Going To College With Autism

Embarking on the journey of going to college with autism can be both exciting and challenging. For individuals with autism, the transition to college life may present unique considerations and require additional support. However, with proper preparation and understanding, college can be a fulfilling and successful experience.

College offers a platform for personal growth, independence, and academic achievement. It provides opportunities to pursue passions, make new friends, and explore career options. It is important to approach college with a positive mindset and recognize that autism does not define an individual's abilities or limit their potential for success.

Understanding the Unique Challenges and Strengths

While every individual with autism is unique, certain challenges and strengths are commonly associated with autism in the college setting. Understanding these factors can help students, parents, and college staff create an environment that promotes inclusivity and supports the needs of individuals with autism.

Some challenges that individuals with autism may face in college include:

  • Sensory sensitivities: They may have heightened sensitivities to sights, sounds, smells, or textures, which can affect their ability to focus and participate in certain environments or activities.
  • Social interactions: Difficulties in social interactions, communication, and understanding social cues can make it challenging to form friendships, participate in group activities, or navigate social settings.
  • Executive functioning: Difficulties with executive functions, such as time management, organization, and planning, may impact academic performance and daily routines.
  • Transitioning and change: Adjusting to new routines, adapting to changes, and managing transitions may be more challenging for individuals with autism, requiring additional support and guidance.

However, it is essential to recognize that individuals with autism also possess unique strengths and abilities that can contribute to their success in college. Some of these strengths include:

  • Attention to detail: Many individuals with autism have a keen eye for detail and excel in tasks that require precision and accuracy.
  • Dedication and focus: Once engaged in a particular interest or academic subject, individuals with autism often display a high level of focus and dedication.
  • Perseverance: Individuals with autism often exhibit remarkable resilience and determination in overcoming challenges, which can be advantageous in the college setting.
  • Unique perspectives: The different ways in which individuals with autism perceive and understand the world can bring fresh insights and diverse perspectives to academic discussions and projects.

By understanding the unique challenges and strengths associated with autism, individuals with autism, their families, and college staff can work together to create a supportive and inclusive environment that fosters academic success, personal growth, and overall well-being.

Preparing for College

Preparing for college can be an exciting and challenging time, especially for individuals with autism. This section will explore two important aspects of preparing for college: transition planning and exploring college options and support services.

Transition Planning for College

Transition planning plays a crucial role in preparing individuals with autism for the college experience. It involves a collaborative effort between the student, their family, and the school to ensure a smooth transition from high school to college. Some key considerations during the transition planning process include:

  • Identifying academic goals and interests: It's important for students with autism to have a clear understanding of their academic goals and interests. This can help guide their college selection and program choices.
  • Developing self-advocacy skills: Encouraging self-advocacy skills is essential. Students should learn how to communicate their needs, seek support when necessary, and advocate for accommodations or modifications that will aid their success in college.
  • Building independence and life skills: Transition planning should emphasize the development of independent living skills, such as time management, organization, and self-care. These skills will empower individuals with autism to navigate college life more effectively.

Exploring College Options and Support Services

When exploring college options, it's important for individuals with autism and their families to consider their unique needs and the available support services. Here are some factors to consider:

  • Researching colleges: Start by researching colleges that offer programs and support services specifically designed for students with autism. Look for colleges with a strong commitment to inclusivity and a track record of providing resources for students with disabilities.
  • Visiting campuses: Plan campus visits to get a feel for the college environment. This will allow individuals with autism to assess the accessibility of the campus, observe classroom settings, and meet with disability services staff.
  • Understanding support services: Familiarize yourself with the support services offered by colleges, such as disability services offices, academic accommodations, counseling services, and social support groups. These services can provide valuable assistance throughout the college journey.
  • Connecting with current students: Reach out to current students with autism who are already enrolled at the colleges you are considering. Their insights and experiences can provide valuable firsthand information about the college's support system and overall campus climate.

By engaging in transition planning and thoroughly exploring college options and support services, individuals with autism can set themselves up for a successful college experience. Remember, each person's journey is unique, and finding the right fit requires careful consideration. With the right preparation and support, individuals with autism can thrive academically, socially, and emotionally in college.

Building a Support System

When it comes to navigating college with autism, building a strong support system is essential for success. Having a network of individuals who understand and can provide the necessary support can make a significant difference. In this section, we will explore two key aspects of building a support system: establishing communication with college staff and connecting with disability services.

Establishing Communication with College Staff

Establishing open and effective communication with college staff is crucial for students with autism. By fostering a positive relationship with professors, advisors, and other staff members, students can ensure that their needs are understood and accommodated.

