Is Higher Education Ready to Support Students with Asperger’s? Part 3

Independent Living

In 2013 I surveyed disability service professionals at 578 degree-granting, four-year public institutions of higher education. The survey was designed to determine the current readiness of higher education to support the academic, social and communication, and independent living needs of college students diagnosed with Asperger’s Disorder.

230 colleges participated in the survey. The survey was designed around the Benchmarks of Effective Supports for College Students with Asperger’s Disorder , a checklist of efforts determined by experts as integral to effective college supports for this student population.

The 2013 study demonstrated college students with Asperger’s Disorder required specialized supports, and that disability services available traditionally on campus to this population were generally ineffective. It explored, in part, whether or not colleges had specialized supports for this student population outside of traditional disability services.

This article is the third in a three-part series that reports the outcomes of that research. Read Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.

Are You an Aspie and Depressed? That’s Not Unusual

Asperger’s Syndrome and Depression: Part 1

As most teens and adults with Asperger syndrome know, people with Asperger syndrome can be significantly depressed. The rates of diagnoses of depression vary among studies, from 18% to 22%. The most commonly quoted rate of a depression in the general population of the US  is 6.7%. Most of the research shows both genders have these high rates of depression.

Studies focused on males and females and not those who are transgender. There are more people who identify as transgender in the AS population than in the general population and transgender people have a higher rate of depression. One would guess that someone who is both AS and transgender might have a high tendency towards depression.

Interestingly, non-autistic full siblings and half-siblings of individuals with ASD (not just Asperger syndrome) also had higher rates of depression than the general population, although at half the rate of those with ASD. Studies of suicide attempts are also very troubling. In studies of suicide, the rate of suicidal thoughts and attempts are prevalent, especially in adolescence and young adulthood.

It’s critical to identify depression, since it can be treated.

It’s obviously important to understand why rates of depression and suicidal thoughts are so high. One factor, given the findings in siblings, is that there is an increased genetic vulnerability to depression, although large studies haven’t supported a common genetic overlap. We have to look to other factors to account for these high rates of depression.

It’s important to diagnose clinical depression for anyone for a simple reason – depression is treatable with a variety of modalities:

Is Higher Education Ready to Support Students with Asperger’s? ~ Part 1

In 2013, to fulfill the requirements of my doctoral degree, I surveyed disability service professionals at 578 degree-granting, four-year public institutions of higher education. The survey was designed to determine the current readiness of higher education to support the academic, social and communication, and independent living needs of college students diagnosed with Asperger’s Disorder. 230 colleges participated in the survey.

The survey was designed around the Benchmarks of Effective Supports for College Students with Asperger’s Disorder, a checklist of efforts determined by experts as integral to effective college supports for this student population.

The 2012 study demonstrated college students with Asperger’s Disorder required specialized supports, and that disability services available traditionally on campus to this population were generally ineffective. The 2013 nation-wide survey explored, in part, whether or not colleges had specialized supports for this student population outside of traditional disability services.

The first research question addressed academic supports, and asked:

“What is the current state of readiness within higher education to meet the academic needs of college students with Asperger’s Disorder as described in the Benchmarks of Effective Supports for College Students with Asperger’s Disorder?

The areas of support investigated and the results of the survey follow:

Animal Shelter Volunteer Work for Kids and Teens with Autism: Master Social and Job Skills

Volunteering at an animal shelter is a great way for tweens, teens and young adults on the autism spectrum to practice and improve social and job skills. They also learn responsibility and a respect for animals. As visitors come into animal shelters to look at animals available for adoption, it’s the perfect place for teens to improve face-to-face communication. The experience they gain volunteering at an animal shelter molds them into more effective volunteers and prepares them for the workforce.

Animal Shelter

Volunteering at an animal shelter is a fantastic opportunity, especially for teens with Aspergers. It has been widely discussed that children, teens, and adults with Aspergers form strong bonds with pets, and can greatly benefit from animal companionship.

