Information about the Autism Spectrum

Autism and OTC: Statistics

The current number of students on the ASD spectrum served at OTC has grown from 13 students in 2013-2014 school year to 75+ students currently, which is an increase of 5 times!

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?

Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorder (commonly known as “Asperger’s Syndrome”) is a neurodevelopment disorder that can affect how people communicate, learn, behave, and socially interact. People may have repetitive and characteristic patterns of behavior or narrow interests. Some individuals with ASD have sensory sensitivities and may use repetitive motions (sometimes called stimming) to regulate their experience. Not everyone who has ASD may have these symptoms, which are usually present from early childhood and affect daily functioning. Both children and adults can have ASD.

VIDEO: High Functioning Autism & Asperger Syndrome

autism awareness logo

To learn more about Autism Spectrum Disorder, visit the National Institutes of Health website.

This graphic shows what the autism spectrum really looks like. Get more info by clicking the graphic.

Autism Wheel graphic

Strategies for Instructors

As more and more students with Autism enter the college classroom, it is likely that you will have a student enroll in one of your classes. Although enjoyable and rewarding, instructing neurodivergent students can at times be challenging. The following are suggested strategies for instructors to use in the classroom when they have a student on the ASD spectrum:

  • Do’s
    • Speak in a kind and direct manner. Avoid figurative language (or explicitly state that it is figurative). Be patient when communicating.
    • Provide visual cues, organizers, diagrams, and steps along with auditory cues.
    • Discuss with the student conduct standards and expectations within your class. Provide a written version as well. (typically addressed in your Syllabus–but refer to it as often as needed)
    • Invite engagement; however, if a student is dominating conversations or asking too many questions, you may need to limit number of questions or talking time. Consider alternate methods of asking/answering questions (piece of paper, turn taking, discussion board, time limits to discuss a question/topic with a partner, etc.)
    • Clearly write instructions, objectives, and due dates for students to reference.
    • Make referrals to other services offered by OTC as needed (Tutoring and Learning Center, Writing/Speech Center, Disability Support Services, etc.)
    • Check for understanding by asking direct questions to the student getting feedback from them. Use their first name to get their attention.
    • If a behavior becomes disruptive to others or becomes a source of distraction for the student (e.g. a student is engrossed in scribbling and is not responding when called), address it (privately) with the student. You may wish to do this with a DSS counselor present.
    • Seek out trainings offered by DSS and other resources to better understand ASD and implementing instructional strategies.
  • Don’ts
    • Assume that if a student isn’t looking, or if they are seemingly distracted, they are not paying attention.
    • Assume a student is being lazy, rude, creepy, slow, or strange.
    • “Call out” a student or bring an unwanted spotlight onto the student.

View Advanced Strategies for Supporting Students with Autism in Inclusive Higher Education by Jane Thierfeld-Brown, Ed.D. to dig deeper!

Accommodations for ASD

Common Accommodations for ASD include:

  • For Testing:
    • Use of Reader or Scribe as needed.
    • Extended time
    • Out of class testing with no extended time (distraction reduced)
    • Use of formula card
    • Noise-canceling headphones or listening to music
  • For Class:
    • Student note-taker and/or provide notes
    • Do not ask student to read aloud in class
    • Use of visual aids or problem-solving steps
    • Use of Assistive Technology
    • Allow student to take short breaks during class.
    • Student may wear earplugs, headphones/earphones, sunglasses, or be approved to listen to music, use fidget device
    • Although OTC does not provide personal aids that attend class with a student for behavior modification, with documentation, it could be considered a reasonable accommodation. The student (or outside organization) would be responsible for paying for and arranging this personal service.

Missouri Community College Association Webinar Series
My Favorite Lecture: Autism and Higher Education
Presenter: Dr. Susan Inman of Ozarks Technical Community College

Retention and Success

“As more U.S. students are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) — a disorder whose “prevalence rate has nearly tripled” since 2000, according to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health — it’s increasingly important for educators to develop adequate and appropriate response strategies. By increasing their awareness of various educational strategies for students with autism, not only can teachers better serve their students — they can also develop valuable skills that will help them stand out to potential employers.” (National University) Being armed with knowledge, instructors connect with students and help them find better success overall in the areas of progress, retention, and completion.