Date of Award

Summer 2020

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Psychology

Program

Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Van Hecke, Amy

Second Advisor

de St. Aubin, Ed.

Third Advisor

Howard, Simon

Abstract

Higher education has become a viable pursuit for many autistic individuals, but those who seek a college degree graduate at rates significantly lower than their peers. Social skills, mental health, executive functioning, independent living, and sensory processing are highlighted as areas of difficulty for autistic college students. However, research seeking the perspectives and experiences of autistic individuals has been limited, and proposed solutions are not based on input from the population they seek to serve. Further, research has been largely limited to current college students, and may miss potentially useful perspectives on transition from individuals pre- and post-college. This study sought to examine autistic perspectives on college supports, utilizing qualitative data from an online survey. 103 autistic individuals responded to questions about challenges and support needs in college. Content analysis was conducted with a focus on overarching themes regarding areas of difficulty and types of supports needed. The results indicated a variety of challenges, including social and community, academics, cognitive processes, health and wellbeing, environment, and getting help. Participants suggested supports in each of these areas, as well as career supports and broader supports that cut across multiple areas of difficulty. Further, chi-square goodness of fit tests were conducted to compare frequencies with which pre-, during, and post-college participants referenced challenges and supports. Significant differences were found surrounding challenges with cognitive processes, environment, and getting help; as well as support needs regarding academics, social and community, health and wellbeing, and broader supports.

Available for download on Sunday, August 21, 2022

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