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.
Many postsecondary institutions have begun their own Autism-Specific College Support Programs (ASPs) to integrate the emergence of autistic students into college and offer supports aiding their success (Longtin in J Postsecond Educ Disabil 27(1):63–72, 2014), yet little is known about these programs. We conducted an exhaustive, year-long search of all postsecondary institutions in the United States to identify all ASPs. Although we identified a total of 74 programs located in 29 states, our analyses suggest these are unavailable to students in large portions of the country. When they are available, these programs appear to be disproportionately located at 4-year institutions, public institutions, and in the Mid-East. Our study highlights inequities based on institutional type and geography, as well as offers a complete public list of ASPs.
This multiple case study examines the extent and ways in which leaders and administrators in Florida College System (FCS) institutions engage in distributed leadership through data sharing with frontline staff. Based on focus groups and individual interviews with administrators, faculty, and staff (659 participants) from 21 state colleges, we found a continuum of three data cultures ranging from democratic data cultures to blended data cultures to “need to know” data cultures. We triangulate these results with survey data from FCS institutional leaders and find considerable variation in the extent of data sharing and perceptions of effectiveness of institutional data use. Institutions with democratic data cultures tended to have distributed leadership that encouraged information sharing and collaboration among staff to use data to inform change. Need-to-know institutions faced challenges, including weak data quality, concerns about adequate time and resources among staff for reviewing data, and perceptions that staff lack data literacy skills.
A large and growing population of students with autism is increasingly pursuing higher education. Yet, the field has a remarkably small literature base from which to glean actionable insights that might enhance postsecondary success for this population. Our examination of 13,000 items published in sixteen journals over a sixteen-year period revealed only 21 articles on the topic; none were published in mainstream higher education journals. Our explication of this literature maps the contours of the emerging body of literature on college students with autism, uncovers problematic patterns within that literature, identifies important questions that remain unanswered, and provides explicit guidance for future research on the topic.