Community college: more gradual transition into adulthood

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Faced with the prospect of entering the overwhelming social and academic challenges of a four-year college or university, many students on the spectrum and their families are choosing to go the route of community colleges. Attending local schools makes it possible to continue to stay within the home and community support system and provides the opportunity to transition more slowly into becoming independent adults. Also, with generally smaller classes in these institutions, instructors tend to have more time to give more individualized attention to their students.

Colleges are legally required to ensure equal opportunity for academically qualified students. Accepted practices include providing note-takers and extra time on tests. In addition to academic supports many programs offer life-skills training such as using public transportation, budgeting, and other independent living skills. Schools of higher education may not be as well equipped to provide the social supports for our higher functioning adults on the spectrum. However, increasingly, colleges are providing extra advisory time, giving credit to peers for mentoring and offering social skills courses geared to meet their specific needs. There is no recognized standard, so schools differ in terms of what they are able and willing to offer their students.

In order to prepare both their adolescent child and the college for the transition to postsecondary education, many families take advantage of programs that allow for students aged 16 or older who again qualify academically to take one or more courses while still attending high school. In fact, many districts provide funding for seniors to attend local community colleges on a part-time basis.

This experience can allow the student to study subjects that particularly interest her and increase motivation. These forays into a bit of the “real world” can also be an early indicator of what the specific student may require as he transition to full-time college. It is also important to note that many students feel tremendous relief when released from the clearly defined social order of high school and they blossom!

Contact your local school district to find out what options are available.


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