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Saturday, October 23, 2021

Bright Autistic Students

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

Sally M. Reis, Nicholas W. Gelbar & Joseph W. Madaus have an article at The Journal of Autism and Development Disorders titled :"Understanding the Academic Success of Academically Talented College Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders." The abstract:

Little is known about the academic and extra-curricular experiences of academically talented students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). This study focused on how these capable students with ASD successfully navigated and completed high school, and specifically, the experiences that enabled them to attend competitive colleges. Using comparative case studies and directed content analysis, data were derived from semi-structured interviews with 40 students who had been identified as academically talented with ASD, and were enrolled in, or recently graduated from, highly competitive colleges in the United States. The majority were identified as having academic talents, participated in challenging honors classes, enrichment opportunities, interest-based extra-curricular activities, residential summer programs, and pursued other advanced educational experiences. Implications for educational and talent development services are included.

From the article:

Educators and parents who support 2e students should focus on having their talents recognized, as it was important for these participants to have been identified as gifted or as having academic talents, enabling their inclusion in more advanced content classes and strength-based educational opportunities. As several participants were identified after completing comprehensive testing for the ASD, special education teachers and administrators should try to focus on students’ strengths and talents, as well as their disabilities, as a result of testing for special education services. As has been advocated in previous research (Reis et al., 2014), inclusion of talent development experiences and advanced learning opportunities made an important difference in the future academic success of this group, as did these participants’ identification as 2e.

Educators and parents of 2e students should advocate for the inclusion of talent development opportunities, especially extracurricular activities as goals for 2e/ASD students. The IEP or Sect. 504 plan can also include engaging and interest-based extracurricular activities such as those in which these students participated, including science fair, invention convention, or debate club. These extracurricular interest areas can help address 2e/ASD students’ social skills and leadership capabilities, using their interests and talents. Parents and educators should also consider the ways they can support these students’ social development, academic interests, and future college experiences by exposing them to residential programs that will help them to develop socially which will aid in their meta-cognitive development and understanding of how they learn. For these participants, residential programs attended during middle and high school were essential contributions to their subsequent academic success.

Students who are identified as 2e/ASD should be given opportunities to develop their interests and talents in both school and extracurricular activities. They should also have the opportunity to learn about their profiles of both strengths and weaknesses and understand the implications of their dual identification. They should be given information about why they should participate in advanced classes, extra-curricular activities, and residential programs, and they should have the opportunity to ask questions about why these different activities can be beneficial, even if they are uncomfortable initially.