What to consider when choosing the right college for a person with autism
In the past people with autism were often denied an education, and employment opportunities, but even today it can still be a struggle for young people with autism to get the right help and support in further education. This leads to a lack of employment for adults with autism. Despite that, many young autistic people still go to college and university and do very well, earning themselves qualifications and degrees that help them later on in life.
A large part of this owes to choosing the right college or university with the right levels of support. This article is written with the purpose of suggesting some important questions it might be worth young people with autism, and their parents, asking, if they are looking to enrol in a college.
Deciding which college to attend can be a difficult process. Below are some key points that might be worth considering:
• Travel – how near is the college, and how is the young adult with traveling? Does the college help with this? For example, a college bus, or providing a taxi service.
• What resources/programmes does the college have in place to help people with autism? For example, do they have staff specifically to help autistic people in the classrooms? Do they have a quiet area where students can go if things get too much for them?
• Talk to other people who are either in the college or have been, and see what they have to say about their experience. Obviously, if there are a lot of negative stories about it, then it may be worth investigating further before deciding to enrol.
• How does the young adult feel when they visit the college? Are they comfortable and at ease, and do they feel it is somewhere they would like to go back to? This is one of the most important things when deciding on a college, as the young adult will be spending so much time there over the coming years. Whatever they may have in place, if they young adult doesn’t feel safe and content there, then it may be worth continuing to look around other colleges.
• What does the college offer autistic people? Is it somewhere they can actually go and get an education? Depending on what the young adult wants, it is worth looking in to what classes are provided for autistic people – is the help that will be extended to them on a special programme still given to them if they choose to take up a mainstream course? How seriously does the college take providing a full and proper education to autistic students?
• Flexibility – is the college willing to be flexible if the young adult cannot take on a full-time course?
All these points are worth taking in to consideration when looking for a college. It all really depends on the young adult; what they feel they need, and what they feel comfortable with. There is no set thing that would suit everybody, but the points listed above will always be important ones to consider.
By Paddy-Joe Moran
Inspiring Women with Autism – Amy Sequenzia
When most people think of neurodiversity, they picture high-functioning individuals with science or tech jobs, who are able to communicate and often seem to “blend-in” to the neurotypical world. Amy Sequenzia is a neurodiverity self-advocate, but she is not “high-functioning,” nor is she able to “blend-in” with the rest of the world. She is also living proof that even individuals who are more severely affected by autism wish to be treated with respect and understanding.
Amy is a non-speaking author, poet, and advocate whose work is regularly featured on Ollibean. Her book, My Voice: Autism, Life and Dreams, is a collection of poetry that shares her unique perspective on the world. She also suffers from multiple disabilities, including autism, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and dyspraxia. She communicates via Facilitated Communication, a system where a trained facilitator helps the individual to type as a means of communication.
Her self-advocacy career started in 2003, when she had her first real contact with The Lonesome Doves, a group of non-speaking autistics who typed to communicate. She says,
“I realized I could be speaking up for my rights to more people. After that I began writing poems that were a little bit about my life. Then I decided to write to, and meet with, legislators, was encouraged to write for newspapers and later for blogs.”
She describes her frustration early in life, when she was unable to communicate with her family or caregivers. She says,
“I was surrounded by ableism, though I did not realize that back then. I remember two things: I wanted people to know I was smart, and I wanted the other kids to play with me.”
She also addresses a phenomenon that many on the autism spectrum have experienced: other people talking about them in their presence as if they cannot understand. She says,
“It feels like you don’t count as a whole person. It is rude and frustrating because I can’t respond or will not walk away. It makes me sad when people who love me do it anyway. Some people even continue to do this after being reminded that I can hear, type and think.”
She is also a vocal advocate for FC (facilitate communication), which is her means for communicating with the world. There have been critics who claim that FC is a hoax, and that the communication is actually originating from the facilitator, rather than from the individual with the disability. She says,
“As far as I know, from all the people who say FC is a hoax, none of them has ever interviewed a user who became independent, or has acknowledged the many studies, including double-blind studies, done by different facilitators with different users. All this is documented.”
She goes on to say,
“I am misunderstood. My face does not always show how I feel and I have other disabilities that prevent me from being more pro-active. . . Without FC, I don’t really participate in the world.”
by Laurel Joss