College Information for Individuals with Autism
This resource provides a practical guide to help people with disabilities who want to pursue their education goals at a community college, career institute, four-year college, university, or graduate school. This resource highlights important information for students.
Educational Differences Between High School and College
Responsibilities in high school
- High school is mandatory and usually free
- Student’s time is structured by others
- Students can count on parents and teachers to remind them of responsibilities and to help set priorities
- Students aren’t responsible to know what is needed to graduate
- Parents may help with advocacy and communication
High school classes
- Class sizes are generally small (20 kids)
- Students usually take the same classes for an entire academic year
- Students go from one class directly to another, spending a full day in classes
- Most classes are arranged for the student
- Students may not need to study much outside of class, listening during class may be enough
- Students are expected to read short assignments that are discussed and re-taught in class
High school teachers
- Teachers check homework and remind students of incomplete
- Teachers approach students to provide help
- Teachers provide information when students miss classes
- Teachers present information to help students understand materials in the textbooks
- Teachers write notes on the board to be copied
- Teachers remind students of assignments and due dates Teachers monitor class attendance
Responsibility in college
- College is voluntary and usually not free
- Students manage their own time
- Students are responsible for themselves and setting priorities
- Students are expected to know graduation requirements that
apply to them and can be complex and differ from year to year
- Students are responsible to advocate for themselves
- Classes will vary in size from small to large (20-100+kids)
- Academic year is divided into semesters, with different classes
taught each semester
- Students often have hours between classes, with times varying through the day and evening
- Students arrange their own schedules
- Students typically need to study 2-3 hours outside of class for each hour in class
- Students are assigned large amounts of reading and writing
which may not be reviewed or discussed in class
- May not check homework or remind students of incomplete work
- Expect students to initiate contact if help is needed and expect students to attend office hours
- Expect students to get missed information from classmates
- May not follow the textbook and expect students to relate class
discussions to the text
- Expect students to identify important points discussed in your
own notes and may not write things down
- Expect students to read and follow the course syllabus for assignments, due dates and grading
- May or may not take attendance
Exploring the Options of a Two- or Four-Year College
Considerations when discussing college options with your family
Most colleges and universities provide services and/or accommodations for students with disabilities, as mandated by the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). However, some are more comprehensive than others. When considering a two- or four-year college, it is important for you to self-advocate for needs and live as independently as possible
Reasons to attend a 2-year or 4-year college
- Increase your knowledge and skills by enrolling in an Associate Degree1 Program, a Certificate Program2, or a Bachelor’s Degree Program
- Continue earning certificates in an area you may already have certificates in from high school
- Focus your studies in a high-interest area
- Increase opportunities for employment in your high-interest area
Before making your decision, consider using the following checklist to guide you and your family through important questions:
- After you are accepted to a 2-or4-year college, and 4 to 6 weeks before classes begin call the Office of Disabilities and set up your Intake Appointment.(Call the college’s main number and ask for the Office’snumber.)
- Share your Evaluation Report with the college’s Office of Disabilities. This is evi-dence of your disability (learning, physical, medical, or psychological). Ask what is required and then be sure your evaluation is up-to-date before graduating from high school.
- You will take your most recent evaluation to your Intake Appointment and meet with a disabilities specialist who will read your evaluation and talk with you about accommodations. This is a great time to ask lots of questions – so take a written list of questions with you to the meeting.
- After you get your class schedule, call and set up your next appointment with the Office of Disabilities to get your “Notification of Accommodations” document for the semester. Some disabilities specialists will distribute this to your instructors, but some will require you to do it.
Questions and Answers
Q: How can I locate and use the Office of Disabilities?
A: Start by calling the school’s main number and asking for the direct phone number to their Office of Disabilities.
Q: Do I have to inform a 2- or 4-year college that I have a disability?
A: In order to receive accommodations, yes, you must work with the school’s Office of Disabilities. If the school is a private school, it is not required to have such an office.
Q: How will I know what accommodations I need?