Their time spent volunteering will produce better outcomes (adoptions) if they have good communication skills. Here are some top social skills from my book to ensure teens maximize the chance of an animal getting adopted, and master important social and job skills:

1. Smile and Say Hello:

When you see another person, whether a co-volunteer, staff member or visitor, smile and say “Hello”. Your smile will set the tone for positive future interactions and brighten the person’s day. It may even lead to an animal getting adopted or a financial donation. It all starts with a smile!

Including Parents in the Community of Support for Aspergers Students in College

Rights afforded by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) transfer from parents to their children when those children enter college or turn eighteen years old. As a result, parents are unable to provide the same levels of support and advocacy they provided when their child was in high school. Parents of college students are, generally, unable to: talk to instructors, request information about grades, explain to instructors how their child experiences ASD, or provide information about accommodations that may be helpful to their child living on the spectrum.

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While many faculty and staff fear the hovering of the stereotypical “helicopter parent,” college support staff who truly understand how best to serve students with ASD recognize the value that parents bring to a student’s community of support.

In general, parents of students with ASD have “been there and done that,” in regard to education; many can provide advice about the most subtle of modifications that, when implemented, may help their child be successful in a college classroom. College support staff would be wise to consider how to effectively integrate parents into the support programs of college students with ASD.

Examples of how that can be accomplished without violating the rights of the student include:

Aspergers 101 FAQ has launched!

Announcing a new resource on Aspergers101! Today we launch Aspergers 101 Frequently Asked Questions section. We polled the 101 top requested questions on Asperger Syndrome and put them in one place for those seeking information on High Functioning Autism or Asperger Syndrome! These questions range from the origins of Asperger Syndrome, the early signs all the way through adulthood. Some questions merited a one word response while others provide you with a detailed bullet-point answer. We would like to thank our underwriting sponsor: The Starfish Social Club for supporting and providing you this on-going free resource! To access Aspergers101 FAQ page either click on the ad below or it will be permanently available at the top menu bar on our website under the “Asperger Syndrome” tab. 

Click on above to go to 101 FAQ Page

 

Academic and Campus Accommodations for College with Aspergers

Autism and Higher Education

Prevalence of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) has risen significantly since first described in the 1940s. The Center for Disease Control estimates currently 1 in 68 children in the United States lives with an ASD diagnosis, and that 46% of those diagnosed have average to above average intelligence.

University Of Tennessee Hill

A large body of literature describes the significant, life-long difficulties faced by many individuals diagnosed with ASD. The support needs for college students diagnosed with more traditional disabilities are well documented.

There is a lack of information, however, in regard to effectively supporting the college instruction of students with Asperger’s Disorder, and how to support their navigation of a campus society.

Ellison, Clark, Cunningham, and Hansen (2013) explored the phenomenon of providing effective supports to college students diagnosed with Asperger’s Disorder. Investigators convened a panel of experts to provide input on the topic, and then categorized common themes identified by panel members. Their research was published in the peer-reviewed Southern Regional Council on Educational Administration Yearbook 2013.

The survey resulted in the creation of the Benchmarks of Effective Supports for College Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders. That documents is available as a PDF file on this website (you can find it at the end of this article).

Research Conclusions on the Supports Needed Most for College Students with ASD:

Sensory Overload at School: Insights From a Teacher

 Sensory Overload at School

Guests: Malissa MacArthur

This edition of Top of The Spectrum News looks into the potential sensory overload at school that is often associated with Asperger’s Syndrome. A classroom teacher discusses how these issues may impede classroom performance.

College Students with Aspergers Speak Out: Take Our Advice

Important advice from students who have 'been there and done that'

Colleague and friend Andrew Nelson, a coordinator in the West Virginia Autism Training Center’s Family Focus Positive Behavior Support program, supports individuals with ASD in their transition to college as part of his day-to-day duties. In his work, Andrew began to notice similar questions and issues were being raised by various students.

