2/20/2015

Dawn Marcotte: Resources to Help Autistic Students Choose the Right College

Finding the right college is key to successfully graduating and lists like the Top 10 Colleges for Autistic Students can only go so far. 
Here are a few other resources to check before making any decisions.
ASAN's Navigating College Handbook
The Navigating College Handbook was published in 2011. This book was written by autistic students, for autistic students and its point of view is unique. The book is available for free at their website, Navigating College http://navigatingcollege.org/download.php). The ebook contains information on getting academic accommodations, housing tips, health and safety, advocacy and social life. 
Online Websites
Searching for college is a big business online. There are many websites with information about colleges across the country. Unfortunately few of them include any information on the support services for autistic students. 
ThinkCollege.net is a web site that specifically targets autistic students. The site has a listing of colleges, universities and post-secondary programs designed for autistic students. However the programs they list are submitted to them for inclusion on the list and the list is far from complete. If students have a specific school in mind, checking this site to see what programs are available is a good first step. However if the school is not listed here, it doesn't mean they don't have support programs available. 
Another website to check is SpectrumU (https://spectrumu.wordpress.com/) This site lists many colleges in alphabetical order or by type of university. However this is in a list format, not a searchable database. The site does have some excellent information on searching for colleges with appropriate services.
Print Resources
Consumer Reports has done a review of online and print resources for college guides and comparisons. While none of the online resources they recommend address services for autistic students several of the print books do.
The College Handbook by the College Board, Guide to Colleges by Fiske and Profiles of American colleges by Barron's are all top resources and all include information on special services. College Handbook is actually the number one recommended book resource as it includes information on costs, educational quality, environment and has the largest number of schools included in the guide at 3,800. This may be a good first look to understand what is available and learn the vocabulary that goes with a school search.
Online Forums
There are also several forums where students and parents can go to learn more about college and post-secondary life from people who are living it. 
·         Aspie Central (https://www.aspiescentral.com/forums/education-and-employment.24/)
·         Wrong Planet (www.wrongplanet.net)
·         College Confidential (http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/college-search-selection/1741671-finding-a-college-for-autistic-students.html?new=1)
These forums are all active and provide valuable information and discussions on college and other post-secondary options.
Other Options
Not every autistic student is going to attend a college with support services. However there are independent programs who will provide needed support at the college or university of choice. These programs are fee based and vary widely in cost and services. 
Here are a few examples:
·         AHEADD - http://www.aheadd.org/
·         College Internship Program - http://cipworldwide.org/
·         College Living Experience - http://www.experiencecle.com/home.aspx
·         College Steps Program - http://www.collegesteps.org/
·         Student Curriculum on Resilient Education - http://www.scoreforcollege.org/propel
Autistic students can be successful in college and beyond with the right supports in place. 
 Dawn Marcotte is the CEO of WWW.ASD-DR.com, a website designed to help teens and young adults on the spectrum live to their highest potential.

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