Back by popular demand: The “Got Questions?” feature of the Autism Speaks Science blog. Today’s answer comes from…
I can remember starting college and how anxious I felt facing the new and challenging environment. I had to meet such a range of new people, deal with academic pressures, organise my day and get to appointments on time, manage my finances (I still struggle!) and generally look after myself. Such an upheaval tests any young person—all the more so for a young adult on the autism spectrum.
So what can help? First, remember that US and international legislation supports the right to a college education for individuals with disabilities. Educational institutions are required under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act to provide services for students with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The college are required to make all reasonable adjustments to accommodate the needs of students on the autism spectrum and to avoid discrimination based on their disability. (See Ralph Savarese’s blog post on Oberlin’s acceptance of his son, DJ, possibly the first nonspeaking student with autism to live in a US college dorm and be accepted to such a highly selective US college.)
In addition, there are many steps that parents can take to help their son or daughter have a rewarding college experience. Transition planning is key. I encourage you to work with your child’s high-school and college advisors to draw up a transition plan that extends from before the freshman year to post-graduation. Consider such issues as the appropriateness of a college’s location, available facilities and course content. It helps to visit the college, meet with at least some of the teaching staff and tour classrooms and dorms with an eye for how well they accommodate your student’s needs.
As part of the transition plan, work closely with the college’s disability services. Of course, this requires that your son or daughter discloses his or her ASD and, if necessary, provides the necessary documentation of disability and needs. Armed with this information, the disability office can organize an assessment of need and provide learning supports. These can include both psychological and behavioral services, assistive technologies (e.g. a recording device for a lecture) and academic aids such as note-takers and extra time in exams. It is important to have assessments of need conducted early so that learning supports are in place when the student starts coursework. Then, once a year, ensure that college staff review the effectiveness of the support program.
Having a social mentor can be particularly useful. Autism Speaks’ college program–Autism Speaks U–promotes awareness and advocacy for students with ASD and may be one source of social mentoring during college. Sometimes just a friendly ear is needed, particularly at times of increased pressure (e.g. first week of college and exams).
Before the start of classes, see if you can get an advanced class schedule. Consider the timing and distance between classes—again from the point of view of the demands placed on your student.
Finally at least a year before your son or daughter graduates, begin planning an “exit strategy” in consultation with the school’s careers office and other college staff familiar with your now-adult child.
With the right planning and support, college can be a great environment for young adults on the autism spectrum. I hope your son or daughter has as much fun as I did.
Here are some additional resources:
1. The Autism Speaks’ Transition Toolkit, particularly the section on Post-Secondary Educational Opportunities.
2. The TEACCH Autism Program of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
3. Preparing Students with Autism for College, and Preparing Colleges for Students with Autism, Hurewitz and Berger (2008).
4. Supporting More Able Students on the Autism Spectrum: College and Beyond Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders VanBergeijk, Klin and Volkmar (2008).
5. The [UK] National Autism Society’s Guidelines for Student Mentors.
Got more Questions? Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In a single generation, autism has become one of the most common developmental disabilities, affecting an estimated 1.5 million Americans. With so many children diagnosed in the 1990s, over the next decade, hundreds of thousands of them will reach adulthood. How do we handle the upcoming needs of the adult autism community?
On September 7, Congress will begin considering the renewal of the Combating Autism Act of 2006. Signed into law by President George W. Bush, it authorized nearly $1 billion for combating autism spectrum disorders through public awareness and enhanced federal support for research and treatment.
And there’s a lot that we can do from a private sector standpoint as well. To talk about the steps autism advocates recommend, Alison Stewart spoke with Peter Bell, executive vice-president of Autism Speaks, and the father of a teenage son with autism.
For more information, please visit Need To Know on PBS.
This is a blog post by Shelley Ourian, a young woman who participated on the stakeholder panel during the Advancing Futures for Adults with Autism Congressional Briefing last July in Washington, D.C.
It’s been a year since I was invited to participate in the Congressional Briefing sponsored by Advancing Futures for Adults with Autism (AFAA) in Washington, DC last July. I was a part of the Stakeholder Panel, along with a few other individuals living with autism and their family members. Looking back on the whole experience, I felt very humbled to be in the presence of many brave individuals, dedicated to make people more aware of the need for more funded programs for adults living with autism. The moderator, Linda Fiddle, founder of The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation, was such a wonderful addition to the Briefing. It was amazing how she took so much time to get to know all of us individuals and to guide us through the process of advocating for ourselves and for everyone with everyday challenges. If I could something like this all over again, I would do it in a heartbeat!
What I hope for in the future is for there to continue to be a positively growing progress in funding for programs for adults living with autism throughout the United States. I also hope for the neurotypical population to see those adults as equals…as human beings who can bring their own abilities and contributions to society.
To view the summary of the AFAA Congressional Briefing, visit the AFAA website at www.afaa-us.org.
A powerful film directed by Emmy Award® winner Janet Grillo, FLY AWAY narrates the story of Jeanne and her autistic teenage daughter, Mandy. Jeanne has cared for Mandy since the day she was born, growing closer every day to a child who is charmingly offbeat one moment and nearly impossible to manage the next. In the dog park, Jeanne encounters Tom, an easygoing and accepting neighbor who sparks a romantic interest, but she finds juggling Mandy’s care and her own career leaves little room for a new man. As the pressures of work and her child’s needs increase, she must decide whether or not to enroll Mandy in a therapeutic residential facility. Over the course of a few weeks, Jeanne is confronted with the most difficult decision a parent can make: to let go, allowing her child to grow, but also grow apart; or to hold on tight and fall together.
Beth Broderick and Ashley Rickards discuss how their off screen friendship and respect created the onscreen intimacy and bond between mother and child.
Here is the theatrical trailor
FLY AWAY’s narration of teenager with autism is relatable for many families. The Autism Speaks Transition Tool Kit was created to serve as a guide to assist families on the journey from adolescence to adulthood. For more information, visit here.
“FLY AWAY is now available nationally on DVD for sale/rental/streaming, or on VOD.” For info contact http://www.flyawaymovie.com, 10% of proceeds benefit Autism Speaks.
New Video DVD: http://www.newvideo.com/flatiron-film-company/fly-away/
TimeWarner Video on Demand:http://goo.gl/aykS2
On Monday April 11th Suzanne and Bob Wright, Founders of Autism Speaks, were interviewed by MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell in recognition of April as the nation’s month for autism awareness. Key points discussed – funding for research and adults with autism.