A reader sent this story to me, of 10 college programs helping autistic students succeed, which can be found here. First things first, I am incredibly jealous. There were no such specialized programs for autistic students in place when I entered university. But I’m very glad these are coming forth. There’s going to be a wave of autistics with a diagnosis who will be attending college in the upcoming years. These universities are preparing for them, and I hope that the remainder of academia in America follows suit. I know there will be those up in arms about the idea of diverting money to these programs, “in this economy”, and complaining about the great expense it would pose to serve “a special interest group”, or “minority of students”, but these same people are, interestingly, silent about the boatloads of money that get thrown into the gaping black holes in the middle of the university known as Business and Communications Departments. I will just say this: What is good for autistic students is good for society and economics. Better to have a population which is given the tools to succeed and make something of their passions than a population which is ghettoized to being dependent on others from the very beginning.
There appear to be some gaps in these programs, however. Wonderful and revolutionary as they are, they are putting all of the focus on helping the student become acclimated to college. There’s nothing wrong with that being the primary focus of course, but I think to truly make the program work out for the best, there should be a portion devoted both to educating professors and deans on the needs of autistic students, and making sure their peers understand that too. It’s one thing to try to teach an autistic freshman social skills. It’s another thing entirely to teach neurotypical students to have the social skills necessary to be inclusive of autistic peers in projects, collaborations, and other endeavors, and for them to realize that autistic friendships with neurotypicals are not only possible, but treasured. It would also be beneficial for this to happen at universities which practice “peer counseling”, to offer training on how to address disabled students. I remember one particular instance when my significant other went in for peer counseling, seeking an autism diagnosis at my advice (She does have autism for the record, and now has a diagnosis) and was told in so few words by her peer counselor that he didn’t believe that autism existed,that it was a pharmaceutical scam.
Such insulting, unprofessional conduct is probably the first thing each university should work to rid itself of if it wants to reach a level comparable to Rutgers or U of Connecticut.