Supporting Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Post-Secondary Education Settings: Common Barriers and Needed Accommodations and Supports

Poster Presentation
Saturday, May 4, 2019: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Room: 710 (Palais des congres de Montreal)
R. T. Paskins, Counseling and Rehabilitation, University of Wisconsin-Stout, Menomonie, WI
Background: Although there is greater attendance in Post-Secondary Education settings, the graduation rate of students with autism is below the standard average, with some evidence of graduation rates being lower that the general population of people with disabilities. In an effort to take a step toward addressing this concern, the current study began the exploratory process of identifying whether services provided by campus disability resources centers align with the best practices that enhance the success of students with ASD.

Objectives: The purpose of this study was two-fold. The objectives were to explore: From a disability service professional perspective, what are the most common barriers that prevent students with autism spectrum disorder from completing post-secondary education? From a disability service professional perspective, what are the most beneficial supports to help students with autism spectrum disorder complete post-secondary education?

Methods: A three-round Delphi survey with expert panels consisting of disability service professionals was implemented. The study began by asking an expert panel consisting of disability service professionals to develop and agree upon a list of (a) barriers in providing academic accommodation (b) individual and systemic barriers faced by the student, and (c) supports that can help reduce these barriers.

Results: The final instrument identified 34 barriers to providing academic accommodation, 47 systemic barriers, and 37 individual barriers students with ASD experience in PSE settings. Additionally, DRC counselors identified 45 supports and services that would help address the identified barriers. Of the items identified, the expert panel was provided opportunity to compare their scores with the group mean score with the opportunity to change their score to match the group mean. From these results the interquartile range was calculated to identify items that achieve consensus. The items which demonstrated a strong consensus (IQR < 1.5) were identified as significant.The survey items that demonstrated a median of 4.00 or above and an IQR of 1.5 or lower were considered to have high frequency and strong consensus and were therefore considered to be a high priority. Of the 163 items reviewed, 71 identified barriers met these criteria. All items identifying supports were measured by a similar level of benefit rating ranging from one to seven. The same measurement of median and IQR was applied and 35 items met the criteria and were rated as high priority.

Conclusions: The findings from this study have important implications for disability services in PSE. Notably, the identified barriers experienced, and services provided to students with ASD, may guide professional development opportunities (i.e., in-service training, workshops, etc.) for disability service professionals and other campus faculty and staff. Because of their diverse educational and professional backgrounds, disability service professionals may not be prepared to provide best practices to students with ASD. This study also could primarily impact those who face the identified barriers first hand, namely the students. If university policy makers will take into consideration the finding of this study, then a discussion of “equal opportunity,” “equal access,” and best practice can be brought to the table for further exploration.