When you are attending college you are going to have tough professors who at times can be unfair towards students. These professors either don’t care about your needs or are just academically tough. Having a tough professor can be intimidating for a person on the autism spectrum because those with ASD already have challenges with advocating for themselves. On top of it these students have to debate their needs with a professor who is strict.
Having tough professors is hard to deal with, and I was in your shoes as a college student, here I provide ways to help deal with tough professors.
Relax and be cautious: the class has just started and a professor acts tough to either intimidate you or motivate you to do better in the course. Never take the tough attitude to heart, it does not last long, and it’s just a tactic they use. Now the class may be difficult, which can add plenty of stress for a person on the autism spectrum disorder, but just know the toughness gets less and less as the semesters go on.
Never Give Up
I would advise you never to give up or drop the course no matter how tough the professor is or how difficult the course may be. Always know that you have support (which I will explain in detail) about how to approach a tough professor. There a resources and people in colleges out there dedicated to helping you succeed in college and getting the best help possible.
Look at the teaching style
You can learn so much from a tough teacher but their delivery of the material is important to understand as well. If the teacher just assigns busy work or book work or is rude and impatient towards the students, then you have a bad instructor. With tough teachers you learn a great deal of information and resources but the class is difficult. Be vigilant about important assignments in the course, and if the professor cannot give you a clear and precise answer about the assignments in detail, you need to seek help elsewhere. Assignments should be given out as you progress through the course as the material builds off of itself. Remember being rude and not giving clear and detailed information is not signs of toughness its signs of a bad professor.
Tough professor challenge their students
All professors in college challenge their students but each has a different way of approaching it. The best professors remember that they were once students too and don’t assign or do something that they would not do, or have not done themselves, in college. Professors believe if they challenge you, they can see your true potential, and if you gain one thing from it overall that’s growth.
Know your disability service staff
As a student with a disability you have one advantage with educational support staff. The staff is dedicated to helping you achieve your educational goals, getting you the best resources and help, and making sure you meet the academic standards of the college as a student with a disability. You can always rest assured that if you need any help with the courses and professors not meeting your disability needs or mistreating you, you know the disability staff at any college is there for you.
Know the professor’s boss
It is important when dealing with a tough, unfair or bad professor: you must know who their boss is. This could be the lead professor, department chair, or dean of that college that houses your degree plan. For example, The University of Texas at San Antonio is structured like this: my major was Criminal Justice, and I had a professor whose boss was the department chair of the Department of Criminal Justice at UTSA, and their boss was the Dean of the College of Public Policy that Criminal Justice is housed under. Know who their bosses are so that if you have any issues with a tough, unfair, biased, or bad professor you can call them, email them, visit them on campus and express your concerns about that professor. They are there for the students as well, and it is their job and your job to make sure your academic goals and the academic goals of the college are being met.
Know the professor’s office hours and emails
Know your professors’ emails and office hours and take full advantage of the office hours and emails. Show up to their office and email them as much as possible. This shows that you are determined and that you are serious about your educational needs. Those emails and office hours are for the students, and a good professor will allow you to call, email or visit them during those offices ours or set up an office meeting when the student is available. Good professors will respond to your email in a timely manner and will be concerned with your educational learning goals as well. Take advantage of office hours and get all of your questions on the table and don’t leave until you and the professors are on the same goals and have a plan to help you succeed. If you leave with no plan go back to step 6 or 5.
Know the syllabus
A majority of the time a bad professor will tell you something off of the syllabus, and if it’s not in writing, it cannot be validated. Make sure that what the professor is going to be teaching or this even goes for a test, make sure it’s in line with the syllabus, and it has been taught in class with resources and notes. I had professors when it comes to testing time they would put material on an exam that was never taught, or they will speak about a major assignment that was not put on the syllabus. It can be by mistake, but always get clarification for the instructor about that hidden information and make sure it is in accordance with the syllabus and the goals and outlines of the course. Remember this can your grade when professor misinforms or does not teach a material that on a test, make sure the professors words or what is being taught in class matches the syllabus and the goals of the course, if not refer to step 7, 6, or 5.
Make trustworthy friends
It’s important to make friends when in college, but for someone that is on the autism spectrum, it’s a challenge. When I mean make trustworthy friends I mean make friends that you can study with, inform you and information if you happen to miss class, or there for your educational support. Make sure those friends share the same educational goals as you so that you all have a common ground as to your needs and educational goals.
Never blame the professor
This is a tough one, never blame your professor when things get tough, and never blame yourself entirely because that starts to delete your motivation and self-esteem. You are responsible for your education goals (which is something they fail to tell people with disabilities because they feel where not cut out for college). Work with your professor, ask questions, work with the disability staff and the higher rank professionals who are over your professor to ensure your educational needs are being met. Make sure you solve your problems and be accountable for grasping, understanding and knowing the material the best way you can, with access to disability services and support from the professor. Blaming the professor will only make your life and the course more difficult, do what you can to make the material easier to understand, so whatever it takes.
Advocate your needs
Out of all the steps outlined, this is the hardest one for a person on the autism spectrum disorder. You don’t have your parents or teacher advocating for you anymore, once you get to college, it’s all about you, and you have to speak up which is tough. Outline your educational goals, know the syllabus, know the material, know your disability staff support, and many other things can cause what is called a sensory overload. Sit down and analyze your educational goals and come up with a game plan on how you are going to approach the demands of college and how you can be successful the best way you can. Having a disability means you have the ability to succeed at anything you put your mind to, you just have to find your niche and take your time finding what you are good out and focusing on those good things. Believe in yourself, you can succeed in college if you put your mind to it and with the help of the disability staff and the abilities you have due to autism, your bound for success in college, believe that.
I had a professor once at UTSA that was just tough to understand, and it was hard for me to advocate my educational needs to them. I was always a quiet and shy person growing up because of autism, and my mother was shy and quiets herself. My mother never advocated my needs at the ARD meeting, and none of my teachers did at these low performing schools I attended. My mother did not understand the complexity of autism and how to meet my educational needs, so when I got to the age where I attended my own ARD’s, I did not know either. My older brother, who later got custody of me, beat the frustration and disappointment out of me literally because he was ignorant of autism. When I got to college, I had nobody tell me about the transiting process or how to advocate for myself, so when I had tough professors and class, I had no game plan.
College was an everyday battle for me, and I was constantly losing the war because I had no game plan on how to succeed.
The assignments were tough, the test where tough, the professor was tough and at times rude. I failed to ask questions and had no plan and never attended office hours. I was a complete mess and was told that I would not survive one minute in college because I was the epitome of failure is what people told me. Because of the professors’ toughness, my lack of communication skills, hard assignments and tough test I earned a grade of a C, not to mention I had autism and had other thing going on outside of school. I went from being an F student to an A student and went from being a failure to the Most Outstanding Undergraduate Student in the College of Public Policy. I have a book which is on Amazon titled, “Overcoming the Odds” I encourage you to read it and read these 11 steps to deal with a tough professor. Remember with a disability, you have the ability to succeed, it just going to take you extra time, which is okay. You will succeed!
by Maverick Crawford III
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