“Individuals on the autism spectrum will probably always have to work hard to deal with the social aspects of their world” (Palmer 42). This is what Ann Palmer has said as her son with high functioning autism has been battling with the challenges of adapting to college and life, just as I had to. A major problem that Chowan University faces, and the community at large, is the transitioning of high school students with high functioning autism to college, or as working adults. Chowan University students can make a difference and help the community in a practical way by holding a Perspectives event on autism. Students and community members can help students with autism by writing their state legislature representatives for the passage of autism insurance. It is important for the community and other students to recognize and understand this problem, as over time more people with autism will be born and diagnosed. If nothing is done it will cost this generation and future one’s money and time to care for those persons.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), or to most it is commonly known as Autism, is a developmental disability that affects social, learning, and independent skills. Examples of this are having a hard time dealing with loud noises, being around a lot of people, difficulties in wearing and buttoning clothes and doing daily tasks. The Centers for Disease Control research shows that “The United States, in 2010 about 1 in 68 children are diagnosed with ASD or about one to one and in 2006 a half million eight year olds had autism…, that boys are five times more likely to develop autism than girls …, about forty-six percent of the autistic population have average intellectual ability …” (CDC). This means with the right support they can attend college and be productive members of society, and “That in 2011 it cost society about nine billion dollars to care for those with autism” (CDC); those numbers will still increase gradually over time but will increase exponentially if something is not done to help those who have the ability to be productive members of society which means possibly going to college and getting a job. The National Center for Educational Statistics and the United States Department of Education’s research states: “Only forty-three percent of the disabled population will graduate high school…” and the United States Department of Labor statistics shows that: “Persons over the age of sixteen with a disability in 2013 had an unemployment rate of 13.2% while the same group of people without disabilities the rate is 7.1%” (United States Department Of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics); which stresses low-income services that are already overly stressed. According to The American College Health Association, “The National College Health Assessment reported that students identified stress (27.5%), anxiety (19.1%), and depression (11.9%) among the top six factors negatively affecting their academic growth” (qtd. in Pinder-Amaker). This is especially greatest among the college population with autism as we tend to concentrate not only on academic growth but because of the impact of our disability these three factors follows us well beyond the classroom so we tend to give up.
While transitioning from high school to college some of the laws that were in affect when we were in high school no longer apply when we leave and that other laws pick up where the old left off but it does not protect us enough like the ones in high school. The Individual Disability Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law that requires that public schools enroll and equip students for success in ultimately getting a high school diploma and that it establishes schools to have such tools as an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for students with autism and other disabilities and allows for parents and other professionals advocate for their students. The only problem with IDEA is that it only lasts until the person graduates from high school or they turn twenty-one, whichever comes first (National Center for Learning Disabilities Public Policy Team). Section 504 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a federal law requires equal access for anyone with a disability to anyplace that receives federal funds including schools, colleges, post offices, any government function and that this law does not have an age limit. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) is a federal law that prohibits the discrimination of persons with disabilities and requires them to provide reasonable accommodations to persons with documented disabilities. The problem with helping those with autism is that Section 504 and ADA is that unlike IDEA, it does not set up a support system for those with autism and unlike requiring facilities for the physically handicapped, it does not require facilities to be friendly to the various sensory issues in which persons with autism have and with Section 504 it only applies to facilities that receive federal funding (The United States Department of Health and Human Services). The state of North Carolina has state laws protecting persons with disabilities and the Persons with Disabilities Protection Act, but they too lack the support services and the requirement of facilities being equipped to handle autistic persons sensory issues.(The State of North Carolina).
Persons with autism have a hard time transitioning to college because of the lack of support services that are offered, big classroom sizes, the amount of work, the stress, and the lack of independent skills as well as non-sensory friendly facilities like dorm rooms and dining halls. Actions that we can take to help students and community members with autism can be in a policy and practical way. Chowan University can help students with autism in a practical way by holding a perspectives event educating the community on autism and how to help those with autism. This event will share information on what different problems affect us such as sensory problems and on what they can do to help. Students can also take a policy approach to helping those with autism by writing their congressman in the state legislature for the passage of Autism Insurance in North Carolina. This law will require health insurance companies to cover those with autism “Such as Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) as well as speech, occupational and physical therapies” (Autism Speaks).
Autistic people all over the nation will be helped, inspired, and will succeed if all of us come together and help those around us with the disorder and when they see someone else with the disorder become successful. As more jobs in America require some sort of post-secondary education getting laws, funding, educational, and job support will determine the destiny of the country over the next several generations as more and more people are being born today are diagnosed with some sort of Autistic Spectrum Disorder. Ernst VanBergeijk, Ph.D., M.S.W. suggested that “College classes in large universities can be six hundred students in one class and it be held an uncomfortable situation. Also, there can be large amounts of students to one disability support person” (VanBergeijk 16). As Chowan builds its name as a reputable Christian university, I hope that it does not forget those persons with autism and other disabilities as it expands its campus.
By, Alex Jackson
Centers for Disease Control. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD): Data and Statistics, 2014. Web. 17 November 2014.
Luiselli, James K., Russo, Dennis C., and Christian, Walter P., eds. Effective Practices for Children with Autism : Educational and Behavior Support Interventions That Work. Cary, NC, USA: Oxford University Press, Incorporated, 2008. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 17 November 2014.
National Center for Learning Disabilities Public Policy Team. What is IDEA. Web. 17 November 2014. The National Library of Medicine. Postsecondary education and employment among youth with an autism spectrum disorder, 2012. Web. 17 November 2014.
NC Families Demand Better Autism Insurance At Capital Rally. Autism Speaks, 2014. Web. 20 November 2014.
Palmer, Ann. Realizing the College Dream with Autism or Asperger Syndrome: A Parent’s Guide to Student Success. London, GBR: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2005. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 17 November 2014.
Pinder-Amaker, Stephanie PhD. “Identifying the Unmet Needs of College Students on
the Autism Spectrum.” Harvard Review of Psychiatry 22.2 (2014): p 125-137. Web.
The State of North Carolina. North Carolina General Statutes, 2013. Web. 17 Nov. 2014.
The United States Department of Health and Human Services. A Guide to Disability Rights Laws, 2009. Web. 17 November 2014.
The United States Department of Labor. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Disability Unemployment Rate, 2014. Web. 17 November 2014.
VanBergeijk, Ernst. “Ten Questions To Ask When Exploring Post Secondary Educational Options For Students On The Autism Spectrum.” Exceptional Parent 40.4 (2010): 16-17. OmniFile Full Text Mega (H.W. Wilson). Web. 20 Nov. 2014.