Autism gets redefined for profs, campus admin

Suggestions for faculty teaching students with ASD

Along with Brittany Joseph, another FYE instructor at Owens, Kelley has eight suggestions for faculty and campus administration when working with ASD students in and out of the classroom.


1. Build a relationship with the ASD student on the first day. As faculty, say the Owens instructors, “we can ease their anxieties by nurturing them with warmth and acceptance on the first day of classes.

2. Regular interaction. According to the instructors, faculty should encourage the ASD student to arrive before class to review expectations and objectives for the day. Also, faculty should recommend that the ASD student stay after class to recap the outcomes and expectations for the next class meeting, including upcoming assignments and projects.

“By encouraging the student to reach out before or after class, the number of questions and concerns that arise during the class time is reduced and other students in the course are less frustrated by the number of interruptions.

3. Build a relationship with their parents. With documentation to meet the legalities of Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) from the student, faculty can reach out to the parents and ask them questions.

4. Share your experience with others in your institution. “Each semester brings with it a new set of faculty members that may or not be aware of ASDs,” said the instructors. “Become an advocate for autism professional development for peers, staff, and administrators on your campus.”

For institutions:

5. The college culture and disability disclosure: Institutional policies and faculty/peer reactions to autism often are the reasons why ASD students do not self-disclose about their disability, explain Kelly and Joseph. The institution, as a whole, must be willing to work collaboratively with the parents of ASD students, faculty, advisors, therapists, disability services personnel, and student conduct personnel.

6. The office of disability service: Other accommodations can be made for students other than just the ADA, such as faculty clearly defining classroom expectations, allowing students to record their lectures, and providing students with access to their class notes. In addition, Disability Services Offices can collaborate with academic affairs and student activities departments to offer brown bag sessions, faculty development seminars, and provide a speaker series with ASD guest speakers in a diversity of career fields.

7. The offices of student affairs and student activities: Student organizations can capitalize on Autism Awareness Month. The Offices of Disability Services can also coordinate with the Offices of Student Affairs and Student Activities to provide summer transitional programs for ASD students. These offices can then establish peer support groups that provide a social network for ASD students. These offices can work together to ensure that new student orientations and first year related activities create awareness about cognitive disabilities.

8. The office of academic affairs: A director of FYE could create an FYE course with the purpose of providing assistance for ASD students transitioning into the college setting. The course objectives would include helping students learn how to cope with having ASD, to self-advocate as a student with ASD, to gain an understanding of the support services available beyond the disability services office, and to develop a personal transition plan.

For a more detailed description of recommendations and conclusions, read the report.

(Next page: Autism is a good fit for higher-ed)

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