It's happening. About a year from now, your child may be in the beginning of a new journey away at college. First of all, congratulations! Guiding your child through years of school can be a demanding, but rewarding challenge.
Transitioning to college is a big adjustment for any incoming freshman and their parent. For young adults on the autism spectrum, this can raise a whole new world of concerns. About 50,000 Americans with autism enter adulthood each year and about one-third of these young adults attend college after high school, according to Autism Speaks.
Many parents of college students with autism wonder: Will my child be able to handle the independence? Will he or she fit in?
Try not to worry about those questions too much. These nervous feelings are completely normal and understandable, and we often see success stories right here at Saint Joseph's University. For example, we had a parent express concerns a few years ago about her son's ability to thrive at college while living independently. He visited our campus as a junior in high school and they eventually decided to try our autism support program.
As an incoming freshman, the student strongly felt he did not need any accommodations, whereas his parents were concerned that the support wouldn't be enough. They weren't sure if he would be able to successfully self-advocate and branch out on campus.
Over the years, his case manager and peer mentor through The Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support helped connect him with social opportunities and clubs on campus, and helped him navigate academics, too. Today, he is a senior preparing for graduation and considering his graduate school choices. He has strong GPA, a group of close friends, and a bright future ahead of him. He's a shining example of how students with autism can go on to succeed in college.
There are many things parents of high school seniors on the autism spectrum can do now to prepare their child for a more independent lifestyle in the future.
It is important to remember that you are not alone. Although this change can be jarring, the preparation instilled before departure is the key to your child's success – and yours, too. Many universities offer academic and social accommodations to support students with autism and other disabilities which can make this upcoming transition much smoother.