Top Colleges for Those on the Autism Spectrum | Grantford Financial Aid Blog (2023)

Best schools where those with autism can succeed best.

Main image courtesy of the Autism Research Institute.

Autism, or Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is best defined as a neurological and developmental disorder that affects how people interact with others, communicate, learn, and behave. Autism can be diagnosed at any age, even though it is described as a developmental disorder because symptoms don’t generally arise in the first two years of life.

Most common types of symptoms in those with autism:

(Video) Best Colleges for Autistic Students

  • Struggling with communication and interaction in regards to other people.
  • Restricted interests and repetitive behaviors
  • Symptoms that affect their ability to function in areas like school and work.

Tendencies of those with autism in social interactions:

  • Making little to no eye contact.
  • Appearing not to look at or listen to people that have been talking.
  • Not sharing much interest, emotion, or enjoyment of objects or activities (including by infrequently pointing at or showing things to others).
  • Not responding at all or being slow to respond to one’s name or verbal bids for attention
  • Having difficulties with the two channels of conversation.
  • Talking a lot about a favorite subject without noticing that others are not interested or not letting anyone else respond.
  • Displaying facial expressions, movements, and gestures that do not match whatever is being said.
  • Having an unusual tone of voice that may sound sing-song like.
  • Having trouble understanding another person’s point of view or being unable to predict or understand other people’s actions.
  • Difficulties adjusting behaviors in social situations.
  • Difficulties making friends.

Autism & Schooling

It’s important for students with autism to have a bit more of a structured environment that will be destined to make them thrive. Instructional support is vital in the classroom setting, and most students with autism learn better through visual guides and demonstrations.

IDEA, or the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, is set in place to ensure autistic students in the public school setting receive a free and appropriate public education. Autisitc children in school will also have an IEP, or Individualized Education Plan. In this plan, several benchmarks will be laid out based on what needs and goals the child has.

Colleges Best for those with Autism

In total, there’s an estimated 1.8 to 2.6 million college students that are somewhere on the autism spectrum. This makes it important for colleges everywhere to take the needs/goals of autistic students seriously. Check out these top schools that have the best programs for autistic students.

(Video) College Scholarships for Autism

Appalachian State University

Appalachian State University is home to a chapter of Autism Speaks Inc. which is currently the largest autism advocacy organization in the country. The mission of Autism Speaks is to promote autism awareness within communities and resemble an advocate for people with autism. Autism Speaks also tries to engage members in fundraising events for autism research. Autism Speaks was first founded in 2005 and has grown into the largest autism awareness and advocacy organization in the United States. Autism Speaks was also first launched nationally in 2008. There are over 50 official Autism Speaks chapters nationwide. Since the first inaugural event at Penn State in 2006, Autism Speaks events have raised over $1 million and student-organized Walk teams have brought in millions and millions more.

Through Autism Speaks, students at Appalachian State with autism have access to:

  • Special events
  • Different social networking efforts
  • Academic and career services
  • Counseling and other types of support for therapy

The university itself also supports various research efforts regarding autism, offers courses on Autism Spectrum Disorders as a subject, and even provides various students with Autism Spectrum Disorders Certificates.

Saint Joseph’s University

Top Colleges for Those on the Autism Spectrum | Grantford Financial Aid Blog (1)

Students with autism who attend Saint Joseph’s University have a very high graduation rate, at 85%! This strong level of college completion is due in part to the college’s Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support, which helps both students and even the general population. This autism center first opened in 2009, but the college’s autism activities have been happening since long before the center had opened, with the college’s first autism awareness day taking place in April of 2004.

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The autism support program, ASPIRE, will cost you about $6,000 per year. The Kinney Center for Autism has also been expanding its college support program to virtually serve individuals with autism at campuses throughout the entire country. Over the past decade, ASPIRE students have accomplished an 84% success rate. Collegexpress, College Autism Spectrum and Savingforcollege are all sources that have strongly recommended Saint Joseph’s University.

The ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder Endorsement) at Saint Joseph’s is endorsed by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, and features a curriculum that has a primary focus on assessment and research-based strategies. The program also places special emphasis on skill development and behavioral modification for students of all ages that have been diagnosed somewhere on the autism spectrum.

University of West Florida

The University of West Florida is an ideal place for autistic students that generally need some type of one-on-one assistance. The university offers individualized social, academic, and career support for its autistic students through their “Argos for Autism” program, where professional coaches help students transition into their college life and help with any kind of academic planning. The school also offers an early move-in program for ASD students at just $100, which will include two days of activities for undergraduates that will help them adjust to living on their own.

