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Saturday, March 2, 2024

College and Autism

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

Colleen Schrappen at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

After high school, the legal framework around disability changes. Adult students are covered by the Americans With Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination but has no metrics for individual progress. The onus to articulate needs and ask for assistance shifts from the school to the student.

Higher education has been inching toward inclusion, advocates say, but there is a long way to go. And the measures taken — like classroom modifications or informational campaigns — are mostly voluntary.

“Colleges have been slow to catch on,” said Lee Burnette Williams of the College Autism Network, a national advocacy and research nonprofit.

“It feels like those students have just fallen off a cliff of support,” said Burnette Williams. “What inevitably happens is they don’t succeed.”

Almost all campuses have an office that provides resources to students with documented disabilities, but comprehensive support programs for autism are rare. The first one, at Marshall University in West Virginia, opened in 2002.

 Today, there are about 100 such programs, according to the College Autism Network.

 The transition to college is a jolt for almost any 18-year-old. No one checks to make sure you are studying, or even attending class. Sleeping and eating habits fluctuate. The guardrails of childhood are gone.

Autistic students often also struggle with isolation, unpredictable schedules and an increased emphasis on grades, experts say.

Failure is not inevitable.  Here is an example of a video in which an autistic person (my son) describes his experiences.