A College Structure for Students with Asperger Syndrome
It’s a giant oversimplification to assume that autism spectrum disorders, including Asperger Syndrome (AS), and neurotypicality are really about two worlds trying to understand one another—the spectrum universe and everyone else—but there is some truth to it too. Each side spends infinite amounts of time, money and resources attempting to figure out what the other world is thinking. This is wise, as such progress enables desperately needed communication. Mistakes made in misinterpretations between these two worlds can be infinitely more damaging than those brought on by an actual diagnosis of AS.
One arena within “normal” life that is making great strides in understanding individuals with AS (though it’s not “there” yet) is the world of postsecondary university life. Partially out of the desire to move mankind forward, and because “there’s gold in them thar hills,” many colleges are paying more attention to students who need some accommodations. College personnel are working to alleviate the misperceptions that their students with AS have, and in return, professors and other college staff are listening more to their students.
The Federal Mandate to Offer Support
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 paved the way. Under this legislation, colleges not run by religious organizations must have an Office of Student Disabilities, or an ADA Compliance Officer. Within these offices, students can seek assistance in a variety of forms, including counseling or tutoring, that will help them succeed.
Granted, families need to do their research. Some colleges take this responsibility very seriously, while others do not. That is, they may have an Office of Student Disabilities that has ill-trained personnel and limited resources or offer resentful lip service to federal law.
Families also need to understand that what makes the average young adult with AS attractive to universities is the fact that these individuals usually have no shortage of brainpower. This is crucial knowledge because colleges that guide the student through to academic success while paying no attention to the social demands of campus dorm life do not usually graduate a student who enjoys career success. The social portion of university life should always be treated with equal importance. Nobody goes to school solely for scholastic growth.
Reprinted with the permission of the Autism Society.
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