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Every student, or one who has been out of college for a long time, will confirm that the so-called transition from high school to adulthood is one of the most challenging times in any person’s life. In addition to learning, a new student will experience a lot of social interaction, dorm room life, daily conversations, and many other things that can be very stressful for those diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Read how to ease this transition so that a person with autism becomes a successful college student in this blog post.

How to Choose the Appropriate College

First, you should consider different factors when helping a student with autism to select the right college for admission. Many are relevant to all applicants: availability of a program of study, location, cost of tuition, etc. Some others include a structured academic program, good support for students with disabilities, a willingness to make modifications to meet special educational needs, and the availability of a counseling center with support services. 

Previous experience with autism will be helpful, but the most significant characteristics of special needs service programs and counseling centers are a commitment to providing individualized support and a willingness to learn about each student’s needs and difficulties. Such students can also often benefit from tutoring and administrative and personal support services. 

However, they aren’t available at many institutions, so families and counselors must work together to determine how best to meet the student’s needs. Sometimes learning at a small institution is easier for students who’ve done better in smaller classes and quiet environments and may experience overload in a challenging one. For a more in-depth look into this issue, you can use the help of the essay writer at Top Writing Reviews, one of the best writing service review websites.

Students who find the level of independence and self-organization required for college life too high should live at home for the first year or two. And then, after that time, they’ll be able to make the transition to a more independent life painlessly. In addition, some colleges offer co-op programs that allow students to combine study with work in a related field. These programs can help students explore future career options and develop essential job skills.

Read how to ease this transition so that a person with autism becomes a successful college student in this blog post.

How to Help the Autistic Student Select Subjects and Courses

Many students with autism perform best in courses that build on actual memory and visual skills. An attentive counselor or academic advisor can help the student decide on a program to build on their strengths and interests. Courses that require abstract verbal reasoning, flexible problem-solving, lots of writing, or social thinking are often challenging. 

Of course, such courses can be helpful, but they need additional time and support. In the book “Pretending to be Normal,” Liane Holliday Willey, an adult with Asperger’s Syndrome, recommends taking communication and psychology courses to improve social understanding and social skills. 

Learning pressures are a severe problem, especially during the first year when everything is new and unfamiliar. In the case of some students, a reduced academic load can help keep stress at a more manageable level. The related problem is that many students with autism need more time to think and do work, read and complete assignments than the rest. Thus, it needs to be considered when planning academic workloads so they aren’t too much for autistic students.

How to Prepare a Student With Autism for Social Life in College

For some students with autism, independent living can be overwhelming at first. They often need more support to make social connections than other newcomers. All campuses and residence halls have organized social groups and activities, and most students with Asperger syndrome enjoy participating. Still, they need help choosing the appropriate social groups and activities. 

In this case, it’s helpful to have a person, perhaps an older student, help select social groups that match the interests of the student with autism and allow them to participate in them in the first stage. It will probably also be possible to mobilize other sources with the help of the counseling service and other service organizations of the higher education institution.

Living in the Dormitory

Many students with autism should have a separate single room when possible. It becomes their private territory where they can control their environment, concentrate on their classes and daily responsibilities without distractions, and are not forced to engage in social interactions constantly. 

Having a roommate can be an extremely stressful situation. On the other hand, the presence of a mentor can be helpful. Dorm staff can be made aware of the student’s characteristics and alerted to areas where they may need help. For example, suppose the student feels comfortable talking to peers about their impairment. 

In that case, you can arrange a meeting (with appropriate accompaniment and support) with some students living in adjacent rooms. Next, invite the participants to discuss the autistic student’s strengths and interests and why they might do things slightly differently than others.

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Everyday Life

Try to think ahead about various aspects of an autistic student’s daily life at a higher education institution to identify potential pitfalls and provide them with written instructions, checklists, or extended training. Here are a few of the most common examples in the handy table below.

Meal plans and rulesWhere to eat and what times to eat
LaundryDorm rules
Spending moneyWhat to do if the fire alarm goes off in the middle of the night 
BudgetingUsing the shared bathrooms
Using your student ID cardTransportation
Campus mapFinding restrooms
Using the alarm clockLectures
Email and textingGetting information and participating in dorm activities
Library hours and asking the librarian for helpFirst aid knowledge of how to take care of yourself in case of minor illnesses 

And finally, one more critical point: making time for exercise (perhaps through appropriate academic disciplines) is also vital for many people, not only for health reasons but also as a factor that helps with stress management.

Summing Up

So it’s essential to think about all the described nuances ahead of time. Each student should have a transition plan as part of the Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Learning the skills necessary for life in higher education should be part of that program. Many essential skills that can facilitate successful progression through college can be taught at home and high school. 

The student must understand their educational needs and what additional services will be helpful. For example, a student with autism may need to talk to counselors about this in college. And it will be easier to do if this skill has been practiced in a more supportive and familiar high school environment. In the home, students need to learn and practice the daily living and independence skills that will be useful to them for success in college.

Alicia Trautwein is an Autism advocate, writer, motivational speaker, and dedicated mom of four. Alicia’s desire to advocate for Autism comes from her own autism diagnosis and that of her three children, niece, and brother. Her life’s mission is to educate on autism acceptance and change the world for future generations of autistic individuals.

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