Autism is a neurodevelopmental condition characterized by social, communication and behavioral challenges. Autism is known as a “spectrum” disorder because there is a wide variety symptoms and behaviors. Autism also can be viewed through the lens of neurodiversity which characterizes autism as a different way of sensing, communication and experiencing the world. Not all students with ASD diagnoses will present in the same way. “If you’ve met one person with autism – you’ve met one person with autism.” Stephen Shore
When students begin their higher education pursuits they may experience difficulties navigating the various contexts of the University setting. These difficulties may be enhanced for students with autism as they may struggle in classroom group work, meeting with professors, managing roommate relationships, or engaging in social functions on campus. Some students may be exploring or receiving an autism diagnosis for the first time and discovering what support is available to them as they learn more about this new part of their identity.
There has been an increase in autism diagnoses in the last 20 years. With increased numbers students with autism are receiving more support in the primary and secondary education settings, and are continuing to universities, which are not always prepared to provide an accessible and supportive environment.
Barriers to access for students with ASD:
- Interpreting nonverbal cues
- Abstract communication or instructions
- Expressing emotion in speech
- Sensory overload—lights, sounds, smells, crowds, etc
- Navigating social interactions
- Changes to routine
- Repetitive or ritualistic behaviors
Launched in 2019, the Longhorn TIES (Transition, Inclusion, Empower, Success) initiative seeks to enhance the student experience for students who identify as being on the autism spectrum through advocacy, connections and training starting with the new student orientation process and continuing throughout the student’s academic career. This initiative will also serve as a resource for UT Austin faculty and staff. Longhorn TIES is housed within New Student Services.
- Working with Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Support & Advocacy Groups
- Longhorn TIES (Transition, Inclusion, Empower, Success)
For more information, see Working with Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders.
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