Psychology Today blog, October 17, 2010 – Yesterday, as I was presenting on Autism Life Skills in Grand Junction, Colorado, I discussed the need for teaching self- advocacy to high school students with autism, including Asperger’s Syndrome.. At the end, a parent approached me and said she was shocked to learn that once their child on the spectrum graduates from high school, reaches the ripe old age of 18 and is planning to attend college, a parent is no longer the person responsible education-wise: the student is. This means that when they are 18 years of age and are college students, the college contacts the student, not the parent. If the student will be requiring any kind of accommodations, he or she – not the parent – will need to ask for them and discuss the need with Disabled Student Services.
This is why it is important that before they graduate form high school, students know how to advocate for their needs. This includes having a good idea of what their disability is and how to describe it, what kind of learning style they have, their strengths as well as their weaknesses, and know what accommodations they will need. These students should know their rights, be able to discuss the accommodations, and know how to carry on a conversation and convince the college of their need. Some Disabled Student Services are knowledgeable and helpful to students on the autism spectrum, others are still more comfortable with students that have a physically challenging condition, and have a difficult time with those who have an ‘invisible disability’.
All students on the spectrum need to learn self-advocacy skills, but those heading to college need to learn them before they graduate. If you are a parent or an educator of a high school student, have self-advocacy goals addressed in the IEP (Individualized Educational Program) or ITP (Individualized Educational Program). High school is the best place for him or her to start learning these skills, if he or she has not already done so. For some information on transitioning from high school to college, check out Catching the Wave from Grossmont College, a community college in the San Diego area. Some of the resources and facts may apply only to California, but there is a lot of good information for high school educators and parents to consider.