Here are some steps to establish communication with college staff:

  • Introduce yourself: Take the initiative to introduce yourself to your professors and other college staff members. Briefly explain that you have autism and highlight any specific accommodations you may require.
  • Communicate your needs: Clearly express your needs and preferences regarding communication and learning styles. Let your professors know if you prefer written instructions, visual aids, or other specific strategies that help you learn and understand the material better.
  • Schedule regular check-ins: Arrange regular meetings or check-ins with your professors or academic advisors to discuss your progress, ask questions, and address any concerns. This ongoing communication can help you stay on track and ensure that you receive the support you need.

Remember, effective communication is a two-way street. Be an active participant in conversations, ask for clarification when needed, and be open to discussing any challenges or adjustments that may arise.

Connecting with Disability Services

Colleges typically have disability services departments or offices that are dedicated to supporting students with disabilities, including autism. These services can provide valuable resources, accommodations, and guidance throughout your college journey.

Here are some steps to connect with disability services:

  • Research disability services: Familiarize yourself with the disability services offered by your college. Visit their website or contact the office directly to understand the specific accommodations and support they provide for students with autism.
  • Register with disability services: Complete the necessary registration process with the disability services office. This may involve submitting documentation of your autism diagnosis and discussing your specific needs.
  • Discuss accommodations: Meet with a disability services coordinator to discuss the accommodations that can help optimize your academic experience. These accommodations may include extended time for exams, note-taking assistance, or alternative testing arrangements.

Connecting with disability services is a proactive step that can ensure you receive the necessary support and accommodations throughout your college journey. Take advantage of the resources and expertise available to help you thrive academically.

By establishing effective communication with college staff and connecting with disability services, students with autism can create a strong support system that promotes their success in college. Remember, every college is different, so it's important to familiarize yourself with the specific resources and support available at your institution.

Academic Success Strategies

When it comes to succeeding in college with autism, there are specific strategies that can help individuals navigate the academic demands effectively. Two crucial areas to focus on are time management and organization, as well as advocating for accommodations.

Time Management and Organization

Time management and organization skills play a vital role in academic success for individuals with autism in college. Here are some strategies to help students effectively manage their time and stay organized:

Time Management and Organization Strategies

  • Create a schedule or use a planner to keep track of assignments, classes, and extracurricular activities.
  • Break down tasks into smaller, manageable steps to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
  • Set realistic goals and prioritize tasks based on their importance and deadlines.
  • Use visual aids, such as calendars or color-coded systems, to help visualize and understand time commitments.
  • Utilize technology tools, such as digital calendars or task management apps, to stay organized and receive reminders.
  • Establish a designated study area that is free from distractions to promote focus and concentration.
  • Seek support from college resources, such as academic advisors or tutors, to develop effective time management strategies.

By implementing these strategies, students with autism can better manage their time, stay organized, and approach their academic responsibilities with confidence.

Advocating for Accommodations

Advocating for accommodations is essential for individuals with autism to ensure equal access to educational opportunities. Here are some steps students can take to advocate for the accommodations they need:

Advocating for Accommodations

  • Familiarize yourself with the college's disability services office and their procedures for requesting accommodations.
  • Gather documentation, such as a formal diagnosis or evaluation reports, to support your accommodation requests.
  • Schedule a meeting with a disability services coordinator to discuss your specific needs and the accommodations that would be beneficial.
  • Clearly communicate your strengths, challenges, and how specific accommodations can help level the playing field.
  • Understand your rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and any applicable college policies.
  • Follow up with the disability services office to ensure that your accommodation requests have been processed and implemented.

By advocating for accommodations, students with autism can access the necessary support to thrive academically and have an inclusive college experience.

With a focus on time management, organization, and advocating for accommodations, individuals with autism can enhance their academic success in college. These strategies, combined with the support of college resources and a nurturing environment, can empower students to excel in their studies and achieve their goals.

Social and Emotional Well-being

College life can be both exciting and challenging for individuals with autism. It's important to focus not only on academic success but also on social and emotional well-being. This section explores two key aspects of social and emotional well-being: building social skills and connections, and managing stress and anxiety.

Building Social Skills and Connections

Developing social skills and establishing meaningful connections with peers can greatly enhance the college experience for individuals with autism. Here are some strategies to support social growth:

  • Join clubs and organizations: Participating in clubs or organizations related to personal interests can provide opportunities to meet like-minded individuals and foster social connections.
  • Attend social events: College campuses often host various social events and activities. Taking part in these events can help individuals with autism meet new people and engage in social interactions in a more relaxed and informal setting.
  • Seek support from counseling services: College counseling services can offer guidance and support in developing social skills. They may provide social skills workshops or connect individuals with support groups where they can interact with others facing similar challenges.
  • Practice social interactions: Engage in role-playing exercises or social scenarios with a trusted friend or family member to strengthen social skills and build confidence in social situations.

Remember, building social skills and connections takes time and patience. Encourage individuals with autism to approach social situations at their own pace and provide ongoing support and understanding.

