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Transcript for December 1, 2017

>> Hi. Good afternoon. My name is Veronica Carranza, and today, I'll be sharing the focus of my dissertation research with you. And, the topic of my study is community college students on the autism spectrum. So, why did I choose to focus my research in this area? Autism Spectrum Disorders are neurological conditions that are characterized my impairment in social, communication, and behavioral domains. Two-year institutions enroll the highest percentage of students with disabilities. So, that's why I chose to focus on the community college. And, as the number of students is growing, we need to be prepared to work with these incoming students. Much of the existing research that I found focused a lot on the K12 system or at the processing, I'm sorry, at the university level because of the residential programs. So, there seemed to be a gap in the research looking at those two-year institutions. And, although many students who are on the spectrum have high cognitive academic abilities, they do encounter challenges when they make that transition from the high school into postsecondary education. So, if we look here at some statistics, in 2002, 1 in 150 individuals were diagnosed to be on the autism spectrum, and in the span of 10 years, you look at 2012, that number is now 1 in 68, and that is the current number according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is 1 in 68 students are diagnosed to be on the autism spectrum.

And, if we look at the differences between what happens in the K12 system versus what happens in postsecondary education, the legal requirements are different in the K12 system. Students who are diagnosed with a disability are entitled to a free and appropriate public education. And, they have what's called an individualized education program. So, you look at the individual and look at those individual strengths and areas of need, and then you tailor the support for what each individual student needs. Usually have a team of parent, teachers, specialized personnel in the areas that the student requires supports in working with the student, following them throughout their K12 education, ensuring that they're receiving the supports along the way. Once the students transition into postsecondary ed., however, the law changes. Then, now, we must just make it accessible and provide reasonable accommodation. And, many of the colleges provide a menu from which the students can choose from. A notetaker. They can have preferential seating, extended time on tests, or be able to take their exams in a different location. Being able to record the lectures, but this is what all the students get to choose from.

There's not something that's saying, okay, what do you need, and what do you need, and what do you need. As we know that there may be different needs between those students. And, the most important factor is that in the K12 system, you had a team working with that student, but now, the responsibility falls on the individual themselves. They, now, have to disclose that they have a disability, and they have to self-advocate. And, for this population that social skills are challenging, they must approach every professor in every class and ask for the accommodation so that they can be successful in college. So, there's a shift in responsibility from the team to, now, the individual. So, again, given the growing number of students on the spectrum who are entering the community college, we need to understand what are their experiences, and how can we best help them? The purpose of my study was to understand the concepts of self-efficacy and self-determination among students on the spectrum who were participating in a support group on campus. And, I wanted to understand how are they managing, not only their academic experiences, but their social experiences as well.

So, the theoretical frameworks undergirding my study were Albert Bandura's theory of self-efficacy. We look at the four components, you see mastery experience. That means, let's say, for example, me as an individual, I take on challenges, and if I'm successful, then I say, "Wow, that's great! I'm going to try more of these same types of challenges." If I have a negative experience with that, then I might tend to not attempt as many of those. Vicarious experience is when I see another person who I may see as similar to me attempt those challenges, and then, I kind of tell myself, "Well, if they did it, and they were successful, then I can do it, too." It doesn't seem as daunting to me. Verbal persuasion, that's either positive or negative reinforcement. "You can do it. I know you can do this. You've got this," or "Oh, I don't know if that's, if you're going to be able to accomplish that," right? So, that can go both ways, positive or negative. And then, the physiological feedback that's what's going on, you know, with the person themselves. They might be feeling nervous, have a knot in their throat, have sweaty hands, as they are attempting to complete a challenge or a task. And, that was paired with Michael Wehmeyer's Functional Theory of Self-Determination. And, what that means is that what do I have control of? I can be in charge of the choices that I make, and so, self-efficacy, if you think of a person that has, that has had positive experiences, that tends to build up their self-efficacy that the way that they view themselves.

