There are limited amounts of studies that show research on students with ASD in higher education. The research that has been done indicates that students who transition into higher education can face complications, such as new situations and routines, time management, and social relationships. While that may bring some anxiety to both the parents and the student, there are multiple recommendations to help the transition and college experience more enjoyable.
- A Personalized Approach
- A Safe and Transparent Environment with Sufficient Planning and Clear Communication
- Academic Accommodations
- Coaching in Education, Student Life and Daily Living
- Adequate Psychosocial Support
- Leisure Activities and a Sufficient Amount of Rest
A Personalized Approach
Students want their voices to be heard. They feel it would be beneficial for the staff to have the opportunity to take the students’ personal preferences into account when setting transitional goals. It could also be advantageous to have an awareness program contributing to breaking down perceived stigmas of ASD, and instead, highlights the talents of students with ASD.
A Safe and Transparent Environment with Sufficient Planning and Clear Communication
Due to new situations causing uncertainty, stress and anxiety, students emphasized the desire for colleges to provide both a safe and transparent education and living environment. To do this, support staff could familiarize the expectations of the new environments with the students. This could include a detailed description of the activities, conducting a campus tour, and identifying places the students could find peaceful. Another way to reduce stress, anxiety, and uncertainty is providing clear communication, letting the students know what is expected of them and their progress of new routines. One way to make this easier, would be to have one contact person who is familiar with ASD, whom the student could consult with during times of confusion, wanting to feel safe, or if they have questions.
These can consist of additional time for written exams, extra preparation time for oral exams, having access to a separate room for exams, and allowing the option of doing alternative assignments instead of completing group work. This isn’t to say that no group work will be completed, but for a student with ASD who is feeling anxious or tense, having that option available could prove very beneficial. It’s also helpful for the staff to be aware that there is a diversity when it comes to ASD and that one student’s experiences might not be the same as another’s.
Coaching in Education, Student Life and Daily Living
This recommendation will help with both transitioning to higher education and the actual experience itself. Research shows that students with ASD stated they would prefer to have one selected personal coach to help monitor and support their activities. These activities may include selecting a major, enhancing study skills, providing feedback on struggles, and providing advice if needed. As noted above, students with autism will have to collaborate with others at some point throughout their college experience, so having a coach to discuss ways to make those situations easier could be ideal.
Adequate Psychosocial Support
Psychosocial support is a typical term for non-therapeutic intervention that can help a person cope with stressors at work or in home. It is important for students to feel support from their family, most notably their parents, and this availability can help the students be able to talk to someone to prevent or cope with any stress, anxiety, or sometimes depression.
Leisure Activities and Sufficient Amount of Rest
A main strategy for handling anxiety and/or stress for students is to make time for leisure activities such as writing, watching television, running, or other areas of strong interest for that student. It’s also important to get sufficient rest, especially when embarking on a full-time course load when they enroll in higher education.
While thinking of your children going into higher education can be stressful, it’s also going to be a very rewarding time. I hope these six recommendations listed above will help ease the minds of both the student and parent when coming up on this journey of furthering their education!
Hees, V. V., Moyson, T., & Roeyers, H. (2014, December 2). Higher Education Experiences of Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Challenges, Benefits and Support Needs. Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10803-014-2324-2.