Asperger's Syndrome and College Adjustment

Asperger’s Syndrome is a neurodevelopment disorder that has great variability in how it presents, and each student will have their own individual strengths and weaknesses. Symptoms can range from very mild to more intrusive. Many people with Asperger’s Syndrome are well able to succeed at college, but will benefit from some advance planning.

Some things to consider for students coming to college who have been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome include:

  •  Connect with the Disability Services staff to discuss any appropriate accommodations needed to “level the playing field” academically. Do this well before beginning the first semester, to be sure the college can offer needed resources. Accommodations are determined on an individual basis, after conversation with staff and provision of documentation from a medical provider. The student is responsible for initiating contact with Disability Services, actively participating in discussions about needed accommodations, and, after approval of accommodations, discussing them with the appropriate faculty and staff.
  •  Physically locate support resources, such as the Health Service, Counseling Service, Student Academic Support Center, and Disability Services. It is fine to go to these offices and introduce yourself to staff there early in the academic year. Explore what resources and expertise are available based on specific needs. Make an appointment to meet with staff long before the need for services is evident, in order to avoid small difficulties becoming crises.
  •  Decide who to tell about a diagnosis, or the manifestations of the diagnosis. For instance, it might be useful for Residence Life staff to know some of the challenges a student faces socially and to talk with the student about how the Residence Hall environment and staff can be most appropriately supportive of the student’s social adjustment.
  • Learn clearly what kind of assistance the college is able to offer. It is not appropriate, for example, to expect the college to arrange for someone to wake a student every morning, or to walk a student to each class every day. However, it might be appropriate for college staff to walk the student to each class room once, at the start of each semester.
  • Manage the environment by planning ahead for how to deal with problems of sensory overload. For instance, the noise and smells in the cafeteria may feel overwhelming, the lack of privacy in the residence hall at night may be a challenge, the hustle and bustle of coming and going to large lectures may feel daunting, and a class that demands primarily group work may pose a specific challenge.