A College Structure for Students with Asperger Syndrome (page 2)

By — Autism Society
Updated on Jul 28, 2009

Personal Considerations of the Student

The monkey in the wrench is the student himself. For while there are certainly things to be learned through a generalized study of the diagnosis, no two students with AS are alike. Not only does AS encompass a broad range of functional ability, but there are sometimes varying degrees of anxiety, depression and, to a lesser degree, anger. These are not diagnostic characteristics of AS. They are instead the sometimes by-products of living life in the behavioral minority—in a world that they do not understand, and that too often does not understand them.

Other considerations to be looked include: Are college students aware of their diagnosis? If so, are they comfortable with it? And are they comfortable sharing it?

Students who are unaware of their diagnosis should be made aware of it. Without this knowledge, they will always wonder why everyone else is handling things differently from them and will almost always arrive at the conclusion that they are second-rate human beings. They will interpret those differences as faults. Students who know that their wiring is simply different can handle the challenges of life on the spectrum with infinitely greater success.

Who should tell the student? Ideally, the parents if the opportunity to hear it from the diagnostician has since passed. Parents who do not disclose may have had their reasons for keeping this secret from their child, such as the old “Why do you want to put a label on him?” attitude, which is now known to be even more harmful than what they initially were scared of. Not sharing the “label” with the student almost never has good results.

Whoever tells the student about the diagnosis must approach it with the idea that they have good news to tell the student, not bad. This is not a feel-good approach; it is the truth. Reasons for the student’s challenges can be attributed to neurology, replacing personal fault or weakness.

For the student who looks upon himself as a lesser person because of the diagnosis, the best help is to get the student involved in peer support groups (i.e., with other kids on the spectrum) or urge the student to read the myriad of books that emphasize the positives that (believe it or not) the diagnosis can bring. Talking with a therapist who understands AS can also be beneficial.

Nondisclosure to Others

For students who wish that others not know of their condition, two rules apply:

  1. The Office of Student Disabilities has to know. It is their job to help that student, and they cannot do this without knowing about the student’s exceptionality. And the student must understand why they must know.

  2. The student’s wishes that other students not know must be honored. In cases where it would really help if other students knew, attempts should be made to show the student why it is in his or her best interest to disclose, but the decision should always be the student’s.

The student who wants to “tough it out” and not treat himself any differently must be monitored more carefully. While staff members may be relieved at the lesser workload such a student imposes on them, very often (in fact, most of the time) this is a student who is running from something rather than “toughing out” anything. Very often, the student who wants to pretend that he’s “just like everybody else” has experienced trauma related to his diagnosis.

It is important to show, rather than tell, the student with AS that people on campus really are not as annoyed, discriminating or threatened by the diagnosis as he (perhaps rightfully) fears. This sales pitch, when pulled off, characterizes a school that I would recommend to anyone.

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