And so, they're going to be determined to take on more challenges and become more independent. The research questions that I focused on were what are the college experiences of students on the autism spectrum, and then, how can the postsecondary institution help the students to be successful? Now, when I started the program, I looked at the two different types of research that I could focus on. I could either focus on quantitative or qualitative, and I realized that, for me, going the qualitative route was most important because I wanted to really understand the participants. I wanted to know what their personal experience was, and I wanted to hear their voices. And, for many of these students, they have not had the opportunity to express their personal experiences. And, it was a collaborative effort. I didn't want to put them into an experimental situation and say, "Okay. These are the results of it." I wanted to work with the students, not on them and really include them in that process.

Again, so that, because their voice is important, I wanted to make sure that their voices were heard. I chose a case study methodology because I really wanted to look at the program that the students were participating in at that site. This program that was tailored to their experiences. How are they receiving support to be successful on the college campus? And, again, when you look at a case study, you're able to gather information from many different sources. So, again, the program that I looked at was the Prism Program at on community college, and I chose to interview students and the parents of those students. And then, I asked the students if they could give me, they could provide two or three names of personnel on the campus that had been instrumental to them having a positive college experience. And so, they provided those names, and then I invited those participants. And, I also wanted to interview the program coordinators to find out how did the program begin, what types of strategies were they implementing at these students, what types of supports were they providing? I also conducted observations of those Prism Program meetings, and I conducted a document review. I went onto the website to see what information were they providing, and I found that they not only provided information for students. But they had resources there for the parents and for other personnel, college personnel as well. And then, I also looked at what specifically was this program providing for the students? And so, I also looked at the curriculum that they were using during those sessions.

Now, once I gathered all of that information, then I conducted both a live in case analysis and a cross case analysis. So, if you take a look at this chart, we'll look at case one. We had a student participant. The parent did not respond, and we had two college personnel members that contributed to establishing that case for Anna as well as information from the program coordinators. And then, we have case two was Bobby. We spoke to his mother, [inaudible], and one of his professors, Bianca. And, case three, we had Christopher, his mother Cheryl, and was unable to gather information from the college personnel that was invited to participate for both his case for Daniel's case as well. So, let's start with our first case, Anna. So, she's 28 years old. She lives at home with her parents and her sister, but she did not find out that she was on the autism spectrum until she was 24 years old. She has another diagnosis, which she refers to as a mental condition. When she initially enrolled at that community college, she was there for three years, but she shared that she struggled, she really didn't find her place. She used to spend a lot of time in the college library because she wasn't aware that there were clubs on campus that she could join. So, she says it wasn't very successful the first time that she attended, however once she learned of her diagnosis, then she started seeing a therapist. And, she reenrolled again in 2014.

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Now, at the time of the interview, she was two classes away from obtaining her associates degree in Landscape Occupations. And, she says she wants to be a horticultural therapist so that she can help others. Okay. And then, we have Bobby, he's 21 years old. He found out he was on the autism spectrum when he was 17 years old, and he wasn't told by his family members. He found out in high school through his teachers and the aids that he was working with. At the time of this interview, Bobby was currently in a transition program, so he was still enrolled in high school. But, he was starting to take courses at the community college to get him used to the environment and the expectations. But, he did mention that he was going to be turning 22 years old, and that meant he was no longer going to be able to participate in the program at the high school. And, he was going to make the full transition into the community college. His focus on obtaining a job was to work at an AMC or at a Regal movie theater. Then, we have Christopher. He was the youngest participant, 18 years old. He had just started the college. I think it was his second semester of college. He still lives at home with his parents and a younger brother. And, when asked what his purpose was for attending community college, he said, "Well, my short-term goal is I want to work in child services, but I have a long-term goal of opening up my own practice in psychology.

And so, I know that I'm going to need a doctorate for that." So, he had his plan set out already. And then, Daniel, our last case, is 23 years old. He was different from the other three students in that he actually found out that he was on the spectrum. He knew from a very young age. He wasn't able to recall at what age, but he knew from a very young age that he was on the spectrum. And, he had been attending that college for the past five years, and he didn't share a goal for his purpose for attending college. He shared that he also has a younger brother at home who's also autistic, and he mentioned that his brother is more severe on the spectrum. And so, that mother's attention is mostly directed towards his brother instead of himself. Although, they had both on the spectrum. So, once I interviewed all of the participants, conducted the observations, looked at all of the documentation, these were the themes that I came up with. So, the findings were forming identity was very important. Remember that three of the four students found out that they were on the spectrum until they were adults. Difficulties with organization. The challenges of academic and social expectations. And then, the themes for answering the second question were awareness.

