Quality of Life of Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder Compared to Typically Developing Students Attending Colleges in the American Northeast

Poster Presentation
Saturday, May 4, 2019: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Room: 710 (Palais des congres de Montreal)
N. Bianculli1, L. O. Lavoura1, O. Ghoneim1 and C. C. Mann2, (1)School of Pharmacy and Physician Assistant Studies, University of Saint Joseph, Hartford, CT, (2)Department of Counseling and Applied Behavior Analysis, University of Saint Joseph, West Hartford, CT

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is characterized as a developmental disorder that negatively impacts social functioning (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). As a result, navigating college can present a particular challenge for individuals with ASD relative to their typically developing peers. Approximately 17% of the 50,000 youth diagnosed with ASD who leave high school every year in the United States attend a 4-year college or university (Roux, Shattuck, Rast, Rava, & Anderson, 2015). Though more students with ASD are entering college, reviews of attrition and graduation records found that the completion rate for these students is 79.5% (Roux et al, p 46), a full 10 points lower than college-students with other disabilities. While efforts have been made to identify specific variables that may be impacting the experiences of American college students with ASD, (e.g., Gobbo & Shmulsky, 2014;) few researchers have explored the first-hand accounts of college students with ASD regarding their experiences in college. At this time, one study has been published comparing the experiences of British students with ASD to that of their neurotypical peers (Gurbuz, Hanley, & Riby, 2018). Such an evaluation has not been conducted at an American institution.


This study sought to compare self-reported quality of life (QoL) of students diagnosed with ASD enrolled in degree programs in the Northeastern United States with that of their neurotypical peers using an online questionnaire designed to collect both qualitative and quantitative data.


A 68 item (17 demographics, 43 Likert-scale, and 7 open-ended) online questionnaire (adapted from Gurbuz et al.) was distributed to 42 Colleges and Universities in the Northeastern United States with dedicated support programs for students with ASD. Institutional Review Boards approved the study at all participating institutions prior to distribution of the questionnaire. Potential participants were invited to take part anonymously


981 students participated in the study (20 students with ASD). Among all participants, 78.5% were undergraduate, 15.7% Master’s students, and 5.7% Doctorate students. Majority of participants were full time students (85.7%), female (74.2), Caucasian (63.2%), and single (51.1%). For participants with ASD, 35% were diagnosed less than age 5, 90% were diagnosed with a healthcare provider, and 65% report disclosing their diagnosis to their institution. The complete data analysis (i.e., Principal Component Analysis applied to the Likert-scale items to assess the factor structure of the data) will be presented at the meeting.


Preliminary results of this study have important implications for institutions seeking to better support students with ASD. Further, results suggest not only differences in the college experiences of individuals with ASD, but items related to campus and academic support services also highlight areas of strength and opportunities for improvement relative to supporting this population.

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