Service options included by the Argos Autism Program:

(Video) Q&A with College Autism Experts

  • AAP Early Arrival Program: a set of workshops that help students get adjusted to campus life prior to the start of the fall semester.
  • Accessibility Coaching: a professional staff member from the Student Accessibility will help students navigate campus resources and a variety of different accommodation needs.
  • Academic Coaching: Student staff members will provide assistance with time management and academic support.

Marshall University

The College Program for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder at Marshall University was first created in 2002. Autistic students who participated in the program have met acceptance criteria for Marshall University and have been admitted to The College Program through a separate application process. The program uses a positive behavior support approach to help any participating students. Social, communication, academic, leisure and personal living skills are evaluated through individual planning. Personal goals and strategies are created based on whatever needs the student may have. Students can expect to learn valuable skills that will help them lead a fulfilled productive life.

Marshall University also has its own Autism Training Center. Admission to the center is about $3,200 a semester. This may seem like a pretty expensive fee, but because of additional funds the school does a great job at providing exceptional support to students with autism. Students get one-on-one interaction with advisors daily so they can plan to-dos for the days and set goals. Students will gain confidence, skills to help in the job market, and overall improvements in progression. Students will also get to meet with professors often to help them succeed even further individually.

Top Colleges for Those on the Autism Spectrum | Grantford Financial Aid Blog (2)

Kent State University

Kent State University is known for its excellent support of students with autism. The school offers a variety of different services for students with autism that will help give them a number of different options to choose from. The Autism Advocates Program at Kent State was created to help students develop strategies for academic and personal success. Another program at Kent State is the College Success for Students with Asperger’s or Autism, a program that offers job assistance, self-advocacy work, and individualized academic support.

Finally, the PALS program (Partnering for Achievement and Learning Success) partners ASD students with students that are neurotypical to help them develop their social skills. This program allows the student to meet with their advocate approximately six times a year (three times in the fall and three times in the spring) to create strategies that will lead to academic success. It’s important to note that all information shared between the student and advocate is kept confidential.

(Video) College "tricks" essential for those with Aspergers

With the proper resources, autistic students are more than capable of thriving in college which will lead to greater success later in life.


What is the best college major for autistic students? ›

Other good majors are: accounting, engineering, library science, and art with an emphasis on commercial art and drafting. Majors in history, political science, business, English or pure math should be avoided.

What type of school is best for high functioning autism? ›

If you have a high-functioning child who would do well in a diverse population, public school might work well. If your child requires more individualized attention or specific kinds of therapies, a private, specialized school may be the best fit.

What state is the most autism friendly? ›

Best and Worst States for Autism

Colorado, New York, Maryland, and Connecticut typically rank high as the states providing the most benefits to autistic people in all age groups.

What is the average GPA for autistic people? ›

Academic Achievement

Overall, the sample reported a high degree of academic success. The average reported GPA for the sample was 3.27, with 80 percent of individuals reporting GPAs above 3.0.

Why is college hard for autistic students? ›

Because college comes with so many new responsibilities, autistic students may have a hard time managing their time and staying on track. Living independently, taking care of daily needs, managing homework and schedules — dealing with all these things at once can be overwhelming.

What is the highest degree of autism? ›

Level 3 is the most severe level of autism. People with level 3 autism have limited ability to speak clearly. Difficulty with both verbal and nonverbal communication makes it challenging to interact with others. This level of autism requires a higher level of support throughout life.

Where do people with severe autism go? ›

Skilled nursing facilities

Adults with the most severe needs, especially older ones, may need the support of a skilled nursing facility. These homes provide 24/7 care and supervision. They are often very expensive, but Medicaid may help cover the costs.

What is the benefit for high functioning autism? ›

Higher intelligence: Many people with HFA are really smart and have a great memory along with a strong vocabulary and ability to think visually. This helps them to think outside the box and be creative problem solvers. Honest and accepting: They'll be honest and tell you the truth.

Can an autistic child become a doctor? ›

The limiting reality factor to completing medical school and residency, then functioning as a physician, would be the extent of the underlying disability. With autism, for example, the disability can range from severe (low functioning) to minor (high functioning).

What is the most autistic country in the world? ›

The country with the highest rate of diagnosed autism in the world is Qatar, and the country with the lowest rate is France. Around 4 times as many boys have autism as girls. The rate of autism in the U.S. went from 1 in 150 in 2000 to 1 in 100 in 2022.

What is the color for autism support? ›

On world autism awareness day, April 2nd, you may see plenty of blue being shown off to support autism awareness. The color blue's association to autism originated with the autism advocacy association known as Autism Speaks. Their “Light it Up Blue” campaign calls for people to wear blue to promote autism awareness.

