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More than half of young adults with autism spectrum disorder don’t attend college after high school. And although 35 percent will try to attend college later, most do not get admitted or they do but then drop out.
Although many colleges and universities offer a range of services for students with learning or physical disabilities, those with autism spectrum disorder have needs that go beyond the classroom, and their success in the classroom is directly involved in those needs.
As a result, this post compiles a list of the best colleges for students with autism. These colleges are doing all they can to help their students with autism have the best learning experience possible.
When looking for college programs for students with autism spectrum disorders, look through this list of the best colleges for autistic students we have outlined below.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurological condition that affects a wide range of mental processes and can cause significant delays in development. People with autism may experience struggle with basic social skills, have difficulty communicating, and/or exhibit repetitive or rigid behavior.
However, ASD does not affect general intelligence. In fact, some individuals may exhibit superior cognitive ability in certain areas, while autistic people with autism are known to exhibit high ability in art, music, mathematics, or general memorization.
The symptoms of Autism (or in its less severe form, Asperger’s Syndrome) cause challenges that can persist throughout life. Daily functioning can be especially difficult for college students with ASD, who may struggle to make friends, communicate with professors, and adapt to the dynamic environment of a college campus.
An estimated 10-14% of current college students suffer from autism spectrum disorder. In numbers, this represents 1.8 million to 2.6 million college students on the autism spectrum, according to the US Census Bureau. And with current numbers from the Center for Disease Control suggesting that 1 in every 59 children are now diagnosed with autism, those numbers are set to increase in the very near future. That’s why it’s more important than ever for colleges and universities across the country to adapt, giving students on the autism spectrum the support, facilities, and perhaps most importantly, opportunities for success.
Though some of the schools below are large, elite research universities, and others are small, private liberal arts schools. They all share one significant thing in common: they are the country’s most neuro-inclusive institutions of higher learning.
To identify, evaluate, and narrow such an important list, here at Kiiky we started by ranking the following list based on their annual tuition cost, with the most affordable universities being on top.
However, we encourage you to review each program in order to find the one that best fits your needs. The annual tuition is based on in-state tuition costs. For out-of-state tuition costs, please visit the university’s website.
Here are the Best Programs for College Students With Autism Spectrum Disorder
Location: Missoula, MT
Annual Tuition: $14,126
Program: MOSSAIC Program (Mentoring, Organization, and Social Support for Autism Inclusion on Campus)
The University of Montana has a program designed to assist all students who fall on the autism spectrum. Students with problems in their language and speech skills will likely benefit because one of the five basic principles of the program is direct speech-language therapy.
There are also trained professionals and classmates to support students with autism and help them develop their academic and social skills. To ensure that their interventions have positive results, program managers use scripting, models, and social narratives among other evidence-based practices.
Location: Kalamazoo, MI
Annual Tuition: $12,174
Program: Autism Services Center
The University of Michigan, autism program begins the summer immediately after high school ends, giving students the opportunity to get to campus weeks ahead of time, allowing them to adjust to new homes. As part of this early orientation / extended orientation, students must enroll in the first undergraduate course and complete a part-time job study position.
Throughout the school year, ASD students will have access to a number of services, including organized social events, peer tutoring, and being part of the “Best Friends” program. Media services such as “Test Taking Skills” and “Dating 101” is also available to those who need them. The university also assists its TEA students in their post-college efforts by connecting them with federal and private employers through the workforce recruitment program.
Location: Storrs, Connecticut
Annual Tuition: $11,998
Program: SEAD (Strategic Education for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder)
The University of Connecticut has a program called SEAD, which means strategic education for students with an autism spectrum disorder. Through this program, students with autism receive a support system that begins at a new student seminar, as they connect with key personnel to help them move to college.
The program helps students learn more about themselves, their disabilities, and their social interactions. The skills they learn on campus can be practiced in social interactions and in the job market.
Location: New Brunswick, NJ
Annual Tuition: $11,619
Program: DDDC (Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center)
Through the Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center at Rutgers University, students with autistic spectrum disorder have access to a wide variety of accommodations to meet their needs. Students have the option to live in a single room with no roommates. They have weekly meetings with coordinators. Students are also assigned a student peer mentor, who is often junior or senior studying psychology.
These students peer mentors help students with autism expand their social networks while providing support. For example, if a student with autism wants to join a club on campus, these peer mentors will go with them to a few meetings as friends to help them transition into the new social circle.
Location: Tuscaloosa, AL
Annual Tuition: $11,580
Program: UA-ACTS Program (University of Alabama, ASD College Transition and Support)
The founders of the College Transition and Support Program at the University of Alabama hope that through their program, students can gain the skills necessary to not only succeed in their college courses but become independent adults who can succeed in their chosen career as well.
The program provides personal training from the faculty members, their students, and clinical psychologists to autistic students. The training helps these students improve their study and interaction skills.
Location: Lubbock, TX
Annual Tuition: $10,772
Program: Burkhart Transition Academy
Texas Tech is well-suited for students who need more intensive help as they work to reach their goal of higher education or vocational training. Through their three-year Transition Academy program, students with ASD can participate in daily classes that strengthen their students’ social, life, and job skills.
Students can enroll in fitness, nutrition, and music classes in addition to participating in various volunteer activities and social events. Internships are also available for those interested in becoming part of the workforce, under the supervision of trained job coaches.
