College can be a trying and exciting time for many autistic children. While there are many exciting things for them to look forward to, they will face great challenges along the way. On Sep. 1 NECN shares some tips on how to prepare your children on the spectrum for college.
First and foremost, college is an exciting time so don't diminish their excitement by only drilling them on the challenges that they will be facing. For many autistic students, this is the first time that they may be living away from home or have some control over their schedule, classes they take, or even what order they take their courses in. Share in their excitement by taking them on the tours so that they can see what the classrooms look like, how many students they could anticipate, the eating areas, and everything in the town that they should also know about. Once they have settled on a school, help them pick out things appropriate for their dorm room such as bed sheets, decor, rugs, and school supplies.
Many people on the spectrum have difficulty with time management, social interactions, and organization which can and often will make school a huge challenge. Speak with the colleges disability services, and your child's academic adviser to make them aware of your child's autism so they can help guide them, make sure they stay focused, and help them with any overstimulating needs such as eating in the cafeteria, or finding smaller classroom sizes. It is important that the school knows of your child's learning disability so that they can ensure they have the best year possible while still getting an education.
Psychologist, Dr. Gina Cosgrove, suggests setting up a 504 plan, which establishes reasonable accommodations according to the Americans With Disabilities Act to help ensure your child's success. This could help provide a liaison for your child since it isn't possible for a parent to simply call and speak to your child's professors. Contacting them, if possible, to make them aware of your child's autism may be helpful so that you can give some sort of an introduction of your child to the instructor beforehand is often appreciated. This gives the instructor a chance to ask any questions or get to know their strengths, weaknesses, and academic goals so they can help mentor them to succeed where they struggle.
Lastly, help your soon-to-be college student devise a plan on how they are going to divide their time, what sort of timers or alarms they should be setting, and if they need any supports that will help them divide their time appropriately so they can make the most of their school year. If your child is attending a local college, let them stay at home, if they choose, so that they have some familiarity in their surroundings instead of completely changing their entire world. It's a huge, and often overwhelming change for neuro-typical students, so it is equally as difficult or more so for people on the autism spectrum.