Perspectives From Students with Autism About Their College Experience Before and After the Covid-19 Pandemic (Pre-recorded)

Samuel Nesin Perna & Ashleigh Hillier, Ph. D. University of Massachusetts Lowell

Many high school students with autism aspire to earn a postsecondary degree (White et al., 2011). The proportion of students with autism enrolled is still lower than expected, with notably fewer attending college (32%; Wei et al., 2016) than the United States average (70%; U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services, 2017). Individuals with autism obtain a variety of benefits from receiving higher education and the experience of college life. Still, they are at greater risk of not finishing their degrees due to the challenges they experience in higher education (Hudson, 2013).

Recent research has focused on better supporting the transition from high school to college for autistic students and how to ensure their retention and success. Parents want one-to-one support throughout college for their children (Stephen and Larocci, 2015). However, very little research has focused on hearing directly from individuals with autism themselves.

Here we present a research proposal designed to investigate the experiences of autistic college students from their perspective. We are particularly interested in strategies they have utilized that have supported their success, challenges they have experienced including academic and social challenges, and how they experience the climate on their campus towards autistic students. We are also interested to see how the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted their college experience. We intend to conduct individual interviews with autistic college students and would greatly benefit from receiving feedback on what questions might be particularly fruitful to explore as well as other aspects of the methodology and subsequent qualitative analysis.


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