about autistic students’ completion rates or the quality of their education.
A news release from Senator Bob Casey (D-PA):
I join the Obama Administration and many of my colleagues in celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Before 1970, over one million students with disabilities were excluded from public schools. Thanks to the tireless work of advocates, today over six million children are served through special education programs in public schools.
While we take this week to celebrate the progress of students with disabilities, we cannot slow down. Although students with disabilities are seeing greater success in K-12, there are still many barriers in terms of ensuring a smooth transition to inclusive postsecondary education and employment. This week I sent a letter to the Department of Education requesting increased access to information and improved data collection for students with disabilities so there are fewer obstacles to success in college.
While the current online federal resources to help students navigate the college decision process are helpful, none exist for students with disabilities. By making small changes to the existing surveys from the Department of Education, we can help students and families access more information about disability services on campus.