Managing Stress and Anxiety

College life can be demanding and overwhelming, leading to increased stress and anxiety levels. Individuals with autism may face additional challenges in managing these emotions. Here are some strategies to help manage stress and anxiety effectively:

  • Establish a routine: Creating a structured daily routine can provide a sense of predictability and reduce anxiety. Include regular study times, breaks, meals, and self-care activities in the schedule.
  • Practice relaxation techniques: Encourage individuals with autism to explore relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga. These techniques can help manage stress and promote overall well-being.
  • Identify and utilize support resources: Familiarize yourself with the support services offered by the college, such as counseling centers or disability services. These resources can provide guidance and assistance in managing stress and anxiety.
  • Encourage self-care: Emphasize the importance of self-care activities, such as getting enough sleep, eating nutritious meals, engaging in physical activity, and pursuing hobbies or interests. These activities can help reduce stress and promote emotional well-being.
  • Develop coping strategies: Help individuals with autism develop personalized coping strategies for managing stress. This may include journaling, engaging in creative outlets, or seeking support from friends, family, or support groups.

By focusing on building social skills and connections, as well as managing stress and anxiety, individuals with autism can navigate college life more effectively. Encourage open communication and provide ongoing support to ensure a positive college experience for individuals with autism.

Thriving in College with Autism

For individuals with autism, college can be an exciting and rewarding experience. Thriving in college requires finding a balance between academics, social interactions, and self-care. In this section, we will explore two important aspects of thriving in college with autism: finding balance and self-care, and celebrating achievements and growth.

Finding Balance and Self-Care

Finding balance in college is essential for overall well-being and success. Here are some strategies to help individuals with autism achieve balance and practice self-care in a college environment:

  • Time Management: Develop a schedule or use a planner to organize your time effectively. Break down tasks into manageable chunks and allocate time for studying, attending classes, and engaging in leisure activities.
  • Establishing Routines: Establishing consistent routines can provide a sense of structure and stability. Stick to regular sleep schedules, meal times, and self-care activities to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle.
  • Setting Boundaries: Learn to set boundaries in order to manage your time and energy effectively. It's important to prioritize your needs and avoid overcommitting to activities that may cause stress or overwhelm.
  • Self-Care Activities: Engage in activities that help you relax and recharge. This could include activities such as practicing mindfulness, engaging in hobbies, participating in physical exercise, or spending time in nature.
  • Seeking Support: Reach out to college counseling services or support groups on campus. These resources can provide guidance and support as you navigate the challenges of college life.

Celebrating Achievements and Growth

Celebrating achievements, no matter how big or small, is important for building confidence and acknowledging progress. Here are some ways to celebrate achievements and growth in college:

  • Setting Goals: Set realistic and achievable goals for yourself. Celebrate each milestone you reach, whether it's completing a challenging assignment, achieving a good grade, or successfully participating in a group project.
  • Self-Reflection: Take time to reflect on your personal growth throughout your college journey. Acknowledge the progress you have made and recognize the skills and strengths you have developed.
  • Reward System: Create a reward system for yourself to celebrate achievements. This could include treating yourself to something you enjoy, engaging in a favorite activity, or spending time with friends and family.
  • Seeking Support: Share your achievements with your support network, such as friends, family, or mentors. Their encouragement and recognition can enhance your sense of accomplishment.
  • Gratitude Practice: Cultivate a practice of gratitude by acknowledging and appreciating the positive aspects of your college experience. This can help shift your focus towards the things that are going well and boost your overall well-being.

By finding balance, practicing self-care, and celebrating achievements and growth, individuals with autism can thrive in college. Remember to be patient with yourself and embrace the unique journey that college offers.


What should I do if I'm struggling in a class?

If you're struggling in a class, don't hesitate to reach out for help. Talk to your professor or disability services staff to see what resources are available. You may be able to get tutoring or extra support.

How can I make friends in college?

Making friends in college can be challenging, but there are ways to connect with others. Consider joining clubs or organizations that align with your interests. You may also want to attend social events hosted by the school or disability services program.

Can I still study abroad if I have autism?

Yes, studying abroad is possible for students with autism. However, it's important to research the program and location thoroughly. Talk to disability services staff and your healthcare provider before making a decision.

Should I disclose my autism diagnosis to my professors?

Disclosure is a personal choice, but it can be helpful for getting accommodations and support. Talk to disability services staff for guidance on when and how to disclose your diagnosis.

How can I manage sensory overload on campus?

Sensory overload can be a challenge on campus, especially during busy times of the day. Consider finding quiet spaces on campus where you can take breaks as needed. You may also want to carry noise-cancelling headphones or fidget toys with you.


Going to college with autism can be challenging, but with the right preparation and support, you can succeed. Understanding your needs, choosing the right college, building a support network, and managing stress and anxiety are all key to success. Remember to advocate for yourself and don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it. With these strategies, you can achieve your goals and thrive in college.