With so many depressing newspaper headlines about hate and discrimination, I found it refreshing to read a hopeful story about college campuses creating programs to accommodate students on the autistic spectrum. Recently, the front page of The New York Times featured a story about autistic students at college, “Helping Autistic Students Navigate Life on Campus.” Only five years ago, when my daughter on the spectrum was applying to colleges, there were hardly ANY schools ANYWHERE with programs specifically designed to support the academic and social needs of students with autism. Now I’m reading about colleges as far away as in Kentucky!
More and more people diagnosed with autism are coming of age and going to college, so our society MUST educate and help them become independent. Of course getting a bachelor’s degree does not guarantee a job or successful independent living, as the Times article correctly observes. My daughter graduated cum laude two years ago, and she still doesn’t have a job or live completely on her own. But at least now college programs are including life skills training in their curriculum—a big step forward.
It is hard to know how many students with autism attend four-year schools. A 2012 study in the journal Pediatrics found that about 50,000 teenagers with the diagnosis turn 18 each year and 34.7 percent attend college. Without support, though, few make it to graduation.
That is partly because many students with an autism diagnosis do not step forward, fearing stigma. Some experts speculate that for every college student on the spectrum who identifies himself or herself with a diagnosis, there may be two more who are undisclosed.
Read the full article: Along the Autism Spectrum, a Path Through Campus Life