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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Self-reported Experiences of Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Higher Education: A Population-based Sample

  • Author(s): Baczewski, Lauren Marie
  • Advisor(s): Kasari, Connie L.
  • et al.

Postsecondary education functions as the gateway to a host of positive adult outcomes, including financial independence, employment opportunities, and independent living. Despite this fact, few young adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) attend and remain enrolled in higher education. There is an urgent need for studies that better characterize college students with ASD using population-based samples. The current study examines the self-reported experiences of 206 college freshmen (N=103 students with self-identified ASD) who participated in a national survey at the end of their freshman year. ASD and no-ASD groups were matched on demographic characteristics and compared on domains of psychological stress, social self-confidence, connection to campus, self-regulated learning, and campus service use. Students with ASD reported significantly higher levels of psychological stress and significantly lower levels of social self-confidence compared to neurotypical peers. On all other domains, students with ASD were similar to their typically-developing counterparts. Findings have implications for the development of services and programs at higher education institutions that support all students.

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