Your intelligent Aspergers (high functioning autistic) child has made it to his junior year in high school, and it's time to consider colleges! The good news is that more and more colleges are meeting the special needs of Aspergers teens to help them succeed.
Here are some important suggestions for teens with Aspergers (and their moms and dads) as they think about applying for, managing, and thriving in college:
1. Consider broadening your search if your youngster has additional disabilities such as ADHD, which often co-exists with Aspergers. Academic programs for kids with organizational disabilities may also offer social help for Aspergers people.
2. Consider taking a few classes online. Young people with Aspergers may be overwhelmed by the harsh lighting and noise from a classroom. You may want to check and see if a couple of your required classes may be taken online. However, be advised that taking classes online actually requires more self-discipline than in a traditional classroom.
3. Do your best! Speaking as an instructor who also has Aspergers, I am sensitive to young people who have special needs. However, this also means I expect people to attend class unless they have medical documentation.
4. Establish a medical care provider near your campus. This is extremely important because as a person with Aspergers, you have special medical conditions that many college students will not share. Do some research online or ask your hometown physician for a referral.
5. Have the number of a personal counselor nearby. You may have your good days and bad. Some issues can be especially daunting for a college student with Aspergers. There’s no shame in speaking with a counselor on campus that can help you work through those issues.
6. If you are planning on living in a dorm, you may want to let the administration know about your Aspergers or request a private room. If you are someone who is extremely sensitive to external stimuli (e.g., light, sound, etc), you may want to be placed in a “study floor” instead of a “sorority wing.” Or, if possible, you may want to request a private room so that you have a little more control over your environment.
7. Join an activity to meet people with similar interests to your own. Socializing is not something that always comes easily to people with Aspergers. Think of those activities you enjoy or in which you have succeeded. There are bound to be groups or clubs focusing on that activity.
8. Let your teachers know of your Aspergers and what may be helpful to you. If possible, arrange a meeting with your teachers before the beginning of the semester, but no later than the first week. They will probably respect your honesty and the initiative you are taking in your courses. Also, don’t hesitate to ask for help. As an instructor, I am always willing to help someone who asks for it.
9. Obtain certification of your Aspergers from your medical professional. In order to obtain accommodations on a college campus (such as disability support services), you will probably be required to have documentation of your Aspergers from a physician, neurologist, or psychiatrist.
10. Research universities. Talk with high school counselors and other moms and dads; search online for schools offering support to Aspergers people. Some schools designate certain dorm floors for young people with social difficulties and facilitate interactive activities to ensure they connect with others right from the beginning.
11. Seek career counseling as soon as possible. Finding a job after graduation is particularly challenging for young people with Aspergers. Unfortunately, society tends to focus on the limitations that come with the word “autism” rather than the strengths. So you may want to write down some activities you really enjoy doing or perform particularly well. This can be very helpful for a career counselor who will work to provide you with some direction in terms of courses, volunteer, and internship opportunities.
12. Streamline the process by honing in on schools that offer majors in your youngster's areas of interest and then contact the departments of disability accommodations in each of those schools to see what they offer.
13. Understand that your youngster can have a successful college experience. More than likely she is doing OK or even brilliantly at academics and will just need extra help with social and life skills.
14. Utilize your advisor. Take an active approach with your advisor. It can’t hurt to mention your Aspergers so you can work with your advisor to find a career that is compatible with your strengths. Share the results of any career testing with your advisor, so that you may receive more guidance.
15. Visit several colleges. Most Aspergers kids are very concrete thinkers and cannot just "imagine" what a school will be like from descriptions and photos.
16. When applying for college or a program, it is a good idea to indicate your disability. Of course, you are not required to do so. However, state institutions are not permitted to discriminate against someone due to a disability.
17. Without delay, locate the disability support services on campus. This is very important, as they will likely be the professionals who will arrange (or provide verification) for you to receive necessary accommodations to perform well in your courses.
18. Write down your strengths as well as your limitations. As I mentioned, society tends to focus on the limitations of Aspergers rather than the strengths. You need to advocate for yourself by writing down what you do well and those tasks in which you have succeeded.
Congratulate yourself for having the ambition to attend college and not letting yourself be limited by Aspergers! You’ve made it this far – what else will you do!"
The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook