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How Four Community Colleges Support Students on the Spectrum

If you’re autistic and planning on attending college or thinking about it, you’ve probably already heard that after high school, there’s a shift in support for students on the spectrum. (Check out our posts here and here to learn more about those changes and how to prepare for them.) Not to worry, though. Disability Offices at both community colleges and four-year institutions want to be dedicated, enthusiastic partners in helping you achieve your academic goals. They realize, too, that getting good grades is often only one important part of the college experience. If you’re unsure what kind of services you might receive through a school’s Disability Office, read on to learn what four community colleges are doing to get a sense of common programs, policies, and opportunities. And, remember, all colleges and universities will have approaches like the ones below. When you’re thinking about what school to attend, the supports available through the Disability Office will tell you a lot about the kind of experiences available to you as you begin navigating a whole new environment.  

Berkshire Community College (MA): offers check-in appointments—occurring on the same day and time every other week—to go over assignments and make sure the student’s courses and college life is going well. Similar to many colleges, they also have student-run organizations and social groups for students with disabilities. 

Middlesex Community College (MA): offers a program called  TRIO, where autistic students attend a specialized, small-group college orientation. The program also provides regular appointments with staff, a case manager, content area peer-tutoring, specialized advising, field trips, counseling, financial aid help, course selection help, and professor matching.
Northwestern Michigan College (MI): offers student-coordinated support meetings through the Counseling Office. These are private meetings where the students can invite anyone to support them and talk about anything going on in their lives. Support meetings can be scheduled as often as requested. “Students can also use a support person when self-disclosing,” so that they don’t have to go it alone, says Leanne Baumeler, Coordinator of Disability Services at Northwestern Michigan College.  
Westchester Community College (NY): offers weekly meetings, has an open-door policy at the counselor’s office, and holds a weekly Girl’s Group for self-disclosed girls. They also hold a no-cost summer “boot camp” in August to better prepare students on the spectrum for the transition to college life. Students take a college tour, find their classrooms, role-play scenarios, work on soft skills, and more. After the boot-camp, the Disability Office helps students pick the professors and courses that are a best match for them. 

Are you already in college? Do you love (or not love) the supports available through the Disability Office on your campus? Let us know in the comments what’s been the most helpful, and what kinds of supports you’d still like to see. 

And if you’re an administrator or educator and you know you’ve got a great Disability Office, please give them a shout out in our comments! We’d like to profile more schools. 

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Andrea Kolodziej

Andrea Kolodziej is a Production Coordinator at Award Productions. She manages production shoots and multiple video projects for clients across the country. Andrea has tackled all angles of the production field including video editing, script writing, social media, camera work, web design, and more. She started her production career working as an intern at NBC daytime television and developed her core skills working as an Associate Producer at Pellet Media. She was also a former core member of the Stairway to STEM team and was highly involved in the development of STS. Before her production career began, Andrea spent many years caring for her special needs sister and worked as a therapist and 1-1 paraprofessional for autistic students.

Andrea is passionate about helping others and inspiring through creativity. In her spare time, she is an avid traveler and a freelance photographer.

2 Comments

  1. Gardner-Webb University has a great program for students on the Autism Spectrum. We have an open door policy for getting help any time. We encourage weekly appointments to check in and work on issues that might arise. Also, there is a “Social Group” that meets weekly to play games and develop friendships and support.

  2. Thanks, Sandra! We look forward to checking out your program, and we’re always excited to hear how colleges and universities are supporting autistic students.

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