Many of the questions were about basic procedures of higher education, such as how one applies to and gets into a university. Other questions – like “Do I have to do my own laundry?” – were about campus living.

To help answer these questions, Andrew went straight to the experts: college students on the spectrum!

In his video interview with three Marshall University students, Andrew explores in brief the topics of: college admission, financial aid, effective support strategies, independent living, and the importance of building on-campus relationships. 

All in under 6 minutes!

Maverick Crawford III – Beating the Odds for Success

A Testament to Overcoming Adversity

Lao Tzu said it best,”A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.” If this holds true, Maverick Crawford III has certainly walked many miles as a person diagnosed with Autism. Aspergers101 is proud to have Maverick as a regular blogger as his insights into overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles proves to be a favorite among those seeking inspiration. Today, we feature Maverick in a one-on-one interview as he discusses his recent award from the University of Texas at San Antonio, the COPP (College of Public Policy) Most Outstanding Student for the 2017-2018 academic year and the hardships he overcame to achieve success. 

Maverick Crawford III

What did it mean to you to win the most outstanding student award?

A few days before the ceremony, I received several emails from a staff working for the Associate Dean of COPP. The emails were in regards to have a meeting with Dr. Romero in the in her office and then by Starbucks, but then I was in for a surprise the next day. I come to meet Dr. Romero at Starbucks, but she has not arrived, and two minutes later she came out of an auditorium. She asked for me to talk to some high school seniors and I accepted, and that’s was when she announced that I won the Most Outstanding Undergraduate Student Award. For the longest time even on the day I received the beautiful glass award with my name and the name of the award, it seemed like a dream to me. I would have never thought I would win. I was in disbelief and shock, but I was extremely humbled to receive the award.

Tell us a little bit about your role while you interned at the U.S. Pretrial Services.

I deal with offenders on a different level shadowing officers. I got to sit in on an interview with a person who was recently arrested. I did two interviews and asked them questions about their background. These questions helped to determine if the offenders can be released on bond. I had to complete a report at the end of the interview. One of the defendants that I interviewed had autism, and I was able to explain to the Pretrial Officer about a possible sanction to place on the defendant to ensure the safety of the community, and they will appear back in court, and it worked. I told them to have detailed step instructions with kept the defendant on a strict routine because people with autism react significantly with strict adherence to a schedule. This helped me learn more about the administration of the court system and how the material I learn the classroom applies and operated.

Preparing for the Future

How did your double major in criminal justice and public administration prepare you for your future?

It prepared me for a career in public service. Those majors helped me be a better advocate for underprivileged communities. It’s vital that their voices are heard too. Dr. Patricia Jaramillo was a significant influence in adding public administration to my degree plan. She told me I could still graduate on time with a double major from COPP. Dr. Jaramillo and other professors in the College of Public Policy are dedicated to preparing the students for a career in public services by educating them through their experiences and expertise in their respective fields. When I took the public administration courses, I was able to see how the government plays out. When I took criminal justice courses at UTSA, I learned about alternative ways that not hold the offender accountable, but gets the underlying issues of their behavior like Restorative Justice, Specialty Courts, and Juvenile Justice.

Tell us a little bit about your diagnosis with an intellectual disability and autism. What was it like for you growing up?

The community I was from is set up for autistic people, people like me, to fail; without the ability to succeed in any form or fashion. Another big issue in the minority community is that mental health is not addressed and no one believes in it. Since mental health was somewhat a myth to the community, it was a struggle I endure in my life. I was diagnosed with a severe speech impediment, severe mental retardation, severe expressive and receptive language disorder, severe sensory integration dysfunction, auditory processing disorder, dysgraphia (a disorder that causes inability to write coherently), issues with motor processing, anxiety, seizure disorder, and depression. My speech impediment was so severe, I remained silent most of the time to not to embarrass myself.