New Programs Increase Support for Autistic College Students

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Autism spectrum disorders

Less than half of the people on the autism spectrum land paying jobs after two years out of high school, with the lowest rate of any disabled group. However, that trend may be changing as more and more autistic high school graduates show up on college campuses.

Students with autism spectrum disorders have always attended colleges, but even a few years ago, poor screening processes and lack of support programs meant they had to struggle through classes practically invisible.

However, the number of children on the spectrum in colleges rose from 1 in 150 to 1 in 88 in only ten years, more and more colleges are beginning to create support systems for students with learning disabilities. The Harvard Review of Psychiatry confirmed a significant upsurge in Autistic students entering college, though it’s hard to get an exact statistic because many students don’t disclose their disability.

Jobs that used to be held by autistic adults in postal services and train operations are being taken over by computer systems, which means it’s more important than ever for people with autism spectrum disorders to go to college and earn degrees if they’re capable and comfortable doing so.

Colleges are slowly but surely adapting to this change by establishing programs for helping autistic students with academic tutoring, anxiety reduction and social skills. Many students don’t require all the services and sign up for whichever ones they need, though unfortunately these programs can cost an additional $3,000 per semester.

Rochester Institute Technology attracts 20-30 students on the autism spectrum each year with it’s Spectrum Support Program that specializes in job preparation. This can cost from $1,400-1,600 more a semester depending on how much support students need.

Mercyhurst University in Pennsylvania focuses on the social end of autism support, providing a Living Learning Environment residence hall that houses 25 students with autism spectrum disorder and a grad student mentor. The program provides regular group outings and support groups for residents.

The College Support Program for Students on the Autism Support Spectrum program at Rutgers, however, is more focused on inclusion in the classroom, housing students on the spectrum alongside neurotypical students.

Each of these options will benefit different children with autism spectrum disorders. Children who attended special needs schools for children with learning disabilities may be suited for a different program than a child educated in a special education program at a public school.

This makes it even more important for parents to prepare children by choosing the right early education. Consult local support groups and visit schools in your area to find out which one will best prepare your child for a possible college education later in life.
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