When parents research colleges for a teenage child with Asperger's syndrome, the search should include schools with Asperger college programs. College is often the first time a person with Aspergers faces independent living and diverse social interaction, which may be a challenging adjustment for anyone, especially someone with social and communication difficulties. Fortunately, many colleges and universities have programs to help a person with Aspergers adjust to the challenges of college life. Learn about Asperger college programs as well as which colleges have the best supportive services.
College Is Possible
Years ago, a college education was difficult for a person with Aspergers to obtain due to many societal misconceptions about AS, the lack of supportive services at colleges and the social challenges of college life. Now a more widespread autism and Apergers awareness and activist organizations have helped pave the way for more support services to help people with Aspergers succeed at college.
Common Issues Facing College Students with Aspergers
College requires a period of adjustment for any freshman, especially a freshman with Asperger's syndrome. Aspergers is a pervasive developmental disorder that involves impairments in language, communication and social interaction and sometimes includes sensory issues and self-stimulatory or obsessive behaviors. Due to these issues, a freshman with AS may feel at times like others are speaking and behaving in another language and culture that he is trying hard to understand. The adjustment period may take longer for a college freshman with Aspergers but he can arrive at a comfort level with the right support.
Not every person with Aspergers experiences the same number of symptoms or level of impairment. Common issues facing college students with AS can include:
- Difficulty with routine changes
- Problems understanding verbal instructions
- Problems completing assignments that do not have specific instructions or strict parameters
- Challenges with social interaction and making friends
- Mindblindness or trouble understanding other's emotions and emotional responses, which can lead to inappropriate responses
- Self-stimulatory or repetitive behaviors and obsessive behaviors may cause social interaction difficulties
- May not interact well with a roommate, especially if the roommate does not respect routines or any triggers relating to sensory issues
A college with Autism and Asperger support programs and services can help a student work through these issues, adjust to college life and live independently on campus.
Some students may require a structured special needs program while others thrive in traditional college environments.
About Asperger College Programs
Generally, colleges that offer autism and Asperger support services provide academic assistance; life aids such as transportation and life therapies to help students with AS live independently on campus and graduate from college. The programs can also include therapies and counseling.
Academic assistance may involve helping a student develop a school schedule routine, understand assignment requirements, figure out assignment steps and how to complete assignments.
Counselors also help students with social skill issues ranging from appropriate questions to ask a teacher in class, lunch room etiquette or how to ask someone out on a date.
Some schools have specific Asperger college programs for students. Other colleges include students with AS in a special needs program with other similar conditions.
Colleges With Asperger Support Programs
A large number of colleges in the USA have programs for students with Aspergers and autism. Colleges ranging from University of California to New York University have programs or services for students in this population.
Some colleges with notable Asperger programs or services include:
- Marshall University (WV): Marshall has a special program, specifically for students with Aspergers in their West Virginia Autism Training Center.
- University of Connecticut (CT): University of Connecticut provides services for students with AS through the disabilities office.
- Western Kentucky University (KY): The school serves students with Aspergers through the Kelly Autism Program.
- Daemon College (NY): Daemon provides services to students with AS through the Gersh Program.
Parents can contact autism support organizations for lists of recommended colleges. They can also talk to their child's doctor, teachers and therapists for school recommendations.
Questions Parents Should Ask Schools
Parents can find out important details about a college's services by asking the following questions:
- Please describe the academic assistance for students with Aspergers.
- What type of social skills counseling is available?
- Does the program provide 24/7 assistance?
- Is each student assigned a specific counselor?
- How does the program intervene if a student is in crisis?
Set up a campus meeting with a program representative to find out more about the program and observe it in action.
Helping a Child with Aspergers Succeed in College
Parents can help a child with AS prepare for college by getting him use to independent living, the need for self-advocacy and getting him involved in school planning decisions. Work as a team with teachers and therapists to get him use to the routine, social and academic demands of college. Make sure that he has an effective way to manage any medications, personal records, understands the idea of a general college schedule and knows how to utilize the college's support services. Independent living programs can also help prepare a student with Aspergers for college life.
The following articles have helpful advice about the college transition for students with Aspergers:
- Education.com: Information about the college structure for Asperger students
- Coulter Video: Article by a parent of a student with AS
- GRASP.org: Details about Asperger college student life
- Teacch.com: Advice for students preparing for college
Today more people with AS are going to college than ever before. Supportive services are available to help aid each young person's promising future. Higher education and professional careers are just some of the many things people with Aspergers can achieve.