Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Colleges for Asperger’s and Autistic Students

More than ever, young people on the autism spectrum are going to college. Thanks to highly effective early interventions, ongoing educational assistance and, of course, the crucial support of parents, students with Asperger’s and autism are succeeding academically, graduating from high school, and looking for more education. This is great news, because those on the spectrum are frequently underemployed, and education can go a long way in ensuring that autistic adults can find satisfying and appropriate jobs.

But, it’s important to make sure these students have the support they need to take advantage of their college experiences. Most students on the spectrum, whether in special education programs or standard classrooms, have had the advantage of special services at their elementary and high schools. And all kids on the spectrum have benefited from the ongoing help of their parents. Too often, that assistance gets dropped all at once as students attempt a standard college program, without the help of special services or their parents. College presents intense challenges, not just academically, but also for executive function, life skills and social skills.

For many college students, a few years at community college or junior college can be the best fit for right out of high school. These programs can allow the students to stay at home for a few years and focus extra attention on developing their independence, executive functions and social skills. Arguably, these abilities are probably more important for long term employability than academic excellence.

A growing number of universities offer programs specifically for autistic students. In a blog post a few years ago I mentioned Inside College.com’s lists of Very Friendly Schools for Students with Asperger’s, and Friendly Schools for Students with Asperger’s. Recently, a reader brought my attention to 10 Impressive Special College Programs for Students With Autism. Both of these sites can provide some options for appropriate and supportive four year programs.