It’s that time of year! Colleges and universities across the U.S. are already preparing for the Summer/Fall term. At Marshall University, (and many colleges across the country), incoming freshmen arrive on campus several days before classes start to adapt to the campus community.
Acclimation to campus can be especially difficult for students diagnosed with Asperger’s Disorder. Taylor and Colvin, in their article “Universal Design: A Tool to Help College Students with Asperger’s Syndrome Engage on Campus” (2013) provide helpful suggestions to institutions of higher learning that could make the orientation for students with ASD more effective.
- Alternative forms of student orientation that blend on-line and in-person learning, and which make use of visual learning. The authors suggest giving students pictures of campus buildings (instead of a standard campus map) to help them learn the environment. Taylor and Colvin state: “By reconfiguring [orientation activities] to include visual, video, and auditory information, institutions make it possible for the experience to be more accessible and enjoyable for students with AS.”
- “Student Affairs departments should consider using pictures, video, social scripts, and clear expectations to explain student life and social expectations, especially when changes are to occur.”
- A deliberate use of existing on-campus programs – such as community service, mentoring, and career development programs – to teach self-advocacy skills to students with Asperger’s Disorder. They write: “Programs should focus on developing academic/business organizational skills and merging these skills into all areas of college life. Some examples might be students with AS taking their mentors to their professors’ office hours to ask for assistance, attending social skills classes, and participating in social events for students whose social skill development needs further enhancement.”
Taylor, C. M., & Colvin, K. L. (2013). Universal Design: A Tool to Help College Students With Asperger’s Syndrome Engage on Campus. About Campus, 18(3), 9-15. doi:10.1002/abc.21118
By Marc Ellison
Marc Ellison, Ed.D. is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and an approved Licensed Professional supervisor (ALPS) who has worked nearly 30 years to provide person-centered support, services and advocacy to individuals who live with autism spectrum disorders, their families and those who support them. He has supported individuals with ASD throughout their lifespan, as they moved to the community from state-supported institutions, searched for and obtained employment, entered into relationships, and transitioned into college. Dr. Ellison is the Executive Director of the West Virginia Autism Training Center, and a part-time professor at Marshall University.