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6 Tips for Living with an Autism Spectrum Disorder in College

Living with an Autism Spectrum Disorder in CollegeAs Autism Awareness month continues, April is a time of transition for many high school seniors, as they learn what colleges and universities they got into. So it seems like an ideal time to talk about autism and college, and some tips to help with the transition.

The excerpt below is from the book, Living Well on the Spectrum by author Valerie L. Gaus, Ph.D. The book is a self-help book that helps a person with an autism spectrum disorder identify life goals and the steps needed to achieve them.

Read on for the excerpt…

April is the month when most high school seniors receive their college acceptance letters and begin to plan the next phase of their lives. The transition from high school to college can be very difficult for people on the spectrum. All too often I am referred a young person who is suffering the aftermath of what I have come to call the “freshman crash-and-burn” — an academic, social, or emotional crisis that occurs by winter vacation of the student’s first semester at college.

If you are still considering school or you are the parent of a child on the spectrum who is in middle or high school, take into consideration the following tips about transition for yourself or any student you are supporting:

  • Become a self-advocate. This means you need to learn how to articulate your needs to others. If you’re used to having your parents speak for you regarding educational needs, assume they can no longer do that when you are in college (even if they are continuing to provide you with emotional and financial support).
  • If you had an Individualized Education Program (IEP) in high school, make sure you know what it said, what your diagnosis (classification) was, and what accommodations were written into it (e.g., extended test time, a scribe to take notes for you). Do not rely on your parents to communicate these issues on your behalf anymore.
  • Don’t assume you have to go to college, even if you are very bright and got good grades in high school. There may be technical or trade schools offering programs that will be of more interest to you.
  • When you are choosing colleges, make sure you schedule visits to the campuses and always include an appointment with the office that handles services for students with disabilities. These centers vary in name and extent of supports. Even if you don’t think you need it, it is important to know what would be available to you if you were to hit some unexpected problems. Take along a copy of your IEP if you had one in high school.
  • If you are already at school, get connected with the office of student disability services on your campus. Once again, you may not think you need it, but having the name and phone number of a person you have already met can be a real lifeline if you encounter some trouble spots during a semester.
  • Find out where the campus mental health center is located. As a proactive measure, make sure you learn what the protocol is for making an appointment so you will have it on hand if needed. It’s a lot easier to find out about such things when you are not upset, which is why the proactive research can be so helpful; you will have the information on hand to use if you do become upset by some college-related problems.

Interested in learning more about living with autism? Check out the book on, Living Well on the Spectrum by Dr. Valerie Gaus.

Reprinted here with permission.

6 Tips for Living with an Autism Spectrum Disorder in College

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John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

Dr. John Grohol is the founder of Psych Central. He is a psychologist, author, researcher, and expert in mental health online, and has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 1995. Dr. Grohol has a Master's degree and doctorate in clinical psychology from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Grohol sits on the editorial board of the journal Computers in Human Behavior and is a founding board member of the Society for Participatory Medicine. You can learn more about Dr. John Grohol here.

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APA Reference
Grohol, J. (2018). 6 Tips for Living with an Autism Spectrum Disorder in College. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 1, 2020, from
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Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 12 Apr 2011)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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