Life After High School: Autism in College

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Article first published as Life After High School: Autism in College on Technorati.

To date the discussion of autism has been primarily on the load that is weighing down our public elementary school system. The number of children being diagnosed, the number of children in need of special handling or exceptions, all have become a growing concern to the school system. It then spreads upward to secondary schools for a continuation of those same services. Then what?

There are a number of adults with autism, many of them undiagnosed, and they are also in need of assistance. Many of them are already in college, or at least looking to go eventually, but are not aware of the services that many colleges and universities offer.

As a test, I checked here locally at the University of Utah (of which I am an employee), to see what services are available. Their services are provided through the Center for Disability Services, which is located in the Union building, first floor, in the very back hallway. It's a small office, but don't let that fool you.

So what services do they offer? First and foremost they offer general advising. That is, help in planning their academic future. They will investigate the student's academic strengths and weaknesses to help plan what program would be the best fit for them. They can also refer the student of various other campus and community services that may be available. Utah is not well known for the services they offer, but those that are offered are very welcome to those on the spectrum.

If necessary, they can act as a liaison between the student and faculty or other departments for accommodation needs. They identify the ideal learning strategies for the student, and provide assistance when needed. They can also assist in registration and admissions.

Test taking is very important, because departments need to provide some method of measuring what has been learned. The Center will provide accommodations for test taking (verbal reading of the questions, scribes, and test taking technologies), offer note taker or interpreter services as needed, and so on. They can also provide text books in alternative formats if necessary (such as braille). They also work with adaptive technologies to further the student's learning ability. And, of course, they can work with the student to receive scholarships.

The one thing that the student needs to provide for these services is documented diagnoses for their related disabilities. For autism, that can be a bit of a problem, as many children and adults live without a diagnosis. All the more reason to utilize the University's student counseling center to find a good psychologist that can make such a diagnosis. At that point, the services are available to anyone.

This, of course, is just the University of Utah. All state schools are required to comply with the accommodations outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act, and should provide similar services. Some provide more, but I can't imagine any providing less (and not getting a lawsuit).

So if you are wondering what would be the best school to attend for your young adult on the Spectrum, check first to see what services are offered. You may be surprised by the options available.