A: When selecting a program or major, review the required courses and coursework for possible accommodations. The Office of Disabilities will be able to help you consider required assignments and accommodations for your disability.
Q: What adjustments must a 2- or 4-year college provide?
A: If attending a public college/university, the instructors must abide by a “Notification of Accommodations” letter received from their Office of Disabilities.
Q: Does my IEP go with me to college?
A: You can share your IEP with the Office of Disabilities, but it is no longer an active document. Your IEP is not valid anywhere once you graduate from high school.
Q: Will I need assistive technology?
A: When you meet with the Office of Disabilities, they will help you work through questions related to assistive technology.
Q: Who is there to help me?
A: Colleges are all equipped differently. Some will have translators, transportation, and assistive technology supports. Before you select a college, be sure you are aware of what services the college has in place.
Resources (Websites): Exploring the Option of a Two- or Four- Year College
- College and University Support Programs (CUSP) http://cuspservices.com/
- Students with Disabilities Preparing for Postsecondary Education: You’re your Rights and Responsibilities http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/transition.html
- Technology Gives Students with Disabilities Access to College Courses http://www.ed.gov/blog/2013/05/technology-gives-students-with-disabilities-access-to-college-courses/
- College Options for People with Intellectual Disabilities http://www.thinkcollege.net/?view=featured
- College Opportunities in Pennsylvania for People with Intellectual Disabilities http://dreampartnership.org/mission/
Getting Accommodations at College: Tools for School
What Accommodations or Modifications Can I ask For?
If you are having trouble with school due to mental health, your school is obligated to provide extra supports and services to help you succeed. These supports and services are called accommodations and they can make a difference! Your school may also make some modifications to the courses at your request. This resource provides tips and suggestions on how to request accommodations while in college if you are having trouble due to challenges from a mental health condition.
What do I need in the classroom?
- Preferred seating
- Breaks allowed during class
- Voice recorded lectures
- Classmate acts as a note-taker
- Text and syllabus available in advance
- Class materials available on computer
- Frequent feedback on ongoing class work
- Alternate formats for assignments
What do I need during exams?
- Exams in alternate formats such as written, oral, or electronic
- Extended time for test taking
- Exams given one-on-one
- Breaks allowed throughout test
- Testing in a room with limited distractions
- Allow exam to be taken in 2-3 sessions throughout the span of a few days
What do I need completing assignments?
- Extended time to complete assignments without lateness affecting grade
- Advance notice of assignments
- Textbook available on tape
- Assistive technology available for assignments
- Working in pairs on in-class assignments
- Help with assignments during hospitalization
- Reduced course load (being a full time student without having to be
signed up for the normally required 12 credits)
- First choice for signing up for classes to make a less stressful schedule
- Textbook given in different format (on computer/on tape)
- Incomplete given instead of failure if relapse occurs
- Assistance with filling out financial aid/registration forms
- And more!
How do I get accommodations?
- Find the disability services center on your campus (typically called “disability services”). If there is no disability services center on your campus you can find out through your school’s student support services whom to contact. Set up a meeting with someone there to find out about services.
- Get a signed note from your psychiatrist or doctor that says what mental health condition you have (some schools may require different types of documentation). Only provide the minimum medical information that the school requires in order for you to qualify. Bring the note to disability services.
- Tell the person at disability services what accommodations you feel you need. You can go to your doctor or others to get suggestions on what accommodations would work for you.
- Decide. Someone at disability services will use the accommodations suggested to approve the services and modifications.
- Notify teachers. Depending on the school, you or the disability services staff will provide your professors with your accommodation letter. The accommodation letter will not disclose your specific diagnosis, but will state that you have a disability that entitles you to receive modifications.
- Revise. You can go back and make changes to your accommodations at any time. You may need different ones depending on the classes you take.
What about confidentiality?
Souma, A., Rockerson, N., Burgstahler, S. (2009). DO-IT. Academic Accommodations for Students with Psychiatric Disabilities . Retrieved January 28, 2011, from http://www.washington.edu/doit/Brochures/ Academics/psych.html.