There needs to more awareness. We need to provide more support, and professional development was the need that many of the faculty and staff expressed that they would like to have. So, with the theme of forming identities, here's Anna sharing. "So, I just got through life until my 20s, and then I thought, 'So, this is why I'm different from other people.'" So, imagine when you're forming your own identity, if we go back to that self-efficacy and self-determination, you think about the experiences that you've had throughout your life that helps to form the person that you are today. And, imagine having that piece missing. And then, all of a sudden, you have to start learning about that part of yourself that you didn't really know about. And, I really love this quote. "With my other diagnosis, I'll say, 'I have that,' instead of 'I'm a person with that,' because, to me, I have it. It doesn't have me. So, with autism, well, sometimes, I say I'm on the spectrum, and sometimes, I say, 'You know, what, I am autistic.'" One of the questions that I ask the students, how do they self-identify because in the literature that I was reading articles, some people say that you should use person first language, "An individual with autism," and other studies say that you should use, for example, "That person is autistic." And, what I gathered from interviewing the students is ask the person, "How do you, how do you self-identify?" instead of making that assumption or creating that label for that person.

>> Is it sort of like people when you say their deaf? You know, they don't use, like, I'm a person who is deaf [inaudible]. I'm deaf. You know, so is it like a type of pride in a sense? Like a type of acceptance of?

>> I am autistic and seeing it as it's not a problem. There's nothing wrong with it. Anna actually, the official diagnosis is ASD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, but she said that she didn't really like that. Because the word disorder, the connotation that it's a negative thing or that it's a problem that needs to be fixed. And so, she, if you notice, she never uses the word disorder. She either says, "I'm on the spectrum," or "You know what, I am I autistic." And so, again, she's participating in the support program, she's learning about the diagnosis. She's choosing for herself what, how she wants to be referred to, right? Which is important for her as an individual. With Bobby, he said he wants to be independent so that his mom wouldn't worry about him. And, by participating in this program, it helps him think about himself. The talks, and these are his words. He talks about the autism when they're in that support group. So, they're learning what is this? What is autism, and how does it affect me. Or, what are the characteristics that I display through that diagnosis? Now, one thing that I found interesting is when I interviewed his mother, and one of the questions was, "When did you tell your child that they were on the autism spectrum?"

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And, mom answered, "I don't think he knows. I don't think he's self-aware." But, I had already interviewed, and I knew that he was self-aware because we had had that conversation. But, his mother, that was her answer. And, when I first heard that, I remember thinking, "Wait a minute. There's a disconnect here. He says that he knows he is, but yet, you're saying he's not. Why haven't you had that conversation?" So, as a researcher, I had to step back and check my bias for making those judgements, but on the other hand, as a parent of a son who's also on the spectrum, I had to look at myself and I had not had the conversation with my own son. And, having gone through this research study, learning more about it, that prompted me to have the conversation with him. And, I think that's very important if you go back and look at self-efficacy and self-determination. The sooner that person knows what their strengths are and what their areas of need are, then the better they can self-advocate, and say, you know what, I'm okay here. But, I need a little more help in this area. And so, that's what helped to prompt my own personal decision. Okay. And then, with the other two students, Christopher was not told by his family.

What happened, he said, is he had gone to the emergency room, and when his mother was speaking to the doctor, he overheard his mother telling her that he was on the autism spectrum. And so, he says, "I'm just sitting there in the ER, like, when were you going to tell me this? I mean, I've dealt with it my whole life. Honestly, I would have found it a little easier if they told me when I was in middle school." So, if you think about that, too, and look at what's happening, what happens to all of us, right, in middle school. You're going through puberty. It's a very challenging period to begin with for all of us because you're trying to form your identity, but then, not having, again, that piece, that very important piece of who you are missing. But then, when I interviewed mom, then I looked at it from the parent's perspective. "He's always had labels. I didn't want him to have one more. If you talked to him, you wouldn't know he was on the scale. He's worked very hard to hide it. He does pretty well to assimilate to what most people call normal in society." So, again, you can initially make that judgement and say, "Well, why is she seeing it as a negative thing?" Well, maybe the message is that she, as a parent, has received from society is that this is not okay. There's a problem with this. And so, as parents, we try to protect our children, and perhaps, that was, that was her reasoning for doing that. And then, when the parents were asked, "What was the most difficult thing about having a child with this diagnosis?" she said having to be his voice.

