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.

Research indicates a campus community well-informed about the disorder, combined with professional staff to provide independent living assistance and training to students, may be most beneficial to an effective college experience.

The third research question, then, addressed independent living supports, and asked: “What is the current state of readiness within higher education to meet the independent living 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:

On-campus expertise

  • 13 survey participants (6.6%) reported no on-campus expertise existed regarding Asperger’s Disorder
  • 76 participants reported some personnel have attended workshops or trainings about the disorder. 64 colleges described personnel as having extensive experience with the disorder
  • 43 participants (21.9%) reported an identified expert on the disorder existed on campus and was available to provide information and expertise

Dedicated finances and resources

Research has shown that the dedication of finances and specialized resources are integral to providing best-practice supports to college students diagnosed with Asperger’s Disorder.

  • The majority (71.9%) of those who responded to the survey reported support programming and resources existed only within the structure of traditional disability services
  • 5 participants reported dedicated finances and resources existed fully on campus

Mental health access

In their study, VanBergeijk, Klin, and Volkmar emphasized the importance of on-campus mental health services to students with Asperger’s Disorder as they navigate a complicated campus community. Participants were asked to report the current readiness of their institutions to provide mental health services, including assessment and counseling, to college students with Asperger’s Disorder.

Of those who responded to this survey item reported

  • 22 participants (11.9%) no identified mental health professional existed on campus to provide service to this student population.
  • More than one-half of the respondents reported mental health services existed only within the structure of traditional disability services.
  • 21 participants (11.4%) reported dedicated, identified mental health staff existed on campus to fully support students with Asperger’s Disorder.

Assistance with identifying resources

185 participants reported on their ability to support students with Asperger’s Disorder to receive assistance with “identifying available on-campus and off-campus resources.”

  • 10 respondents (5.4%) reported no such system existed
  • 143 respondents (77.3%) reported this support exists only within the structure of traditional disability services
  • 16 participants (8.6%) reported a fully dedicated system of support exists on campus

Mentoring an independent on-campus lifestyle

195 participants responded to the item that explored the readiness of higher education to provide “mentoring services that support organizational needs” that promote an independent, on-campus lifestyle. Of those who responded:

  • 36 (18.5%) reported no system of mentoring existed for students diagnosed with Asperger’s Disorder
  • The majority (61%) reported this system existed only within the structure of traditional disability services
  • 14 participants (7.2%) reported fully dedicated systems were in place on campus to meet this need

Professionals to assess and teach independent living skills

Research indicates that college students with Asperger’s Disorder require dedicated professionals trained to “assess and teach independent living skills” in order to have an effective college experience. Of the 196 participants who responded to a survey item that explored this strategy:

  • one-half reported no staff existed to assess areas of need or to teach independent living skills
  • 77 participants (39.3%) reported staff existed only within the structure of traditional disability services
  • 9 participants (4.6%) reported dedicated, identified staff existed on campus to provide this service

Professionals to assist with improving independent living skills

Participants were surveyed as to their ability to “provide assistance with learning or improving independent living skills.”

  • 83 participants (44.6%) reported no staff existed from whom students diagnosed with Asperger’s Disorder could receive this support
  • 82 participants (44.1%) reported staff existed only within the structure of traditional disability services
  • 9 participants (4.8%) answered they had fully dedicated, on-campus staff available to assist students with Asperger’s Disorder in learning or improving their independent living skills

Results demonstrate a significant minority of public colleges surveyed have developed the specialized assistance outside of traditional disability services necessary to support the independent living needs of college students with Asperger’s Disorder. This outcome suggests a pre-interview of institutions being considered by a high school student applying to colleges – using, perhaps, the Benchmarks of Effective Supports for College Students with Asperger’s Disorder as an interview toolmay be beneficial in selecting a college that fits the individual student’s need.

by Marc Ellison Ed.D

 

Print Friendly
The following two tabs change content below.
Marc Ellison, Ed.D. is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and an approved Licensed Professional supervisor (ALPS) who has worked nearly 30 years to provide person-centered support, services and advocacy to individuals who live with autism spectrum disorders, their families and those who support them. He has supported individuals with ASD throughout their lifespan, as they moved to the community from state-supported institutions, searched for and obtained employment, entered into relationships, and transitioned into college. Dr. Ellison is the Executive Director of the West Virginia Autism Training Center, and a part-time professor at Marshall University.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

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

  1. Am planning a similar dissertation, much smaller scale and qualitative in design re: minimal levels of emotional intelligence needed by college students on the autistic spectrum in order to survive in an academic setting.

  2. Have an Asperger’s son in college and struggling to find ways to manage his Decision Fatigue. Not diagnosed till after entered college. Suggestions as to how to slow down his brain enough so he is not exhausted all the time, can sleep better, resulting in not getting so far behind. He is part time.

    • Hello Linda, thank you for your question. My 19 year old with Aspergers is currently enrolled in college as well. Though I’m not a doctor, I will offer my thoughts on the subject. Sleep is crucial and there are medical means by which to sleep and there are natural ways. Everyone is different so some options that we’ve tried or I’ve heard about I’ll be glad to share. First having a doctor that specializes in Autism Spectrum Disorders is the first step. Since we are in San Antonio I could recommend those I know but not sure if you are in this area. Dr. Susan Homan: 3030 Nacogdoches Road #101, San Antonio, TX 78217(210) 826-9599 or The Autism Community Network: 4242 Woodcock Dr #101, San Antonio, TX 78228 (210) 435-1000. They should help if they find medication is right for your son. However this did not work for my son and here are some self-help suggestions: http://www.helpguide.org/articles/add-adhd/adult-adhd-attention-deficit-disorder-self-help.htm Another method that helps some with sleep problems are soothing sounds or rhythmic beats. The Sound Pillow Sleep System may be worth looking into if the meds you try aren’t working. http://shop.soundpillow.com/ Lastly, my sons doctor had recommended a mild anti-anxiety med that seems to keep him from stressing too much allowing him to sleep. This is all he takes but again…your son would need a doctor for that. Hope this helps and best of luck….it usually is a series of trial runs to find what works.