Recent autism insights give staff, policy new outlook on what it means to be on the spectrum

autism-autistic-university As more people continue to get diagnosed with autism across the U.S., numerous supports are in place…at least in K-12. But as many of these students graduate high school and look toward post-secondary education, has anything changed in how campus staff view autism? How is the autism conversation changing in higher education?

According to the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) data on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), about 1 in 68 children has been identified with autism. And though ASD does not stem from one racial, ethnic or socioeconomic group, autism is almost five times more common among boys (1 in 42) than among girls (1 in 189).

Despite this surge in students falling somewhere on the autism spectrum, little has changed, at least in campus support, since 1973 with the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires that colleges and universities comply with the Act’s mandates.

However, most college departments that deal with ADA compliance prescribe ‘support’ to students with autism as they would with other students with disabilities: More time on tests, alternative test-taking spaces, and the allowance of student note-takers in class.

And while many higher-ed institutions have recently begun to offer programs that cater specifically to students with ASD, it often comes at a steep price for families.

(Next page: The cost of higher-ed special needs programs)


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