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As a parent or guardian of a child with autism, you may have questions about preparing for college. While students with autism will face unique challenges, it is possible to thrive in a college environment with the right preparation.

The best strategy to prepare a student with autism for college is to start early. As early as the eighth grade, parents can begin training their child in the academic and social skills they will need in college. It’s also important for parents of children with autism to train their child how to be independent. Allowing your child to begin cooking their own meals or doing their own grocery shopping is a great way to start, particularly if he/she is planning to live on their own in college. You can help your child develop social skills by encouraging him/her to join clubs or groups at school or participate in extracurricular activities. Volunteering is a great way for students with autism to develop social skills and find activities that interest them; it also looks good on a college application and will give your student a leg up.

When it comes time to apply for colleges, it’s important to do some research. There are many colleges that offer autism support programs for students on the autism spectrum. These often involve comprehensive programs that can assist students with the transition to college by providing resources to help improve academic and social skills. Some colleges also offer transition support as students complete their degree and transition into independent adult life. These services may also include job placement assistance and career resources.

It’s important for parents as well as students with autism to be open with the school. Communicating the student’s specific needs in advance will better equip the school to provide a positive, supportive learning environment that encourages success. Many students conceal their autism for fear of being “singled out” or ostracized. But as the stigma of autism begins to disappear, so should the fear of openly discussing it.

Students with autism face unique challenges when it comes to transitioning into college, but there is an increasing push for more resources to help these students succeed. By working with your student and the college he/she chooses to attend, success is attainable.