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Mike Westwood
Noodle Expert Member

April 23, 2020

This article will detail my insights on how to learn proper communication with educators as a student with autism. It will be told solely through my perspective.

For any high school or college student with a diagnosis of autism, interacting with educators can seem harder than it needs to be. I had a good support system to advocate for my services prior to my senior year of high school. I remember the day I was able to participate in one of  my Individualized Education Plan meetings with my father, Special Education teacher and other teachers to discuss my progress and what my academic future held. In that meeting, I signed a document saying I was responsible for my own self-advocacy from that point forward.

Every person on the autism spectrum has a varying degree of necessary support because autism affects anyone diagnosed with it a little more or less than each other, or on the same level. Therefore, the academic accommodations and the way the student converses with the teachers and professors will range. My diagnosis is of the higher-functioning variety, which means that I am able to function in the same manner as most people and learn the skills that most people know innately. It is up to me whether I disclose my diagnosis, but the educators in my schools and colleges still held me to the same academic expectations as my typical peers. Autism affects the social skills, as in learning how to hold conversations and read non-verbal cues, so the school systems offer social skills courses for people on the spectrum.

Colleges do not offer social skills courses, as far as I am aware of. That is where the challenges for students on the spectrum can get more extreme and the students are in a position of having to self-advocate and put in more effort than their typical peers to reach the same goal..

Fortunately, the social skills courses I took benefited me because I was able to learn the skills I would need to self-advocate. It took a delayed amount of time for me to become self-aware, but that is how a lot of people with autism develop. I have worked with a range of personalities in my academic tenure and some educators are more understanding than others.

No matter how much they understand or misunderstand, the educators have the prerogative to expect the students on the spectrum to do the same work as everyone else. It would be easier for the students if certain educators were more understanding about neurodiversity, but I believe being realistic is appropriate. I am an example of an undergraduate student who has dealt with these situations and while some educators may not think the way people on the spectrum do, as long as the student tries, those educators will be more cooperative and supportive. The college professors are not always trained to be Special Educators and may not have worked with students with mental conditions, so the students with autism are at a bit of a disadvantage in that aspect. As my situation showed, there are solutions to that disadvantage.

Autism is becoming more common, so more educators are going to get experience working with people on the spectrum. It is very hard to predict how that will work out for the student because of how autism can be a factor socially. In those situations, hopefully it works out for the student and they can earn their diploma and later, degree. Communication is key for self-advocacy, so the more the students learn, the better off they will be.

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