Location: Edinboro, PA
Annual Tuition: $10,281
Program: Boro Autism Support Initiative for Success (BASIS) Program
Edinboro University helps its students with ASD by helping them develop their academic, social, and daily living skills through the BASIS Program. Students are provided with peer mentoring and professional coaching, as well as special arrangements and accommodations when it comes to the classroom and testing setting if needed.
Students enrolled in the BASIS program also have access to writing specialist services if they need help in that area. In addition to their modest cost of attendance, Edinboro may provide additional funding depending on the circumstance, helping to reduce any out-of-pocket expenses students and their families may face.
Location: Green, KY
Annual Tuition: $10,202
Program: Kelly Autism Program
In 2002, Western Kentucky University created the Kelly Autism Program to assist students with autism to succeed in the classroom. Students enrolled in the program have their own individual education plan with assistance to help them stay on track. Each student is assigned a mentor who helps them acclimate to campus life.
There are mandatory study times for the students four times a week in which they study for their courses. They also receive instruction on organizing and prioritizing their work, job coaching, and tutoring. Also, as part of the Kelly Autism Program, the students participate in community activities and social and leisure activities.
Location: Kent, OH
Annual Tuition: $10,012
Program: Autism Advocates and AIREO
Kent State offers a variety of services for students with autism, giving them a number of options to choose from. Their Autism Advocates Program helps students develop academic and personal success strategies while at college.
Another program is College Success for Students with Asperger’s or Autism, a comprehensive program that offers job assistance, self-advocacy training, and individualized academic support among other services. Finally, there’s the PALS program (Partnering for Achievement and Learning Success), where ASD students are paired with neurotypical students to help them develop their social skills. All of these choices in programs make Kent State University a great place for students with ASD to be part of.
Location: Tampa, FL
Annual Tuition: $9,900
Program: The Learning Academy
The University of South Florida’s autism program is career-centric and focuses on real-world skill development, helping students find internships and job opportunities that match their strengths and interests. Group activities are also available for those wishing to improve their communication and social skills.
Mentors are paired up with students and have weekly classes where there’s an emphasis on finding employment. As part of the weekly classes, students participate in role-playing, self-assessment, and group discussions. It’s important to note that USF’s program is not residential, and the school doesn’t recommend taking additional college courses while enrolled in the program.
Location: Ypsilanti, MI
Annual Tuition: $9,528
Program: College Supports Program
At up to $8,500 a semester, the College Supports Program at Eastern Michigan University may be one of the most expensive support programs, but it is also one of the best programs there are. Students can receive the one-on-one support they need in every aspect of their life, including nutrition and hygiene training.
Throughout their time in school, students involved in the program will have all the support they need to perform well in their classes. That support comes in the form of not only faculty and counsellors but other students with autism as well.
Location: Wichita Falls, TX
Annual Tuition: $8,694
Program: Autism Support Program
Autistic students at Midwestern State University have the option to live in a designated house on campus where they will also live with two peer mentors. These mentors are not only there to assist the students but also teach them how to live independently and succeed in college. If the students have additional problems, they also have access to staff members on campus who will help them adjust to their new lives.
Location: Huntington, WV
Annual Tuition: $7,798
Program: Autism Training Center
Marshall University has an autism training center. The entrance to the center is approximately $3,200 per semester. However, due to additional funding, the school can provide exceptional support to students with autism.
Students meet daily with counsellors to help them set goals and prepare to-do lists to help them grow. This allows students to gain confidence, see themselves progress, and acquire the skills necessary to enter the job market of their choice. They also meet frequently with their professors, who will help them succeed in the classroom and link them to social activities on campus.
Location: Huntington, WV
Annual Tuition: $7,798
Program: Autism Training Center
The University of West Florida is a great place for those who prefer individual help. The University provides individual social, academic, and professional support to its students with autism through the “Argos for Autism” program, where professional coaches help students advance into their university lives and assist them in academic planning. The school also offers an early transfer program for TEA students at a low price of $100, which includes two days of activities designed for new college students to live alone.
Location: Bellevue, WA
Annual Tuition: $3,230
Program: Autism Spectrum Navigators
Bellevue College offers special courses for students on the autism spectrum through its Autism Spectrum Navigators program (ASN). These ASN courses work hand in hand with regular college classes and focus on professional preparation and skill development (stress management, interpersonal communication, self-defense, etc.).
Students receive assistance and support from both dedicated teachers and peer mentors. Parents are encouraged to review quarterly progress updates, which helps the family participate in student progress. The program is accessible to any Bellevue College student and comes at no extra charge.
There are tons of college scholarships available for students with disabilities more generally, but only a few created specifically for students with autism. Scholarships for students with autism include Avonte Oquendo Memorial Scholarship for Autism, $5,000. Schwallie Family Scholarship, $3,000.
According to a 2011 study, about 17 percent of young adults with autism enroll in a four-year college, compared with 21 percent of people with learning disabilities and about 40 percent of people with visual or hearing impairments.
In severe cases, an autistic child may never learn to speak or make eye contact. But many children with autism and other autism spectrum disorders are able to live relatively normal lives.
DLA is a non-diagnosis specific benefit, so having a diagnosis of autism will not automatically lead to an award, but many children on the autism spectrum do qualify for the benefit. It is also entirely non-means tested, so your income and savings are not taken into account.
With the number of children born with autism increasing, the need to create autistic-friendly learning programs is rising. Fortunately, more and more colleges and universities are stepping up to the challenge and are autism-friendly colleges, so take advantage of one of these colleges outlined above for better knowledge.