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Tuesday, January 2, 2018

What Works for Autistic College Students

 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 Developmental Disorders, S. Jay Kuder and Amy Accardo have an article titled "What Works for College Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder."  The abstract:
This article reports the results of a systematic review of the emerging research on programs and services designed to meet the needs of students with ASD. For the purposes of this review, only articles that included data on program outcomes were included. A total of eight studies that met this criterion were identified. These studies included three that examined the effects of cognitive-behavioral interventions, three that reported the results of methods to enhance social communication skills, one study of a transition to college program, and one evaluation of a variety of widely used accommodations. This review identifies methods that have been found to be effective supporting students with ASD in higher education settings as well as needs for future research.
From the article:
The findings of our review indicate that, while there is a growing research base on effective methods for meeting the challenges of college students with ASD, the results of the research thus far have been mixed and, in some cases, based on limited data.
 Despite the limitations described previously, there are some very promising practices. ... Jansen et al. (2017) identified several practices that students found to be effective. Although the researchers did not verify student perceptions with other data that would indicate whether methods such as extended time to complete exams and taking exams in smaller groups actually resulted in improved student outcomes, these methods can be considered promising practices. Although the study by White et al. (2016) failed to find a clear pattern of success for the two psychosocial training methods they investigated, the student responses suggest that a combination of the use of technology with a personalized, individualized psychosocial support program may be optimal for enhancing the overall functioning of college students with ASD. Likewise, the program described by Weiss and Rohland (2015) appears to have the potential to improve both social communication and executive functioning skills and lead to improved student retention if replicated in other university settings.