1 in 68 children is on the autism spectrum

Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 1 in 68 children is on the autism spectrum. Previously when these kids prepared to leave high school they tended to choose vocational schools or local community colleges. That was because they have social difficulties such as making new friends, joining clubs, approaching professors and even asking for help—self advocating. Staying at home made it easier for them to deal with such problems.  That has dramatically changed as interventions have improved and as our understanding of the spectrum has been modified to include a broader range of behaviors and disabilities. Today, the majority of young adults identified with autism intend to go to college with a goal of achieving higher-level employment and independent living. To be successful, however, they still require appropriate transition planning in high school and accommodations in college. The problem is that many autistic students get good grades and so are not seen to be disabled and therefore eligible for programs offering special education under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)..

Americans with Disabilities Act  Amendments Act

On September 25, 2008, the President signed the Americans with Disabilities Act  Amendments Act (ADAAA).The amendments emphasize that the definition of disability should be construed in favor of broad coverage of individuals to the maximum extent permitted by the terms of the ADA and generally shall not require extensive analysis. The Act made important changes to the definition of the term “disability” by rejecting the holdings in several Supreme Court decisions and portions of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s  ADA regulations. The effect of these changes is to make it easier for an individual seeking protection under the ADA to establish that he or she has a disability within the meaning of the ADA.

If you have the patience to plow through the definitions and amendments you will discover that school age students with high functioning autism who can compensate for their social and communication deficits to some extent with medications, assistive technology, psychological services and behavioral services still have a qualifying disability under ADA. Consequently high schools should be offering such special programs to high functioning autistic students to help them transition to college. Lacking that on a high school level some private and public colleges and universities now offer support programs and services to enhance the campus experience beyond the accommodations mandated by the ADA.

Universities and colleges supporting  ADA

  • Adelphi College, Long Island, N.Y.
  • Syracuse University, N.Y.
  • Defiance College, Ohio
  • Kent State University, Ohio
  • Fairleigh Dickinson University, New Jersey
  • Drexel University, Philadelphia
  • The University of Michigan
  • The University of Connecticut.

Students at these schools commonly have available mentoring programs, social events, scholarships, special housing options, personalized fitness programs and daily or weekly meetings with professional staff who help them manage their time and train them to self-advocate. If you are a student with autism you should seek out one of these universities or colleges to learn more about the programs they offer to students such as yourself. Or if you are considering another institution it is wise to learn if they have similar programs.