Around 2.3% of American children are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). While this seems like a small number, it's likely that many kids haven't been diagnosed yet. So, it's very likely that a good number of children are on the spectrum.
ASD can make things difficult in the classroom, as they're designed for neurotypical people. However, that doesn't necessarily mean pursuing higher education is impossible for those with autism.
If you find the right channels, autistic kids can flourish in classrooms and find careers they're passionate about! Here are some higher education opportunities your children can try.
Colleges and Universities
If the individual needs aren't too great, then they can try applying to colleges and universities with their fellow classmates. This gives them a chance to see the real world and practice their communication skills.
In addition, some colleges and universities have specific programs and services for their autistic students. Due to the autism prevalence today, educational institutions are learning to provide better opportunities for these individuals. They may include things like academic accommodations, individual support, and even social and recreational activities.
When weighing your options for schools, check that they have these programs and services to make the transition to college life easier.
Supportive Living Programs
During their time at college, students with autism may struggle, and that's normal. There are supporting living programs that those with autism that want to live on campus. These are residence halls or group homes where they get to live with other students who are autistic. These programs provide 24-hour support and supervision, as well as a structured environment.
These help students with autism with both their academic and personal goals and can include counseling, tutoring, and health services to ensure they do well at the university.
There are some colleges that have transition programs available that are offered to students with autism who need to spend time on adjusting to academic and college life after high school and before going to college.
In these programs, a student can have the opportunity to learn skills that'll help them flourish in college. These can be crucial in giving some students the confidence they need and be better prepared for academic and social success.
During this time, some might realize that traditional colleges and universities aren't ideal for them and that they might be better suited for other alternatives. There are many alternatives that can provide a different path than going to a 4-year college such as going to a community college, attending vocational and technical schools, choosing from many online degrees, or completing an internship.
One of the popular alternatives to a traditional university is to consider a community college instead.
These colleges are less overwhelming and have supportive environments. One can find different options for studies and smaller class sizes, which can decrease the chances of sensory overload. Another advantage is that the tuition fees are lower which can be a relief for parents who don't have a huge budget.
Vocational and Technical Schools
Not everyone is cut out for college or university, and that's ok. Some might find it easier to pursue an interest or skill and can investigate vocational and technical schools. These schools give hands-on training in fields of interest such as automotive schools, culinary schools, construction, plumbing, and healthcare. These schools may even assist with job placement and ongoing support to ensure success in that profession.
Like community colleges, these schools are cheaper than traditional universities and colleges.
The beauty of today's technology is that there are numerous online programs that weren't available before. This became especially true when the pandemic hit and many classes moved online.
For those who find the regular classroom environment not easy to handle, an online school can be a great viable option. By pursuing classes online, students can learn on their own pace and learn from the comfort of their home.
Some online programs also allow extra time to complete assignments and tests and there is less social and sensory issues that come with the traditional classroom.
Internship programs are always helpful for students who want to gain some experience before searching for jobs. By completing an internship, one can build important skills and connections. These will be invaluable for getting started in one’s career. Although networking can be hard at first, with some time and desire to do well, one can learn to appreciate the process.
Don't Forget About Scholarships and Financial Aid
Regardless of what one chooses, an important aspect of pursuing a higher education is to look for scholarships and financial aid. There are many available to all students, but there are ones specific to those with autism too.
With extra funding available, it is easier to make the decision to go to school and get a degree. And in the event, the option that was taken ends up being not a good fit, then the financial burden would not be as great.
It Is Possible To Thrive With Autism
It can be a challenge for autistic children to get and stay in higher education. However, times are changing, and there are increasingly more accommodations made for those with unique needs.
There are 4-year colleges that offer Autistic children services and programs to help increase their chances of success in getting a good education. Alternatively, there are many other options that one can consider if a 4 year college is not a good fit including community colleges, vocational schools, online learning, or finding an internship program that can help with building skills and better understanding what school or major to consider. It is possible to thrive in college and go beyond to pursue a rewarding career for those with autism by carefully considering the various options that are a best fit to the individual.
For more information on deciding whether college is right for children with special needs and the options for higher education to consider, or in general if you are considering college, please check our articles here and on our blog page at blog.nextstepu.com.