Many students with Asperger’s syndrome are extremely intelligent, creative and eager to earn a college degree that leads to a career. Fortunately, when given supports, asperger’s and college success go hand in hand for many young adults.
Choosing a College
There are many considerations when choosing a college. Of course, cost may be a major factor. Attending a community college while continuing to live at home may be a good option since the student won’t have to cope with the stress of studies and learning to live independently at the same time. Community colleges are geared to help out students from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds and are eager to provide support to all students.
Asperger’s and college may work out best when the student attends a small school where he or she receives more individual attention and life is less overwhelming.
It is also essential to evaluate the quality of the school’s disability services. Meet an advisor before applying and find out what benefits they offer (such as tutoring, extended time for tests or permission to drop courses late in the semester) and whether they have expertise in working with students with Asperger’s syndrome.
Coping with Sensory Overload
Students with disabilities are usually offered the option of carrying a smaller course load. This benefit may be most important during the first semester since the student with asperger's may find social adjustments and academic demands very stressful. Students who know that they are easily distracted may choose to live in one of the quieter dormitories. In addition, some colleges allow students with disabilities to live in a private dorm room without paying extra fees. Having a roommate can be fun but a private space to chill out may be essential for coping with sensory issues and school stress.
Developing a Social Network
Coping with the challenges of asperger’s and college is easier when one has a supportive social network. Find out if the college offers support groups for students with disabilities. Joining clubs that have an activity focus- such as playing chess or backpacking create low stress social situations. Some colleges have students who are mentors to new students. Students should be sure to join class study groups-these may not only help academically but develop into a social network.
Taking advantage of structured social opportunities such as these may lead to friendships or even romance that turn college into the social learning experience it is meant to be. Since asperger’s and college can involve a lot of stress, the social network should also include helpful adults such as the disability and academic advisors, school counselor, private therapist as well as parents and family. College personnel are not allowed to share information with parents unless the student signs a release form. Parents who have concerns about their child’s coping abilities should have their child sign this form in order to be involved.
Additional Tips for Asperger’s and College Success
Not every eighteen year old is socially mature or independent enough to succeed in college and students with asperger's may benefit from attending a college preparation program designed to help students with disabilities. This may provide the live-away-from-home experience without academic stress, helping the young adult to socially blossom.
Other young adults may benefit from having a break from school altogether; they might find that after a year of employment, volunteer work or travel, their greater maturity has not only helped prepare them for the rigors of college but that they have a better idea of what field of study to enter and how to be a self-advocate.