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Autism and the University Experience: Narratives from Students with Neurodevelopmental Disorders

Abstract

Relatively limited research has been devoted to understanding the postsecondary experience from the students’ perspectives. In the current study, individual interviews were conducted with university students with autism spectrum disorder (n = 13) and students with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (n = 18) to investigate likely factors impeding meaningful postsecondary experiences. Through an iterative coding process, nine themes were identified, and direct narratives exemplifying each are included. Overall, both diagnostic groups reported significant social, emotional, and academic challenges within the university setting, although there were distinctions. Findings have direct applications to higher education initiatives, such as the development of programs to increase faculty awareness and to target the efforts of university disability centers in meeting the needs of students with neurodevelopmental disorders.

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Acknowledgments

This work was supported by funding from the American College Health Foundation, the SEARCH Family Autism Resource Center and Academic Senate intramural funding from the University of California, Riverside. We appreciate the time and effort contributed by all study participants.

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Authors

Contributions

YB participated in the study design and coordination, interpretation of the data, performed the statistical analysis, and drafted the manuscript; SMZ participated in study design and coordination, interpretation of the data, and helped to draft the manuscript; JB conceived of the study, participated in its design and coordination, interpretation of the data, and helped to draft the manuscript; All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jan Blacher.

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Bolourian, Y., Zeedyk, S.M. & Blacher, J. Autism and the University Experience: Narratives from Students with Neurodevelopmental Disorders. J Autism Dev Disord 48, 3330–3343 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-018-3599-5

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-018-3599-5

Keywords

  • Emerging adults
  • ASD
  • ADHD
  • University student
  • Postsecondary education