11 Tips for Students With Autism Who Are Going to College

This guest post is by Kerry Magro, CEO and Founder of KFM Making a Difference. 

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College can often be a difficult transition for those on the autism spectrum. When I was growing up on autism spectrum, getting into college was my first big dream. Now that I’ve graduated, I’m currently pursuing my doctoral degree.

I wanted to share 11 questions I frequently get asked by from students on the autism spectrum who are pursuing a post-secondary education.

1. As a college student affected by autism, what is one of the main things I need to know?

A big difference between college and high school is that in high school you generally have a structured plan for your accommodations called an individualized education program (IEP). However, in college that no longer exists, so you must advocate to your disability support group on campus to receive your own accommodations

2. What are some accommodations I can receive in my classes?

Individuals on the spectrum receive accommodations only if they register with their disability support group. They will then receive accommodations based on their needs. This can include extended time on tests, tape recorders for classes, individual note takers, etc.

3. Do I have to pay for accommodations?

Under The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, colleges are required to provide all learning disabled individuals with “reasonable accommodations.” However, you should check the guidelines inregards to what is and what is not available on your campus.

4. Will faculty or fellow students be informed that I am on the autism spectrum?

Faculty members are not allowed to disclose any information about a student to others without consent from the student. However, students must register as a “disabled student” to receive accommodations, meaning your disability support group would be aware you have a disability. It is then up to you to inform your instructors.

5. Is on-campus living for me?

Accommodations can also factor into your living arrangements on campus. For example, you may have an opportunity to have a single room if needed. Ask if your resident assistant will be made aware of your living situation, since he/she can be of help in an emergency.

6. Will tutoring be available for my courses?

Most colleges provide tutoring for all students, but it’s important to learn about those services early on to see if it is available and if you need additional support.

7. Are there any restrictions on how many courses I can take?

Some disability support groups require you take less courses in your first few semesters of college to make for an easier transition.

8. Is there a club on campus that raises awareness about autism and provides social opportunities for students affected by autism?

Autism Speaks’ college program, Autism Speaks U, works with students across the county to start chapters that raise awareness and funds. Some also establish mentoring programs for students and youth on the autism spectrum. To see if a chapter exists on your campus, visit www.AutismSpeaks.org/U.

9. Will my professors have any previous training in educating individuals affected by autism?

There is no requirement at most college for professors to have education in teaching
individuals with learning disabilities
. You should be prepared to advocate for yourself when a situation deems itself appropriate to do so.

10. Will I be treated differently by fellow students because I have autism?

Like in any other situation where you are around people, there is the possibility of a lack of awareness on their part in dealing with people with learning disabilities. Therefore, spreading awareness is crucial for you and others affected by autism.

11. Is there anything on campus that focuses on post-college plans for individuals affected by autism?

Many colleges have a career program/center that focuses on helping you network with outside companies. You can also look under the Americans with Disabilities Act for information about job accommodations and workshops.

I wish all the incoming students with autism a wonderful college experience! Have fun, study hard and remember each day what you are working to achieve. That’s the key more than anything else to succeed and thrive in college.

In 2015, I contributed a chapter to a book called “College for Students with Disabilities: We Do Belong” that shares the experience of several individuals with disabilities who have successfully navigated a post-secondary education and graduated. You can learn more about the book here.

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4 Students with Autism Receive College Scholarships; 34 Recipients in 5 Years

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Kerry Magro, an adult with autism and Founder/President of KFM Making a Difference (a New Jersey based non-profit corporation), announced his organization’s award of college scholarships to four young adults with autism; Benjamin N. Hays, Eleni Comstock, Eryn Lee and Margo McGeehan. With this latest round of scholarship awards, Kerry Magro and KFM have now awarded thirty-four (34) scholarships to students with autism in the last five years.

As many students with autism get ready for back-to-school, we celebrate their unique gifts through scholarships awarded by KFM Making a Difference, a non-profit organization that helps students with autism go to college. This year KFM is proud to award scholarships to Benjamin N. Hays (St. Lubbock, TX), Eleni Comstock (Pleasanton, CA), Eryn Lee (Jacksonville, AR) and Margo McGeehan (Douglassville, PA). These are KFM’s summer 2016 “Making a Difference for Autism Scholarship” winners!

“This was the first time we gave out summer scholarships to go along with our spring and fall Scholarship applications,” says Kerry Magro, founder and CEO of KFM Making a Difference. “Based on the donations received we were able to make this happen and give these students with autism support as they pursue a post-secondary education. We are excited to continue to follow their journeys as they continue to inspire our community…”

In fall of 2012, KFM Making a Difference launched its scholarship program. Thus far KFM has given out thirty-four (34) scholarships in total to help autistic adults to go to college. Kerry Magro, founder of KFM, is a producer of social media and digital content at Autism Speaks, a professionally certified motivational speaker, best-selling author, movie consultant and television talk show host. Kerry was diagnosed with autism at age four. Today, Kerry travels the country to share his story about autism and to support other autistic kids on their roads through life.

This year KFM asked each of the scholarship winners to share a message for students with autism who are currently hoping to attend a post-secondary program one day. This is what they had to say…

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“To other students with autism, work hard. Don’t be afraid to ask for help because most people are willing to help. Also, just because you have autism doesn’t mean you can’t succeed.” – Benjamin, majoring in Computer Science at West Texas A&M University, Class of spring 2020

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“To others, who are hoping to attend a post-secondary educational program one day, I will tell you this; it is possible. I know you might think that me saying “it is possible” just may be just about the lamest advice anyone has ever told you, but I urge you to not throw the advice away as a nothing. Just keep working hard, keep pushing through challenges, and try to remember me saying that “It Is Possible.” – Eleni, majoring in Industrial Engineering at Montana State University, Class of spring 2020

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“The road to achieving your dreams is never easy. You will encounter obstacles and difficulties along the way, and sometimes you will doubt yourself. However, if the path was easy, it would not truly be worth it. You have to challenge yourself; you have to face the difficulties. The arduous encounters, be it in regards to life or the path to achievement, are what make them worth it. In the end, you find yourself stronger than you ever were, and instead of thinking “I wish I could be that person”, you can finally say, “I am that person”. Much like a little bird, you have to fall before you fly; anything is possible, just believe that you can do it. As Albus Dumbledore says, “We must try not to sink beneath or anguish…but battle on.” – Eryn, majoring in Biology with a minor in Studio Art at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Class of spring 2018

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“For students with autism who want to eventually attend college, business school, or any type of post-secondary education, I want to tell them that despite what they may hear and may believe, they are more than capable of achieving any goals they set out for themselves. Even though society’s inherent able-centrism can make it difficult for disabled people to even receive the same rights as neuro-typical people, let alone the same opportunities, that doesn’t mean they aren’t able to make a difference in this world.” – Margo, majoring in Communication Studies at Kutztown University, Class of spring 2019

Today, according to the Center for Disease Control, 1 in 68 children will be diagnosed with autism while more than 500,000 young individuals with autism will reach adulthood within the next decade. A few years ago U.S. News & World Report highlighted KFM Making a Difference as one of the only non-profits to give out scholarships to adults with autism in the U.S pursuing a post-secondary program.

The deadline for our next scholarship in the “2016 Fall Making a Difference for Autism Scholarship” will be Monday, December 5th at Midnight U.S Eastern Standard Time. You can find the application here.

This scholarship fund is funded entirely through the generous donations of members in our community. You can help their scholarship program moving forward by making a tax-deductible donation here.