Because his biological father felt he was broken and that there were others that felt that along the way. If you try to think what was her situation, the messages that she was getting and how that influences the decisions that she makes regarding her own child. With Daniel, when he was asked why he was attending community college, he said. You remember, he, at the time of the interview, he was there for five years. He said, "So that way, I could be with other people and how to fit in. Understanding what makes me special, what makes me different from others." But, he also wanted to know what do I do in social situations, learning what to do. Another one of the themes was that these students have, were having difficulty with organizational skills. Anna says, "Oh, sometimes my brain gets all jumbled in there." She did have a planner to help her stay organized. Christopher mentioned that he had a planner as well, and that he needs to keep a pattern or else he'll have a meltdown. And, but the good thing is that he is aware of that, and so he knows, oh, this is going to start causing me some anxiety. I need to ensure that I keep that planner and follow it to help with my organizational skills. And, Bobby was, remember, Bobby was a student who was still at the high school, but he was beginning to make that transition into the community college. He was taking a few courses, getting ready to transition. However, he knew that as soon as he turns 22, he is no longer going to have that support base at the high school because he's going to make the full transition into the community college. So, he was worried about having to do everything by himself, and he started to display some anxious behavior when he was answering that question. And then, we moved on to a different question. Yes?

[ Inaudible Comment ]

Yeah, so what happened in Bobby's case, he was still at high school, but that he'd mention, he would mention his transition teacher had helped him come onto campus, show him how to register, walk through the whole process of how, you know, you find your classes, where are the professor's offices in case I need to contact them. And, he was actually participating in the anime club and I can't remember the other club that he was participating in. And so, not only was he making that academic transition with the help of someone, but he was starting to find groups to be with. So, that socialization helped as well. Bianca was one of the professors that he had said had helped him, but when I asked her about his experiences, she also said that he had difficulty with organizational skills and the critical thinking. Very literal which that tends to be one of the characteristics of students who are on the spectrum, right? Okay. And then, the academic and social expectations. Remember that when students are in the K12 system, they have a team that's guiding them, helping them. They're receiving that support along the way, but even to them, once they made that transition into college, it was a huge shock.

Christopher mentioned that you're responsible for yourself now, and you have to make that call. Daniel mentioned that he had difficulty with the classes. They were more difficult when he got to the college campus, but the interesting part, also, is he said sometimes it's the teaching methods. And so, when you think about, okay, well, how are these, the instructors presenting the material? Are they giving students options? Are they saying you're forced to work in groups when that may be something that's difficult for that student or that causes anxiety, or maybe they have a lot to say, but in that situation, they may shut down. And, the professor might think, oh, well, this person's not participating or even a group members might make that assumption. When, in fact, they probably, you know, may need another strategy to help, to help bridge that, right? And, maybe not have such a large group, but maybe make it a partner activity where they just are speaking to one other person. And, Alan was one of the professors that we interviewed. "College requires self-motivation on the student's part." And, there's that critical thinking again, right? That there's not always one right answer. It's okay to think differently than others.

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With Anna, I really enjoyed the, I enjoyed the interview with all of the students because I got to see their perspective. But, with Anna, I recall sharing a lot of laughs and just the back and forth conversations that she had. She said, "We were focusing more on the social aspects of navigating through college, how to do 15-minute phone calls, dating, things like don't contact someone more than three times. And, if they're not responding, then leave them alone. Otherwise, it's stalking." And, we laugh, and her and I laughed. She was laughing when she mentioned this, but when you think about it, and you think of somebody in that situation that's not aware of that, of those social rules, then when does it become an issue that may involve campus police or somebody filing a complaint or, you know, letting that situation escalate if somebody's not aware of those parameters. Steven mentioned that the, everything is different when you come to campus, the social rules, the academic rules, the classroom rules. Everything's different. Everything changes. [inaudible], Bobby's mom, remember, she's the mom that thought her son was not aware, was not self-aware that he was on the spectrum.