Virginia Commonwealth University. (2009). Going to College. Getting Accommodations. Retrieved January 28, 2011, from http://www.going-to-college.org/campuslife/accommodations.html.
Canadian Mental Health Association. (2004). Your Education Your Future. Academic Accommodations. Retrieved January 28, 2011, from http://www.cmha.ca/youreducation/accomodations.html.
Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation. (n.d.). What Accommodations Support School Performance? Retrieved January 28, 2011, from http://www.bu.edu/cpr/reasaccom/educa-accom.html.
Getting Accommodations in College
Attending college is an exciting time but can also come with some challenges. If you needed academic support in high school, your parents or teachers may have initiated it. However, in college, if you need academic support, you are responsible for seeking this out yourself. The Americans with Disabilities Act (1990) states that colleges and universities are responsible for providing necessary accommodations when a student discloses a disability.
While each college is different, here are the general steps you will need to take to get accommodations in college:
- Step 1
- Find the college office that provides accommodations to students. This office may go by many names, such as Disability Services. If you are unsure how to find this office, reach out to the main directory or student support services to find the appropriate office.
- Step 2
- Contact the person in charge of this office to register as a student with a disability and find out what type of documentation is required for your disability. This may be a note from a doctor or a report documenting your disability.
- Step 3
- Meet with the person in charge of accommodations and provide him or her with current documentation of your disability. You will be asked about your accommodation needs. Discuss what accommodations have worked in the past and what you think will help you be successful in college.
- Step 4
- The person in charge of accommodations will review your documentation and determine if you are eligible for services.
- Step 5
- If this person determines that you are eligible for accommodations, he or she will decide what accommodations you will receive. A letter approving these accommodations will be created. This letter will not include your specific diagnosis but will simple state that you have a disability and what accommodations you are eligible to receive.
- Step 6
- Depending on the college, either you or the office staff will provide this letter to your professors. If you are required to do so, submit the letter to your professors as soon as possible and plan to discuss with them how to receive your accommodations. You can give this letter to your professors at any point in the semester; however, it is recommended that you submit it at the start of the semester to make sure you start off on the right track.
- Step 7
- Your professors are then responsible for providing the accommodations.
- Step 8
- You should monitor how the accommodations work for you and reach out to the person in charge of accommodations if you feel like you need additional support.
- Step 1
How Do I Know if I'm Ready for College?
When deciding if you are ready for college, there are several questions you should ask yourself to help you decide.If you answer “yes” to most of these questions, you may be ready. If you answer “no” to most, you may need to take some time to decide if college is right for you, or if you need more time to get ready.
Things to consider
Are you interested and excited to start looking at and applying to colleges?
Did you enjoy high school and learning new information, even if it was not always interesting to you?
Do you know what type of job you will want to get after college?
Did you do well academically in high school?
Did you enjoy the hustle and bustle of a busy high school day?
Do you know what you would like to study in college?
Do you know how to self-advocate and ask for help if you need it?
Are you good with time management?
Do you feel like you can handle stress in healthy ways?
Do you understand the costs of college, such as tuition, room and board, books, and food?
Are you good at making friends?
Do you have a good support system at home if you need it?
Do you know where to find supports at college if you need them?
Did you enjoy the social side of high school?
Can you stay organized and on track with your school work?
Do you feel like you are independent and can handle life as a college student, such as living in a dorm, doing laundry, eating healthy, and staying active?
