Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 46, Issue 1, pp 31–41 | Cite as

Educational Experiences and Needs of Higher Education Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • Ru Ying Cai
  • Amanda L. RichdaleEmail author
Original Paper


Little research directly examines the needs of post-secondary students with ASD. The experiences and support needs of 23 students with ASD enrolled in two universities and four colleges, and 15 family members were explored in 15 semi-structured focus groups. Thematic analysis identified five themes: core ASD features, co-morbid conditions, transition, disclosure, and services and support. Most students felt educationally but not socially supported; most families felt support was poor in both areas. Transition from secondary school was often unplanned, and disclosure of diagnosis usually occurred after enrolment, often following a significant problem. Many parents provided substantial student support. Thus disclosure of ASD diagnosis and meeting the individual needs of these students are important considerations as higher education enrolments increase.


Autism spectrum disorder Transition Higher education Students 



This research is part of a larger, multi-component study funded by the Victorian Government. The authors would like to thank the students and family members who participated in this study, as well as disability support staff at the participating universities and TAFE colleges. We would also like to thank Ms. Lindsay Pamment for assistance with the larger focus groups, Professor Cheryl Dissanayake for her contributions to the original research from which the information reported here is drawn, and Dr. Mirko Uljarevic for helpful comments on the final draft of this paper.

Author Contributions

Both authors contributed to the analysis of the data. RYC wrote the first draft and after successive edits by both authors, ALR completed and submitted the final draft.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflict of interest to disclose.

Ethical Standard

As stated in the Procedure, ethics approval was obtained from the authors’ university Human Ethics committee, permissions as required were obtained from other institutions, participation was voluntary and all participants provided informed consent.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre, School of Psychology and Public HealthLa Trobe UniversityBundooraAustralia

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