Resilience in the First Year of College for Students with ASD

Poster Presentation
Saturday, May 4, 2019: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Room: 710 (Palais des congres de Montreal)
M. Pizzano1 and C. Kasari2, (1)Education, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, (2)University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
Background: Adjustment in the first year of postsecondary education is challenging for all students, but those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other learning disabilities experience greater psychosocial and academic difficulties (HERI, 2011). Knowledge about the college experience of those with ASD is increasing (e.g. Gelbar, et al., 2014), but little is known about factors contributing to the success of these students. Resilience has been referred to as adjustment and adaptation to college with optimal outcomes in grades, and mental health (Hartley, 2011).

Objectives: The current study will examine predictors of adjustment of individuals with ASD, ADHD/LD, or no disability in their freshman year of college.

Methods: This secondary analysis looked at the nationally representative sample of college students who completed both the Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) Freshman Survey at the start of and the Your First College Year Survey at the end of their 2016-2017 academic year (n=9493). Respondents were divided into three groups: self-report of learning disability (LD), or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) (n=483), having ASD (n=23) or reporting no learning issues (n=4275). Regression models were applied to each group to identify predictors of adjustment. Individual survey items were combined to create the predictors of social support, high school scores, service access, study habits, and family resources. Items were combined into the outcome variables of academic performance, and overall satisfaction.

Results: Regression models were run for each group on each outcome with bonferonni correction for multiple posthoc tests. For the group with no learning issues, significant predictors were 1) good academic study habits for improved mental health (b=0.20, p<0.00) and better academic performance (b=0.74, p<0.00), 2) higher ratings of social support for improved mental health scores (b=0.02, p<0.01), and 3) higher high school test scores for better academic performance (b=0.74, p<0.00). For those ADHD and/or LD, significant predictors were 1) better study habits for, improved mental health scores (b=0.22, p<0.00) and better academic performance (b=0.84, p<0.00), and 2) higher high school test scores and for better academic performance (b=0.14, p<0.00). For those with ASD, the significant predictor was 1) better study habits for better academic performance (b=0.93, p<0.02).

Conclusions: For the no learning issues group, academic study skills predicted both academic success and optimal mental health in the first year, with social support and high school test scores playing additional roles. The ADHD/LD group had similar predictors of academic study skills and high school test scores. However, for those with ASD, neither social support nor test scores played a role in first year resilience, with the only factor being academic study habits. Results suggest that all students benefit most from support in academic study habits and that resources may need to be directed towards building this important skill. Further investigation with a larger group of students with ASD is warranted.

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See more of: Education