Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Students with autism spectrum disorder in postsecondary education
by Wallace, Lynn Cheri, Ed.D., University of Pennsylvania, 2016, 140; 10158541
Abstract (Summary)

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental disorder that affects a person’s interactions, behaviors, learning styles, and communication (Eunice Kennedy Shriver NICHD, 2014). Young adult students with ASD experience particular challenges in postsecondary education. This problem is gaining increasing salience as students with ASD—whether diagnosed prior to enrollment or later—have been arriving on college campuses in the United States with increasing frequency. Yet according to Roux, Shattuck, Rast, Rava, and Anderson (2015), “Our current indicators of how young adults with autism are doing largely fail to consider what young adults want for themselves, how they feel about their lives, and other important measures of quality of life.” This phenomenological study investigated the strategies and resources that proved effective for persistence to degree of students with ASD.

I solicited insights from students with ASD and educators at one public, research-intensive, urban university. For the purposes of this study, “educators” include both faculty and staff, including the director of the Office of Disability Services (ODS), psychological counselors, and administrators. Students participating in this study all had to have a formal diagnosis of ASD; self-identified as a person with ASD; and were currently enrolled as a student at the university. Educators were selected based on recommendations from the student participants.

The students reported generally positive attitudes toward on-campus services, including housing, internships, and counseling. They noted room for improvement in the areas of faculty understandings of ASD characteristics, including the individualized circumstances of students with ASD; sensitivity to the decision to disclose disability; and increased adoption of adjustments relating to attendance, deadlines, and group work. Students specifically and often identified self-advocacy as imperative to their success. The educators interviewed for this study all recognized the strengths and diversities of experience of students with ASD.

Ultimately, this study recommends the university’s use of current research and professional resources to assess the needs of students with ASD and begin to build a culture based on respect for difference.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Moneta, Larry
Commitee: Harper, Shaun R., Kessler, Julie B.
School: University of Pennsylvania
Department: Higher Education Management
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 78/03(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Special education, Developmental psychology, Higher education
Keywords: ASD, Academic success, Autism spectrum disorder, College transition, Self-advocacy, Social skills
Publication Number: 10158541
ISBN: 9781369135497
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