An exterior image of the arch on the Dean College campus, a college with a great autism program.

It’s time! You knew this day would eventually come. Your high school student is in the 11th grade and is starting to research colleges. This scared rite of passage occurs every single year, so why are you so nervous about your child’s future? For many, it’s because their son or daughter is on the autism spectrum, and they aren’t sure which colleges with autism programs will be the right fit. Luckily, schools across the nation offer extra assistance for students who have difficulty with the day to day educational routines that come naturally to others. 

Colleges Offer More Freedom

One issue that plagues students on the spectrum is the freedom that comes with college. They are independent for the first time in their lives, setting their own schedules that revolve around class attendance and lab work, and having to coordinate meals on their own. The reliable schedules of their high school days are in the past, leaving some students with autism struggling.

While college students on the spectrum often have no issues following lectures, absorbing material from their textbooks, and writing papers, they often struggle with day-to-day tasks like scheduling, staying organized, time management, and punctuality. These students simply need a structured autism program in order to be the best version of themselves. One example of this is the Strive4Success program at Dean College. This year-long program includes workshops and other supports designed to help students on the spectrum function academically on a college level. 

Find a Degree Program That Offers Some Freedom

Some colleges with autism programs, like those offered by Dean College, have coursework and degree plans that offer plenty of freedom and flexibility. Rather than follow a structured, regimented school day, they allow students to take independent learning courses on a particular subject that interests them. This allows them to work at their own pace, whatever it may be. A student on the spectrum can set their own schedule and deadlines, allowing them to make the courses fit their mold instead of the other way around. 

Locate Schools with Special Programs for Students on the Spectrum

When looking into colleges, the best place to begin is with your student’s high school guidance counselor. Since your student has an IEP which will need to accompany them to college, these counselors will know what they need to succeed in school and may be of help finding colleges that have the right plans and support in place. In addition, you can check with the learning support services departments of every potential school your student is interested in. Asking them what types of assistance they offer and whether they’re flexible with their offerings goes a long way towards finding the best program for your student. It’s not a “one size fits all” approach. Every student is different, just as every college is different. In addition, Dean College offers a special program for students on the spectrum or with other learning disabilities. This program takes place during student’s first semester of college, and it consists of individualized academic counseling and special courses. The goal is to get students prepared for the semesters to come.

Selecting the Right Autism Program

Choosing the best college for your student on the spectrum boils down to doing plenty of research to find whichever school has the right autism support program. You’ll have to ask plenty of questions and even have your child’s IEP on hand, just in case you’re asked for it. It also always helps to make a list of questions ahead of time and have a general sense of what types of support your child will need. From there, the two of you can explore any schools your child is interested in and then narrow down your list. By the time that your student is ready to apply, you’ll know whether each university will be the right fit for your student’s needs.

Learn more about the Strive4Success Program at Dean College.