And, she says, "He has not been successful in some of his classes, but he has enjoyed every moment of his experience." So, for him, the focus was not so much, on mom's part, on the academic, but she was happy that he was gaining that social experience, being part of clubs, interacting with other students. But, she did mention the curriculum has not been modified for him. So, that's huge. So, from a parent's perspective, we know that in the K12 system, students have that individualized education program, right? And so, the curriculum can be modified, but for a parent to understand we can't do that at the community college. Right? And so, the rules are very different, not only for the student, but for the parent's expectations as well. So, awareness was something that everybody, all of the participants, mentioned. Remember, Anna had gone, had attended for three years, and then she left, found out about here diagnosis, began seeing a therapist. She returned to college, and she says, "When I first came here, I didn't even know there was clubs on campus. So, I just came here to the library, and I would support the Friends of the Library." And, that's where she would hang out. But, the second time she attended, she was aware of the Prism Program and other clubs that she decided to join. Alan was one of the professors, and he mentioned there no harm or shame in taking advantage of accommodations because those are there for a reason. So, he expressed that when he begins class and they're going over the syllabus, he is very purposeful about reading the DSS statement, but also letting students know. Hey, this is here for a reason. This is a support that you can use. So, make sure that you access that.

When Bianca was asked about the program, she didn't even know that that existed on the campus, and she's been an instructor there for several years. So, she mentioned that we need to publicize this program more, not only to the students, to the staff as well, because as a professor, you might be in the class, and you might see a student who is struggling or maybe some of the physical signs, you know, demonstrating anxiety. And, if they don't know that we have the support, then how are they going to find it? So, you can suggest that or mention it to the class, as well. The self-awareness is really hard. You have to figure everything out on your own, and I really like this last quote by Andy. "I don't think we can make progress until we break the stigma." And so, I really do think what I gathered from the interviews is there is a stigma in our society about, not only about any disability, but about autism. Perhaps, it's not, it's not as physically evident, and so we make assumptions about that, right? But, the more that you learn about it, the more that you know, then the more, the better you are able to provide support to the students.

Or, if you happen to be someone with a diagnosis, you know more about it for yourself. And, Anna said that she really liked being part of that support group because she could meet other students with disabilities who could understand her. And, she didn't know very much. Remember, she had just learned about her diagnosis at the age of 24, and so she was, that was her purpose for being there. She was learning about that part of herself. [inaudible] was Bobby's mom, and she said the smartest thing she did was to invest in an advocate. "I've been in education for 21 years, and I was out of my league. When it's your own child, it's really emotional." And so, imagine being somebody who's in the educational system, but yet, you think, hey, I'm surrounded by educators. I've studied. I know what to do. But, really, you're put in that situation, and there are a lot of pieces that are missing. And so, again, that awareness, getting that information out there is so important. Steven was one of the, both Steven and Sandra were the program coordinators who I interviewed. "Our students on the spectrum who desperately need that kind of space do not have it. And, this is an extremely vulnerable population.

Students we know who socially need that, the closest thing they get is the Prism Program." And so, he was referring to other groups on the campus. For example, he said, "[inaudible] have their own classroom. [inaudible], the athletes have their own, their own classroom, and these students, or their own place to go on campus." These students met for one day a week for two hours on campus was the Prism Program. And so, he said, "Out of that, there's really no place for them to go." And, I asked the students as well, and they said, "Well, if I go into the DSS office, they just have the waiting room there. So, that's really not a place where I can socialize. I go there to wait to speak to somebody." But, they didn't have an actual location on campus that they could call their own. And then, Sandra said, "We have learning disabilities specialists for other students with learning disabilities, but why not one specifically for autism? Somebody who could be the expert on campus, that could attend conferences, learn about the latest research? Somebody that parents and students and other personnel could go to?" So, having that person on campus would be important as well.

