Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), also known as Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome, is a neurologically-based condition characterized by persistent impairment in social interactions, repetitive behaviour patterns, and a restricted range of interests.  According to the American Psychiatric Association (2013), people with ASD often have normal or above-average intelligence but may experience delays in language or in cognitive development.

ASD occurs along a continuum, so it includes a wide range of different symptoms, skills and levels of ability. As a result, each college student with ASD will have unique strengths and challenges. Students may have a strong need for predictability, marked by rigidity in thought, speech, and behaviour, and may become overwhelmed if expectations are changed or if assignments are altered. Interpersonal relations are often an area of impairment for people who have ASD. Students with ASD often have difficulty reading social cues, understanding sarcasm, or negotiating differences of perspective. They may also have challenges with the organization skills and academic skills required for college courses.

Accommodations for students with ASD may include additional support for group work and/or oral presentations. Individuals with ASD benefit from clear written and verbal instructions and the use of concrete language. Working with a peer mentor or tutor can help them to develop social, academic and organizational skills for college.

For more information on the impacts of this disability and classroom accommodations, see Social Interaction, Written Expression, Organization and Time Management.