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Thriving in the Midst of Chaos: Parenting With Special Needs Kids

May 6, 2021

Episode 88: Successfully Navigating College With Autism, Part 1

In this episode, we discuss everything college for teens and young adults with autism. Guest Dr. Matt Segall discusses that nowadays, many teens with autism are going to college. However, a low number of them graduates. Those who do graduate tend to have a higher academic ability, good executive functioning skills in the areas of self-management and completing and turning in work, resilience, and the creation of a support team around the individual. In those who do not graduate, often college was not a good choice of postsecondary education or it was the wrong college for them. Choosing to go to college must be an active choice. Passively going to college without reason or supports can lead to anxiety, depression, and shutting down.


Some challenges to success in college include reduced executive functioning, difficulty with social engagement, anxiety, and developmental delays.

In college, you need an active and engaged initiation where you use self-advocacy to obtain a support system and accommodations you might need. Creating a strong social network with supports is crucial to success in college. Dr. Segall recommends ways to be more successful in college including accommodations, strong self-advocacy, strong social support network, possibly staying in high school longer, taking the “slow approach” to higher education, and/or dual enrollment in high school and college during the 5th year of high school. It can be helpful for the teen to practice going to their professor/teacher and disclosing their diagnosis and requesting accommodations. They should also practice using office hours, checking in with the professor occasionally, using peer mentors, and using visual schedules and visual supports. It is helpful to pull on self-advocacy and teach the teen helpful strategies, so supports will eventually be successfully faded out.

Self-advocacy is key. Self-advocacy is about autonomy of choice and reaching out to get the things you need. In college, the teen can go to the career center to find information about resources, careers or internships, ask for accommodations at the college, speak up for themselves in small groups academic projects, and reach out to the counseling center and request an appointment. Meet with the office of disability services at the school about accommodations. Disclosure and advocacy can be two different things. Disclosure can be a powerful tool that one can use at your disposal.

The ideal college situation is an inclusive college campus where they understand the universal design for learning, educate faculty staff and students about autism, and the faculty reaches out to the students if they notice someone has features of autism. There are 100 colleges nation-wide who have college autism support programs. The provide academic accommodation supports, academic coaching, skill building and teaching skills, care coordination, tutoring, mentoring, life skills building, and preparation for employment. However, these come at a higher monetary cost.


Start planning for college in 8th or 9th grade. Think about what accommodations that are benefitting the student at that point that will be helpful in a college environment, and make sure the student is aware of what those things are. Include the student in the IEP process. Fade out what you can when you can. As they approach graduation, get a new psychoeducational evaluation and include the relevant tools, resources, accommodations, modifications. Use this as documentation of needs for the office of disabilities at the college.







Emory Autism Center Education and Transition Services

The College Autism Network



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Show Music:

Intro Outro: Intro Outro 2 by Mattias Lahoud under CC-BY 3.0 License (

Theme Song: 90s rock style by monkeyman535 under CC-BY 3.0 License (

Self Care Song: Green and Orange No Water by Duncan Alex under CC-BY 3.0 License (


Hosted by: Jessica Temple and Lewis Temple


Disclaimer: Our show is not designed to provide listeners with specific or personal legal, medical, or professional services or advice. Parents of children with health issues should always consult their health care provider for medical advice, medication, or treatment.

Copyright 2021 Jessica Temple