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[Inaudible Comment]

Actually, they're seeing larger numbers are entering with the diagnosis. I know speaking with many of the people on that campus and in doing the research, previously, if you go through DSS, there was not a code for autism. And so, the students would just get lumped in under other. And so, now they do have that more specific diagnosis of autism, that they are seeing that more numbers are arriving onto the campuses. One of the things that they did mention was budget cuts. You know, that's a position that they have to create, that they have to pay for, but I mean, you see how important it is. And, it makes sense to have that specialist there, right? An expert on campus that's going to serve as gathering the information and then disseminating it to the people who are working with, who are interacting with these students.

[ Inaudible Comments ]

Oh, okay.

>> Yeah.

>> So, can you clarify for me? What was the question?

>> Why don't we have [inaudible], why don't we have autism specialists like we have learning disability specialists [inaudible].

>> Oh, okay. So, one of the things that was mentioned is budget cuts. That was the most important thing. And, as I mentioned earlier, the students who were diagnosed with autism used to be lumped under the other category through DSS. But, now, they do have their own code or category that they can be, that they can be put under. So, I hope I answered that, that question. Okay. And then, professional development was a huge piece. Every person that I spoke to mentioned this as well, that many times, you want to help, but you don't really know what to do. And, Alan was one of the professors. "I would like to know things that I need to be aware of, both legal and ethical perspective." And, just from the techniques, technologies that are out there, but he doesn't even know where to begin. What questions do you even start to ask? Sandra is one of the coordinators of the program. A lot of these professors don't know what to do. We get students that are reported for being inappropriate on campus, and they end up having to go to discipline or the Dean of Students. So, the more strategies, the better. If there are more people on campus that are aware of autism, and you start to see a situation that begins to escalate, then you can implement strategies instead of running to the phone and calling campus police. Oh, we have an emergency. Somebody's getting irate or they're upset. And so, not allowing that to get to that point. And, Steven said it's like constantly playing a guessing game. I have a situation. I have a student, well, let me try this.

Oh, no, that didn't work. Let me try that. Instead of really being aware or having those tools that we can, that we can apply for the different situations. Again, that awareness. So, suggestions. What, as a result of the study, what did I find? That there are things that we can provide for the students. Remember, the biggest piece was making that transition from the K12 system into postsecondary education. We could have students attend an orientation so that they could learn about campus resources, and perhaps even visit. Where does this club meet? Where are these professors' classrooms? Where, if I have my schedule already, where is this class going to be so that the first day that they arrive, it's not overwhelming. They can attend a summer session when the campus is not as crowded. Don't have to deal with all the parking and all of those situations that can be stressful. Adding a peer mentor component to the Prism program. Now, this is very important. When I initially visited the program and I spoke with the coordinators, they used to have a peer mentor component. And, it was a student who was on the spectrum with a typical student who, perhaps, was a psychology major or majoring in social work, and so they really had an opportunity to participate in activities together. But, again, funding, budget cuts.

They weren't able to continue with that. But, they expressed, and the students expressed it as well that they remember participating in it, and that that was really helpful for them. So, a suggestion would be to bring that back. For families, providing workshops, to include a family advocacy training component. The information gathered from the parents is that the diagnosis that they had received for their, diagnosis that they had received for their children, perhaps, they didn't know as much about it, or they were getting negative messages from society. And so, they didn't even know how to handle this. When is the appropriate time to sit down with my child and have this conversation? What types of things can I do to more actively help my student, my child be successful? Also, a family night where you would just invite current families of students who are already participating on that campus with new families that are coming in because, then, they can share tips for how they have helped their children be successful. And, a meet and greet with professors prior to the beginning of the semester so that they get to know the families, they get to know the students. The students can see where is this professor's office, if I need to contact this person? With college personnel, more collaboration with the local middle and high schools.