Is autism is Hereditary? ›

Inheritance. ASD has a tendency to run in families, but the inheritance pattern is usually unknown. People with gene changes associated with ASD generally inherit an increased risk of developing the condition, rather than the condition itself.

Is college hard for autistic students? ›

Although some individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may find college overwhelming or too challenging, many students with autism do well in an academic environment, particularly if they have the opportunity to focus on areas of personal interest.

What percent of autistic adults are married? ›

About 35% of autistic people are married, though such figures don't always take into account people that aren't diagnosed or have received a potential misdiagnosis.

What is the unemployment rate for autism? ›

More than 66% of young adults on the Autism spectrum are unemployed and are not engaged in higher education 2 years after exiting high school.

How do autistic people study best? ›

Make sure you begin your revision on time and know which materials you need to learn. Find out if you will have multiple choice or open questions. Practice doing old exam papers and let fellow students test you. Find a quiet place in the exam room with few distractions.

How to succeed in college with autism? ›

  1. Acquaint yourself with the disabilities services office BUT don't make any assumptions about their knowledge of AS. ...
  2. Consider disclosure, on an as-needed basis. ...
  3. Find activity-based clubs. ...
  4. Smaller is not always better. ...
  5. Choose a campus first, then establish your network of support. ...
  6. Take care of yourself.

What accommodations do autistic students get in college? ›

Accommodations will vary among ASD students. Some common examples include allowing for more time to get to class, note-takers in the class, and alternative testing locations. Additional accommodations might include having a special room in the dormitory or having a special place to go during sensory overloads.

What is the life expectancy of someone with autism? ›

Long-term research that involved following a group of individuals with autism for two decades indicates that the average life expectancy for some autistic people is about 39 years. Furthermore, this population generally succumbed to health complications about 20 years earlier than individuals who do not have autism.

What is the hardest part of being autistic? ›

Due to the behavioural, information processing and sensory aspects of their diagnosis, many people on the autism spectrum often prefer familiar environments with a predictable routine. Restricted and repetitive interests, sensory processing differences and heightened anxiety can make even small changes stressful.

Can autism improve with age? ›

In fact, children can improve and get better. "We found that nearly 30% of young children have less severe autism symptoms at age 6 than they did at age 3.

What happens when my autistic child turns 18? ›

Parents of children with special needs should be concerned with who will make medical and financial decisions once the child turns 18. Once a child reaches 18, the parents can no longer legally make decisions for them. The child is presumed be an adult and therefore have the ability to make his or her own decisions.

Where is the best place in the world to live with autism? ›

Being autism-friendly: big steps for two small towns

Clonakilty in County Cork, Ireland, and Austin in Minnesota, United States are two communities that have chosen to embrace neurodiversity, and more specifically, autism.

What countries don t allow autistics to immigrate? ›

Canada considered Autism to be a “burden” on the state's healthcare system, and hence refused to allow any Autistic people to immigrate to their country until 2018 . New Zealand still denies entry to Autistic immigrants . Australia denies Autistic kids visas.

What is high-functioning autism called now? ›

As of 2013, Asperger syndrome and high-functioning autism are no longer terms used by the American Psychological Association, and have instead both been merged into autism spectrum disorder (ASD). As of 2021, the World Health Organization also retired the terms and merged them into autism spectrum disorder.

What are the weakness of a child with autism? ›

Kids with autism experience “deficits in developing, maintaining, and understanding relationships, ranging, for example, from difficulties adjusting behavior to suit various social contexts; to difficulties in sharing imaginative play or in making friends; to the absence of interest in peers (DSM-5).”

What benefits do autistic adults get? ›

There are two programs that people with autism can use to receive Social Security disability benefits: the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program and the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program.

Are there any real doctors with autism? ›

Surveys estimate that about 1 percent of doctors — primarily general practitioners and psychiatrists — are autistic. Many hide their diagnosis from their colleagues because they worry they will be stigmatized.

Can autistic people drive? ›

Yes, they can and do. According to research conducted at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), two-thirds of 15- to 18-year-old autistic adolescents without intellectual disability are currently driving or planning to drive, and 1 in 3 autistic individuals without intellectual disability get licensed by age 21.

What level of autism does the good doctor have? ›

Shaun has Asperger's Syndrome, which is a developmental disability on the autism spectrum. Those with Asperger's typically possess normal language skills and intelligence, but have difficulty with social interaction, and nonverbal communication like recognizing facial cues.

Why is autism increasing? ›

The CDC says more children are being diagnosed with autism than ever before. The rates may reflect growing awareness of autism spectrum disorder and a focus on getting more children into treatment. Other factors including air pollution, low birth weight, and stress may also be behind the increase in diagnoses.

What country singer has autism? ›

Born eight weeks premature in 1995, country singer Cutter Elliott was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, autism, and is both partly blind and deaf. Yet, he continues to defy the odds.