Preparing to Experiencing College Living
High school students on the spectrum are accustomed to the natural supports they receive from their family, their school and their community. Relatives, friends and community members often offer accommodations and support without even realizing it. In addition, federal law such as IDEIA (Individuals With Disabilities Education Improvement Act) mandates a free and appropriate public education for every child with a disability, and every student with an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) receives individual support services. But these supports disappear when students with ASD enter college and encounter new academic and daily living challenges.
paying bills, doing laundry, studying – even getting out of bed for class in the morning –can be especially challenging for students with asd. however, they can thrive in community and four-year colleges if they have the right support. a comprehensive network that includes academic and life skills coaching will help students experience college living, broaden their social skills and achieve academic success. more importantly, students with a strong network develop the skills to accept responsibility so they can transition to independent adulthood. this is a critical goal for both the students and their parents.parents and students should have frank discussions with high school and college personnel to determine the level of support the student will require in college. typically, members of a strong support system may include a resident advisor, a mentor, a tutor, a staff psychologist, an academic liaison and others who are on-site and available when needed.
In general, a strong network helps students:
learn to live independently
The daily lives of many young people with asd are typically organized by their parents. but once they leave home, students with asd can be overwhelmed by the choices that they must make every day. college students need to master the skills required to make good choices and plan their day themselves. a college campus offers some easy decisions, such as access to places students gather to eat, study or socialize. options also exist off-campus. for example, some students may live in an apartment where they have a resident advisor. students learn to handle tasks of everyday living such as grocery shopping, preparing meals, doing laundry, paying bills and maintaining their apartments. While the students are ultimately responsible for managing these tasks, many parents and students find comfort knowing that support and guidance are always nearby. some prospective college students and their parents consider attendance at a community college first as this can be an easier transition and provide an opportunity to assess skills and comfort level with living away from home. always remember, each case, and every individual, is different. parents know their child better then anyone and young adults know what they want and what they are comfortable with; have open and honest discussions to find the option that works best for you.
Develop Necessary Academic Skills
Students with asd will often benefit from extra help with academics. daily one-on-one tutoring sessions and supervised study halls can ensure academic progress. fellow students often provide natural support by serving as tutors for their peers, but it is recommended that students on the spectrum have access to tutors who are experienced professional educators with a command of the subject at hand. in addition, attendance at regular, structured study halls helps ensure students are spending their time learning. ongoing review sessions help make sure students remain on task, capture good notes, understand the assignments and are prepared for the next class. this academic support frequently enhances students’ success.
Develop Social Skills
Social interaction and social skills development are no less important than academic pursuit. parents often worry whether their child will have friends at school. they want to know their child is participating in supervised group outings and typical college student activities such as going to the movies or going bowling. Under the direction of a mentor, these kinds of structured experiences help students gain confidence in social settings. a dedicated social skills development program offers activities that are educational, empowering and enjoyable.developing strong social skills – and the ability to use them – also means the student has regular interaction with resident advisors, tutors, mentors and friends. this interaction can help keep students on track with their studies as well as reassure parents that their child has the support he or she needs to develop independence in a nurturing, attentive and safe environment.With the right support in the right environment, students with asd can be successful in college, meet new people, expand their experiences and be better prepared for the opportunities adulthood has to offer.
- Throughout high school, families should have frequent conversations about future plans, What kinds of careers are of interest? What steps are necessary to reach goals for the future? What options are realistic for your family; for example, which schools can the family afford; what types of scholarships or other forms of support are available, etc.? What preparations are needed to meet requirements and successfully pursue the goals that are set?
- Parents and the student should begin researching post-secondary options by the time the student is a junior in high school.
- Contact schools and programs that interest you well in advance. gather material so you can learn more about the school and their approach. ask questions related to your individual needs to see if that college might be a good fit.
- Learn about education options by reading articles in the media and by networking at support group meetings, conferences and on web sites and message boards.
- Visit the schools and programs you’re considering. many programs hold open houses where students and their parents can tour the campus and meet staff and other students.
- Learn about the disability services offered on campus. resources are often available for students with special needs, but the student generally must take the initiative to access these supports.
- Learn about your options for financial aid. Sallie Mae, the nation’s largest provider of federal student loans, offers grants and loans depending on the program selected.
Procrastination In College
Many people procrastinate when it comes to school. All of the work can be difficult to keep up with. The academic demands of college are often heavier than in high school, and procrastinating can lead to serious academic problems. Here are several tips and tricks to help you learn to reduce procrastinating and be successful in college.