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What types of things are you doing or have you done with these students to help prepare them for college, and it could go both ways. The middle and high school can share some strategies that perhaps the colleges can implement, and it's an opportunity for the college professors to say, "Look, these are the types of things that we're going to be doing in college. Here are some ideas that you could better help prepare students." And, creating a group of volunteer faculty and administrators on campus that could be available for consultation. I know when I've spoken to people, some people have approached me and shared, "I have a child who's on the spectrum," or "I have a family member who's on the spectrum," and compared to somebody who has no knowledge of it, they've heard the word. Maybe they know a few things about that, but have somebody that they can go to to ask questions, questions about. With the institution creating a community to include students, parents, and college personnel so that you have that team and you get the perspective of that whole group. Providing outreach to students while still in high school to create that pipeline. Out of those participants, I only had Bobby who had said that he had had that experience where he was still at the high school, but he was already slowly making the transition into the college. Providing financial support, seeking ways to increase funding, resources, and grants. While I was doing the study, and when I interviewed one of the professors, remember that Anna had mentioned that she wanted, she was pursuing her Associates degree in Landscaping Occupations.

And, I spoke to one of the professors that she recommended, and he was saying that horticultural therapy is a field that's becoming more popular. And so, for example, at our campus, that we have a garden there. And so, maybe looking at are there grants out there, partnerships, where we can bring money and perhaps have, you know, the students from this support group go in and maybe create a section in the garden that's therapeutic, so that if they're having a stressful day, a difficult situation, that there's a place on campus that they can go to just get away from that. Take a little break, and then they can return to the rest of their classes, if need be. I mentioned earlier, creating the position of an autism specialist, and this person could be in charge of maintaining the college webpage for that specific group. You know, including the most current research that is appearing. If they've gone to any conferences, attended webinars, including that information there so that college personnel, parents, and students have access to that. And, increasing professional development for faculty, staff, but most importantly campus police. Because when I interviewed the, one of the coordinators, he did mention that he has spoken, informally, to campus police, and they said, "Hey, we don't know what to do in this situation. I mean, we've had situations where things escalate very quickly, and they didn't want to go there." And so, providing that professional development for campus police as well. And so, with the focus of my study, I could only focus on this, you know, little piece, looking at the support group that was being provided on campus, but as I was doing my research, I kept thinking, things were popping in my head, "Oh, this would be really neat to explore," or "This is an area that needs exploration as well."

So, I actually conducted one on one interviews with the participants, but maybe forming focus groups for the parents, sending out, you know, surveys. So, an alternate form of methodology. Now, remember, that I was interviewing, I interviewed students who were participating in the support group on campus, but then I thought, "What about those students who aren't aware that this support group is here?" or students who have chosen not to disclose their disability. Perhaps they've had that label throughout their K12 experience, and then they think, "Hey, I'm coming to college now. I don't want to deal with that anymore." But then, we don't know what those experiences are. Are they struggling, or are they being successful, and how are they managing their college experience? So, that would be an interesting avenue to pursue as well. Learning about what other support or strategies the students are using there on the college campus, and gathering information from other institutions. My study was focused on one college campus that was providing a support group, but what else is happing out there? What else is, are we providing for these students to ensure that they have a successful college experience? Looking at what comes before the community college, what's happening at the middle and high schools. And, even the transition teachers. What types of strategies do you suggest for helping these students. And then, looking at the other end. So, what comes after community college? What's happening at the university? And so, really creating that bridge of support so that it doesn't end at the K12, but throughout their whole educational career. And, that's it. That's it. Thank you. Thank you, guys. Are there any other questions that you may have or comments? Yes.

[ Inaudible Comment ]

Oh, okay. That's great. And so, it's not just a group. Now, it's more academic?

[ Inaudible Comment ]

Yeah.

[ Inaudible Comment ]

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A noncredit. But, still, what a great experience for them because, like you said, they're in a structured environment, but in an environment that maybe is kind of like a practice, right? So, they're learning the skills and strategies and what college is about, and then they can venture into the other college courses. So, that's great. Thank you for sharing that. Okay.

>> [inaudible] see if anybody online has any.

>> Yeah, I was trying to see if there were any questions there. But the most important thing that I learned from conducting this study is [inaudible] autism, and really any other disability as not something that needs to be fixed or a problem that needs a solution. But, rather, it's just simply another human difference, right? And, how do we interact with each other, and what are the best ways to do that, right? Instead of being fearful or afraid or making assumptions, you know what? Let me open up that conversation with you and find out about your experiences. Right? So, that's the most important learning that came from conducting this study for me.