What flower represents autism? ›

Blue “Forget-me-not” flower to raise awareness for the needs of people with autism.

What emoji is used for autism? ›

Gold or rainbow infinity sign for autism

The use of a rainbow spectrum in the infinity symbol was designed to drive awareness of the diversity among neurodivergent individuals.

What color day is autism? ›

The “Light It Up Blue” campaign championed by Autism Speaks has popularized the link between the color blue and autism. The campaign occurs every April 2nd, which is set out as World Autism Awareness Day. On this day, the autism advocacy group calls on people from all walks of life to embrace the color light blue.

Which parent carries autism gene? ›

Since autism is less prevalent in females, autism was always thought to be passed down from the mother. However, research suggests that autism genes are usually inherited from the father.

What foods affect autism? ›

The strongest direct evidence of foods linked to autism involves wheat and dairy, and the specific proteins they contain – namely, gluten and casein. These are difficult to digest and, especially if introduced too early in life, may result in an allergy.

Who causes autism mom or dad? ›

Autism was always thought to have a maternal inheritance component, however, research suggests that the rarer variants associated with the disorder are usually inherited from the father.

Should I tell my college I have autism? ›

Disclosing on college applications

The question of whether to disclose autism in college applications, however, is a very personal decision. In general, there's no reason to assume that disclosure will either help or hurt a student's chances of being admitted.

What percentage of people with autism have a college degree? ›

RESULTS: For youth with an ASD, 34.7% had attended college and 55.1% had held paid employment during the first 6 years after high school.

Do autistic people prefer other autistic people? ›

Although autistic people may struggle to interact with others, many autistic people have said they find interacting with other autistic people more comfortable.

How do autistic people show love? ›

Love and affection may be felt but expressed differently

They may show love, for example, through a practical act, and tidy up for you, or iron your shirt, rather than through a more neurotypical way of looking at you and telling you or using physical affection.

Can autistic person fall in love? ›

In short, autistic people are more than capable of love and being in romantic relationships. Being in a relationship with an autistic person may just look a little different than what you're used to.

What state has the most help for autism? ›

Colorado, New York, Maryland, and Connecticut typically rank high as the states providing the most benefits to autistic people in all age groups.

Can high functioning autism get Social Security? ›

Yes, autism is considered a disability that is eligible for benefits, providing the correct requirements are met. The SSA's Blue Book covers what conditions children with ASD must have to qualify for benefits.

Does the government pay people with autism? ›

Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, is a monthly government payment through Social Security which is designed to support people who are aged (65 and older), blind, or disabled. Individuals with autism may be eligible to receive SSI to help support them financially.

Can autistic people do well in college? ›

Although some individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may find college overwhelming or too challenging, many students with autism do well in an academic environment, particularly if they have the opportunity to focus on areas of personal interest.

What of people with autism graduate college? ›

According to a study by psychologist Susan W. White, only 41% of students with disabilities, including autism, enrolled in a four-year college will graduate with a bachelor's degree.

What percentage of autistic adults have a college degree? ›

RESULTS: For youth with an ASD, 34.7% had attended college and 55.1% had held paid employment during the first 6 years after high school.

What accommodations can autistic people get in college? ›

Accommodations will vary among ASD students. Some common examples include allowing for more time to get to class, note-takers in the class, and alternative testing locations. Additional accommodations might include having a special room in the dormitory or having a special place to go during sensory overloads.

How does autism affect academically? ›

Children with autism often face unique challenges in school and learning overall. They may need more time to understand concepts or an IEP (Individualized Education Plan). On top of delays in cognitive development, autistic children are affected by other hindrances, such as sensory issues and behavior problems.

Can autism make it hard to study? ›

Studying can be difficult for some individuals with autism in college. For myself, focusing on work for hours at a time was a major struggle. I'd recommend trying a few different study strategies before picking one that works for you.

What percentage of gifted students are autistic? ›

In the United States, 1 in 59 children is autistic. About 70% of autistic people have an intellectual disability, which means they have an IQ lower than 70. The remaining 30% have intelligence that ranges from average to gifted. Autism and intelligence are two separate characteristics.

What is most common in students with autism? ›

Anxiety is common in autistic children, and 40-60% of autistic children have it. Social anxiety is one of the most common anxiety disorders. Social anxiety probably happens because autistic people often have a style of interacting that can make socialising difficult for them.

Why do autistic people struggle to find jobs? ›

On the whole, however, autistic people tend to face problems in the workplace, like interpersonal issues or sensory overload. Workplace issues may lead to autistic people leaving jobs, being overlooked for promotions, or experiencing work-related mental health issues.


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