When people think of student activities for Aspergers students, especially those in college, some may feel tempted to believe that such activities are not suitable for them. Students with Aspergers could feel hindered by a number of issues, whether it be social anxiety, time management, lack of awareness, or longer study sessions due to slower information processing, to name a few.
The ASD student and/or those around them too often assume that such issues would prevent them from getting anything out of an activity. Consequently, this commonly held false assumption only makes it so that the Asperger’s student likely does not develop the inclination to do much beyond their comfort zones.
I suggest 10 steps that can help the ASD college student get beyond this:
- Take inventory of organizations in which you could get involved
- Ask a residence hall worker or go to the activities office and get a list of potential organizations and begin research
- Go to events, such as student activities nights, whose purpose is to expose students or the public to organizations or look on website if there is one
- Explore the organizations online and then engage with them (ideal for introverts)
- Usually, word of mouth and stories from current friends/acquaintances establishes links and piques interests of those with ASD, despite any general reluctance for involvement, as well as (stereotypically) restricted interests
- Do your homework: Understand the organizations’ missions, visions, values, member testimonials, events, contact information
- Identify primary contacts
- First priority to contact is a person in charge, or a group facilitator
- Understand the steps to joining the organization
- Identify primary contacts
- Introduce yourself or get an introduction from somebody if necessary
- Both scenarios encompass a self-introduction and this is critical because it allows others to acknowledge and accept the true personality of the Asperger’s student
- Identify and overcome obstacles to getting involved, such as anxiety, shyness, depression, and perfectionism
- Ask questions that address the matters of going vs. not going; staying vs. leaving; minimum vs. full participation, etc.
- Be sure to learn about and adopt emotional intelligence and etiquette to use during every type of activity
- Every situation is unique with unique benefits and challenges; embracing both the good AND the bad is the only way to embrace true growth
- Not everybody is friendly and helpful. Sort out quality from toxic people and do not forget your purpose in participating in the activity
- Keep in mind the various levels of formality and understand how to specifically navigate complex situations using simple, effective methods
- Above all else, ALWAYS BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF and do not let anything or anyone have a bad influence on you
- Learn to anticipate the most likely experiences
- Look at it through multiple lenses and understand that one end result that anybody desires: leave with more knowledge and content than you had when you arrived
- Do not feel entitled to the best outcomes; just make the most of what really happens
- Make contributions to the organization right off the bat
- Give yourself and take opportunities to develop not only soft skills, but leadership skills to use in your personal and professional lives
- This could be as simple as hosting a meeting or introducing members who join after you to planning and implementing long-term projects
- Ex: Mission trips to distant places to do manual labor
- Make sure that you are actually getting something out of it; if it is bringing you down or you truthfully feel that it is a negative placeholder in your schedule or if others do not seem to “get” you, identify the minimum benefits of your involvement and take advantage of whatever you can
- Begin a new search for other organizations or concentrate more on other current involvements
- Find purpose in ALL that you do, even if it is not as useful as you hoped
- Form personal AND professional relationships with those who are a surefire model example to others and to the organization, if applicable
- Trust your gut and observe others’ behaviors and decisions in challenging situations to see how well they manage themselves and others; great leadership is a great person!
College is not all about academic success . . . it is about overall personal success
Even the most closed-in Asperger’s college students consistently receive news of these activities from their colleges through advertising or through word of mouth. Sometimes, others even give those students encouragement to participate in such activities for the purposes of personal development or leisure and enjoyment.
Students who truly thrive acknowledge that organizations, on or off-campus, permit them to stand out above their peers, to improve the quality of their lives in many regards, to build connections with peers and leaders in their fields of study, and to eradicate their own personal barriers. Parents, educators, friends, professionals, and students alike deserve to think of student organizations as opportunities to not only learn and grow, but to serve as the means for life improvement.
In addition, such organizations can provide Asperger’s college students with the opportunity to epitomize what it means to be a member of their community, a fantastic college student, and stellar performer with many skills. After all, college is not all about academic success. In fact, it is about overall personal success; namely, academic, extracurricular, social, emotional, mental, and physical success.
The Asperger’s students who choose to break down their walls through involvement in these activities exponentially increase their chances of achieving both their potential and success, no matter how their story goes.
By Reese Eskridge
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