Cox, Bradley E. and Edelstein, Jeffrey and Brogdon, Bailey and Roy, Amanda
The Journal of Higher Education, 92(2): 252—278, 2021
Publication year: 2021

Roughly 1 in 59 children in the United States is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a rate that has more than doubled during the last 10 years. As students with autism increasingly pursue higher education, college educators must understand these students’ experiences and actively address issues that affect their college outcomes. This paper draws from interviews with autistic students who have had widely varying experiences and outcomes in higher education. Using an iterative analytic strategy that combined elements of grounded theory, multiple case study, and constant comparative approaches, researchers developed a series of propositions that were subsequently deconstructed and reconstituted as a conceptual model. The resultant conceptual model not only provides a descriptive portrait of how these students experienced interactions with their postsecondary institutions but also outlines specific ways in which tensions between the student and institution manifest as acute problems that students were often able to recognize, sometimes able to reframe, and occasionally able to resolve. The “3R” model can be used to help students and their institutions anticipate, address, and overcome challenges in ways that improve college experiences and outcomes for students on the autism spectrum.