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Sunday, December 24, 2017

Autistic Adults Make Recommendations for Accommodations for College

 In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the growing number of college students on the spectrum:
We do know that autistic students suffer high levels of depression, anxiety, and social isolation. We also know that their difficulties can affect their academic performance. (Group projects can be hard.) They have to cope with these problems without the protection of an IEP, since the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act does not apply to higher education. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 provide for certain accommodations (for instance, extra time for tests), but the student has to seek them. According to Jane Brown Thierfeld, co-director of an organization of professionals who assist autistic students, for every student receiving special services, there are one or two on that same campus who have not come forward.
 At The Journal of Autism and Development Disorders, Jennifer C. Sarrett has an article titled
"Autism and Accommodations in Higher Education: Insights from the Autism Community."  The abstract:

This article builds on the growing body of research on higher education for autistic students by soliciting input from autistic adults on their higher education experiences and suggestions on making these experiences more ‘autism-friendly’. Sixty-six individuals participated in a national exploratory survey and thirty-one participated in follow-up, online focus groups. The article reviews the accommodations individuals received and the accommodations they would have liked to receive. Concrete strategies are provided for institutes of higher education to address the social and sensory needs of autistic students, areas many participants reported being neglected in their academic experience, such as mentors and a neurodiverse space. These suggestions are intended to complement traditional academic accommodations to improve the outcomes of autistic students.
Recommendations from the participants:
Social accommodations
  • Disability support group with low-impact, sensory friendly events organized around the interests of the individuals in the group
  • Peer mentors trained on neurodiversity and autism to encourage and attend social events with, check-in regularly, and answer questions about interactions with peers
  • Mediators trained in neurodiversity, autism, and mediation to help with interactions with staff and faculty
Neurodiverse space
  • Physical space for social gatherings, sensory time, and/or escape room with low lighting, low noise, and a policy of no strong smells
  • Sensory time should allow and encourage multi-sensory engagement and multiple seating options Available, quiet space with noise cancelling headphones where students can be alone for some time
Other recommendations
  • Staff, faculty, and administration training on autism, neurodiversity, and accommodations for in and out of the classroom.
  • Autism awareness programing for peers
  • More inclusion of autistic feedback on program development
  • Disability focused suicide prevention programs
  • Autism awareness programing for peers