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Best Colleges For Adults With Autism

Finding a college to meet educational, financial, and social needs can be particularly challenging for people with autism. Although their IQs are often above average, they have more factors to consider when it comes to finding the right fit. 
 
In this post, we have compiled a list of the best colleges for students with autism, along with some other tips on finding autism friendly colleges.

Do Colleges Accept Students with Autism?

Absolutely! Some schools even have programs specifically designed to help their students with autism acclimate and thrive in campus life. When provided with the proper conditions, people with autism often thrive in higher education — finding that their unique skills prime them for success in highly systematic fields, like engineering, mathematics, and computer programming.

Best Colleges for Students with Autism

More than half of young adults with ASD don’t attend college after high school. Although 35% attempt to attend college later, most don’t get admitted, or if they do, they drop out. While most colleges and universities offer a range of services to students with learning or physical disabilities, the needs of students with autism extend beyond the classroom, and their classroom success is directly implicated in those needs.
 
The good news is that there are several colleges that we deem “autism-friendly”, or a college that goes above and beyond to provide accommodations for students with autism. 
 
Those schools that provide accommodations for students with autism include:
 
Eastern Illinois University — Charleston, Illinois: Eastern Illinois’ Students with Autism Transitional Education Program (STEP) offers peer mentorships and weekly support groups to help ease the transition to college. Counselors are on-hand to help students manage their course load and regularly check in with their instructors. The STEP Maintenance program offers less intense guidance to ASD students who have completed one semester in the STEP program and feel confident in managing most tasks independently.

Adelphi University — Garden City, New York: Adelphi University has a program called the Bridges to
Adelphi
program that offers ASD students a comprehensive range of services to make their transition to college easier. 
These students are assigned four different coaches:
 

  • Academic coach
  • Learning strategies
  • Peer mentor
  • Vocational coach

 

Each coach assists the students with different parts of college life to ensure well-rounded success. For example, the learning strategies and academic coach teach the students executive functioning skills and strategies to help them deal with the new academic burden that college brings. The peer mentor helps the student develop social skills and facilitate social activities. The vocational coach helps with career training and obtaining internships and jobs.

Kent State University — Kent, Ohio: Kent State’s Autism Initiative for Research, Education, and Outreach (AIREO)sponsors two separate programs that help ASD students transition to a higher education setting:

 

  • Partnering for Achievement and Learning Success (PALS): This program partners students with peer mentors.
  • The College Success for Students with Asperger’s or Autism Program: This is intended to offer guidance to students on career planning and self-advocacy.

 

Kent State is also home to the disHUBility program that provides a special sensory-friendly room where students can relax, find camaraderie, access resources, and more. 
 
Drexel University — Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: The Drexel Autism Support Program (DASP) offers peer mentoring and more structured support from professional staff to ASD students. Weekly meetings help students adjust to their new chapters in life as college students, and workshops are offered on employment skills, social development, and planning for academic and career success. The program also facilities social events in both structured and unstructured formats. A partnership with the Steinbright 
 
Career Development Center further helps students by preparing them to enter the workforce. Another partnership with the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute aims to develop the Learning Academy, a program for first-year students that will help them in their transition to the workplace.
Bellevue College,– Bellevue, Washington: Bellevue College’s Autism Spectrum Navigators program provides structured guidance to students with autism. There’s a focus on executive functioning, self-advocacy, self-regulation, and social interaction. The program consists of eight career prep courses to help ASD students get ready to enter the workforce. Each student is also assigned a peer mentor. The program facilitates communication with the students’ professors and holds progress meetings with their parents.
 
Eastern University — St. Davids, Pennsylvania: Eastern University’s College Success Program (CSP) offers a number of support services for students with autism in a Christian setting. Peer mentors help students adapt to collegiate life. Students participate in weekly support and skills groups, and study groups are available as well. Students can receive coaching on an as-needed basis. Program coordinators regularly check in with professors to ensure the students are getting the help they need in their courses.
 
Dakota State University — Madison, South Dakota: The university’s STRONG program provides academic advisement to all students who are neurodiverse. The program offers supplemental instruction and extra training in writing and reasoning skills through the school’s writing center. 
 
Fairleigh Dickinson University — Teaneck and Madison, New Jersey: Fairleigh Dickinson’s COMPASS program is an individually-tailored, comprehensive academic and social support program for a limited number of students with ASD or Asperger’s. Each week, COMPASS freshmen and sophomores receive:
 

  • Individualized, hands-on academic support (2 hours)
  • Individualized coaching (1 hour)
  • One group therapy session 

 
The program also provides general case management and consultation with faculty from the university and peer mentoring. After a student’s sophomore year, the COMPASS team makes an individualized recommendation on reduced specialized services. The downside of this program is that it costs $7,072 per year, in addition to university tuition and fees. There are scholarships available.

Misericordia University — Dallas, Pennsylvania: Misericordia University’s Alternative Learners Program provides two main paths for ASD students in a catholic setting:
 

  • The ALL program: Assists students who have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) with self-advocacy, living skills, and career planning. People ages 14-21 are eligible for the program.
  • The ALP program: This program offers BRIDGE which allows students with learning disabilities to arrive on campus a week earlier than the general student population to acclimate and under evaluations and assessments to determine their learning style and develop compensatory strategies.

 
The school also offers a summer transition program, and there is an Autism Speaks U chapter on campus.
 
George Mason University — Fairfax, Virginia: George Mason’s Mason Autism Support Initiative;(MASI) offers a wide range of services that are tailored to each individual student. Students are paired with a learning strategist who helps them map out their academic careers. Students also participate in skill-building classes to help them adjust to their new environments and to prepare them for the workforce. 
 
MASI students also have access to monthly social activities both on and off-campus.
 
Rutgers University-New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers’ College Support Program (CSP) facilitates weekly meetings for their students to meet with their program coordinator who helps them plan and execute academic goals. In addition to peer mentors, CSP also provides students with support in navigating the social aspect of campus life, from getting along with their roommates to managing the campus’s transportation system. The program also plans social events for its students. The school is currently seeking funding for a residential program for a wider range of students, including older adults.

Get Ready for College with Adult Autism Center

Our Academics Program encourages lifelong learning, focusing on each client’s interests and goals. The skills developed and milestones achieved within this program continue to benefit clients for years to come. 
 
Whether you or a loved one with autism has questions or concerns about the college application process or you’re having difficulties with the curriculum or social settings, we can help. When adults with autism are given the tools and resources they need to thrive, they can become the best version of themselves. At the Adult Autism Center, we provide support to adults with autism so that they can work, learn, play, and live in their communities. Contact us today to learn more!

Heather Davis graduated from Texas A&M University with her Ph.D. in Special Education and is a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). Heather has spent 18 years of her professional career working with children diagnosed with autism and their families. In her previous role as the Clinical Director of the Carmen B. Pingree Autism Center of Learning, her focus was to provide on-going staff training to ensure the delivery of high-quality, evidence-based services to meet the individualized needs of each child diagnosed with autism. She is inspired to continue to work in this field by the progress clients demonstrate which helps to improve their quality of life. Hearing individuals speak their first words, gain independent living skills, and demonstrate skills families never thought possible are what drive her to become a better clinician and continue to work with these important members of our community. In her free time, Heather enjoys running, reading, and spending time with her twin girls and husband exploring all the wonderful landscapes of Utah.

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