[ Inaudible Comment ]

[ Laughter ]

>> It's been around a while, and I've worked in the community college district. And, I've seen this tidal wave and all these webinars and all these conferences. And, try and concentrate [inaudible] funding is going towards that way. [inaudible] what I remember is like, as a young child is like I was fortunate to be caught up in the, they called it the independent living movement.

>> Okay.

>> Most people with significant severe disabilities were taught to self-advocate and taught to, you know, it's right around 1973 when they had the Rehabilitation Act and all that stuff came down. So, that was like a new frontier, and when I went to college, they really didn't know what to do, like, [inaudible] was like the first year or second year there.

>> Oh, my goodness.

>> So, it was like a clubhouse, you know, literally. Just like we hung out there like [inaudible] wheelchairs and stuff and networked and all that stuff. And, that's what I see what's happening now in this population here. I see it like we're not prepared. We're like throwing our hands up in the air and going, "Oh, what are we going to do?" you know. And, it's like, it's really just, and the professors are really frightened of it because it disrupts everything that they've been doing for the last 10, 15 years. So, I just see it as that, as a new situation that we're all going to have to learn how to adapt and provide services for. I don't think it's [inaudible] different than anything else. I mean, yes, there's different needs and different services that we need to be providing, but we are always needed extra support [inaudible].

>> Yeah, yeah. And, that's a very important point that you make, and when you mentioned that these students are coming to us.

>> Yeah.

>> We can't control the number of students that we are receiving, but we, our duty is to ensure a successful educational experience for them. And, some of the research refers to that as a tsunami that's coming that we are not prepared for. We see the numbers are growing. More students are coming onto our campus, and so we really need to educate ourselves on what are the best ways to provide, to provide those supports.

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>> It's funny you say this because I was [inaudible] this year, and I was talking about campuses should be providing a counselor that's an expert in the field. Not only for the students, but for the counselors.

>> Yeah, somebody to disseminate that information.

>> Exactly. So, it's funny you said that. I see the same thing happening.

>> Yeah, it's important to share that information, the knowledge, you know, like you said. Somebody goes to a conference, bring it back, and share it with your colleagues. Because the more knowledgeable we are, the more strategies and tools that we have, and the better we're going to be able to make that situation for our students.

[ Inaudible Comment ]

Yeah.

>> I believe it.

>> Yeah. And, that was, I know I mentioned earlier. Those late diagnoses, and then, and here, we're looking at the majority of my participants who were not diagnosed until they were adults, that, I think, it's just a piece. Just imagine not knowing something about yourself, and then all of a sudden, you're having to learn about it after these many years. And, but also looking at the stigma of it, you know. I know with my son, now, he, I can't remember what he was. He was walking through the house, and he was doing something because he pounds on his chest. And, I said, "Max, what are you doing?" "Oh, I'm just stemming." And so, even learning the language for that. My youngest son came home and said, "Mom." I asked him, "How was your day today?" He said, "Mom, somebody said I was weird." And so, instead of showing him, oh, that's, making him feel bad, I said, "Oh, what did you do?" And then, he said, "You know, I just told him, 'Well, maybe that's a good thing because I don't have to worry about being like everybody else.'" And so, I think changing the notion of, again, of how we, how we view the term "disabilities" or the varying diagnoses. But, wow. At the age of 35, and here, you know, is somebody who is sharing that. But, imagine how many people are out there that haven't learned about this. Or, perhaps some that know, but then, because of the backlash that we see, they don't really want to share that or open up or have those conversations. Yes?

[ Inaudible Comment ]

Yeah.

[ Inaudible Comment ]

Yeah. And, that there's nothing wrong with that. This is just another part of who I am. Right? But, again, having the courage to do that. But, because of how our society has, you know, has viewed, has viewed this. Thank you for sharing. Okay.

>> [inaudible] Thank you so much. That was [inaudible].

>> Okay. Thank you. Thank you, everyone. Do I need to?

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