Procrastinating is a habit, and it likely took years to learn. Therefore, you can’t expect to fix it overnight. But with time and dedication, you can learn new ways of doing things.
Keep track of the amount of time it takes you to complete tasks. For example, if you only gave yourself 2 hours to study for your first science test and got a C, then studied 5 hours for your next exam and got an A, you can use this information to plan and schedule study time for future exams.
Make it a habit to check your organizer daily and review both weekly and daily tasks. Make sure you are constantly keeping things up to-date and adding new assignments that come up. You may need to change your timeline and milestones for assignments if new tasks get added.
Don't Forget the Fun Stuff
Be sure to add in breaks and personal activities, as these may affect your timeline of getting things done. It’s okay to set aside time for yourself and time to have fun and enjoy college.
Disorganization is often a major part of procrastinating. If you feel overwhelmed, you may be more likely to procrastinate. Get a calendar, organizer, scheduler, or appointment book to keep track of your tasks. You can also use apps on your phone or tablet or your computer to help with organization. Remember, these tools can be great to have, but you need to actively use them for it to work!
Break Things Down
Each task can be broken down into smaller parts. Breaking things down makes them easier to tackle. Each part should be given a milestone, or a date it should be completed. For example, writing a major paper can be broken down into smaller parts such as:
- select a topic
- research the topic
- use the information to make an outline
- write a rough draft
- review it or have someone else review it
- write a final draft
- review it or have someone else review it
- submit on the due date or earlier
Each of these parts should be assigned a realistic due date for completion and this should be in your organizer.
Remember... You'll Mess Up
It’s important to remember that you’re not going to be successful every time, especially when you first start. A few setbacks does not mean you are a failure. Keep at it and eventually new habits will form.
|Difference between high school and college||This information sheet highlights some of the differences students experience between high school and college||Download file: Difference between high school and college|
|Getting accomodations at college||If you are having trouble with school due to mental health, your school is obligated to provide extra supports and services to help you succeed. These supports and services are called accommodations and they can make a difference! Your school may also make some modifications to the courses at your request.||Download file: Getting accomodations at college|
|Getting accomodations at college||Attending college is an exciting time but can also come with some challenges. If you needed academic support in high school, your parents or teachers may have initiated it. However, in college, if you need academic support, you are responsible for seeking this out yourself. The Americans with Disabilities Act (1990) states that colleges and universities are responsible for providing necessary accommodations when a student discloses a disability. While each college is different, here are the general steps you will need to take to get accommodations in college.||Download file: Getting accomodations at college|
|How do I know if I'm ready for college?||When deciding if you are ready for college, there are several questions you should ask yourself to help you decide.If you answer "yes" to most of these questions, you may be ready. If you answer "no" to most, you may need to take some time to decide if college is right for you, or if you need more time to get ready.||Download file: How do I know if I'm ready for college?|
|Preparing for College Living||High school students on the spectrum are accustomed to the natural supports they receive from their family, their school and their community. Relatives, friends and community members often offer accommodations and support without even realizing it. In addition, federal law such as IDEIA (Individuals With Disabilities Education Improvement Act) mandates a free and appropriate public education for every child with a disability, and every student with an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) receives individual support services. But these supports disappear when students with ASD enter college and encounter new academic and daily living challenges.||Download file: Preparing for College Living|
|Procrastination in College||Many people procrastinate when it comes to school. All of the work can be difficult to keep up with. The academic demands of college are often heavier than in high school, and procrastinating can lead to serious academic problems. Here are several tips and tricks to help you learn to reduce procrastinating and be successful in college.||Download file: Procrastination in College|
This information was developed by the Autism Services, Education, Resources, and Training Collaborative (ASERT). For more information, please contact ASERT at 877-231-4244 or info@PAautism.org. ASERT is funded by the Bureau of Supports for Autism and Special Populations, PA Department of Human Services.