Going away to college is a life-changing experience for any young adult. For students with Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, attending school at a college or university can feel out of reach. But, it doesn’t have to be this way. Students with ASD can attend college just like their peers and experience the joys of living away from home, taking an assortment of courses and preparing for adulthood. The key is having support from family, friends and the community, similar to what is provided during the primary education years.
Though many support services for students with ASD disappear during the college years, there is a growing awareness of the importance of these programs. As students encounter new challenges with daily living, academics and managing their schedules, they need individualized life skills coaching, academic support and social skills workshops.
The few programs that are available at this time for college students with ASD recommend the following tips for preparing for the college experience.
Create a Strong Support Network
Students in high school should work closely with the school’s personnel to determine the level of support they will receive in their respective college. A strong support system will include people such as a resident advisor, a mentor, a tutor, an academic liaison and a staff psychologist that are available when needed.
Consider All Living Arrangements
Young people with ASD typically have their schedules managed by their parents. When they attend college, this changes. They may now be in charge of managing their own schedule, turning in homework on time, paying bills, keeping their room organized, etc.
Entertain all possible living arrangements that will suit your student best. Some find that it’s ideal to live on campus while others feel more comfortable living in an off-campus apartment. By knowing where your student will be residing, you can start giving them more responsibility at home.
Visit the Schools
When you have narrowed down your school selection, take the time to visit the programs during open houses or campus tours. This is the best time to get a feel for the campus, the students and the staff. Learn about the disability services that are offered on campus as well. Though these services often need to be tracked down by students, they do exist. Also take note of the logistics of the campus, such as how far the cafeteria is from the dorms, the layout of the buildings, etc.
Arrange for Additional Tutoring
Most students with ASD require additional tutoring or supervised study sessions to facilitate their academic progress. Other students can serve as mentors or tutors, but it’s best to work with professional educators. Supervised study halls are also beneficial and encourage students to take clear notes, understand the assignment and complete their homework on time.
Keep the Conversation Going
There is no better way to prepare your student with ASD for the college experience than by keeping the lines of communication open. Ask your child about their future plans, what careers interest them and the steps necessary for achieving their goals. This will help your family gain a better understanding of what will be involved in the process, how you can afford it and what support services will be available along the way.
The decision on where to attend is crucial. If you have questions or concerns please contact CUSP today!