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Monday, May 28, 2018

University Life with Autism

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the growing number of college students on the spectrum.

Sasha M Zeedyk, Yasamine Bolourian,  and Jan Blacher have an article at Autism titled "University Life with ASD: Faculty Knowledge and Student Needs." The abstract:
Increasingly, young adults with autism spectrum disorder are attending 4-year universities. The transition to adulthood can be challenging for these students, and university life poses its own set of demands. The present article takes a mixed-methods approach by including two studies utilizing complementary methodologies. Through in-depth interviews with students with autism spectrum disorder (n = 13) and college professors (n = 18), the purpose of the first study was to evaluate the experiences and needs of college students with autism spectrum disorder and identify the knowledge that faculty members possessed about working with these students. Through survey methodology with a larger sample of faculty members (n = 132), the purpose of the second study was to obtain more information about faculty knowledge of autism spectrum disorder, and to learn whether their pedagogical practices accommodated students with autism spectrum disorder. Findings revealed that autism is often an “invisible” disability on campuses, and there are many things that professors need to know with regard to working with these students in particular. Implications for practice are discussed.
From the article:
Both students with ASD and faculty frequently described ASD as an “invisible”  isability. Several faculty noted that they were unaware if they had ever taught students with ASD. This was attributed to the fact that even students who requested disabilities services most often did not reveal the nature of their disability. Some students admitted that they were afraid to utilize services for fear that the validity of their requests would be questioned. This finding highlights the importance of raising campus awareness about students with ASD. Although their symptoms may not be obvious, they certainly  influence their daily functioning (Milton, 2012) and can even place them at higher risk of not participating in college than those with more obvious problems (Shattuck et al., 2012). Furthermore, participants in the first study revealed several things about the use of disability services on campuses. Faculty and students both noted that the services offered were often generic, catering to those with more common disabilities, such as  learning/physical disabilities. With increasing numbers of students with ASD attending college (Shattuck et al., 2012; White et al., 2011), educational and organizational supports may need to be enhanced for this growing population and the faculty who teach them (Anderson and Butt, 2017; Gobbo and Shmulsky, 2014; Van Hees et al., 2015).  While disability services centers are responsible for informing students of the available accommodations, faculty serve as the conduit for providing such supports in college  classrooms and labs. Despite the lack of services specific to ASD-related symptoms (e.g. anxiety, rigidity), many faculty and student participants commented on the helpfulness of campus disabilities services staff, and students with ASD often disclosed how important services were to them.