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Institutional Practices that Support Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders in a Postsecondary Educational Setting
Brown, Kirsten Ruth

2012, Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), Bowling Green State University, Higher Education Administration.

Almost 11% of college students have a disability (Newman, Wagner, Cameto, Knokey, & Shaver, 2010). Existing research indicates that students with disabilities have difficulty with retention and graduation (Newman, Wagner, Cameto, & Knokey, 2009). Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a type of disability that has increased among students in secondary education (Rice, 2009), yet the prevalence of students with ASD in postsecondary education is just starting to be documented. Information about programs, services, and reasonable accommodations in higher education that support students with ASD remains incomplete.


This study applied a mixed-methods approach to a randomly selected national sample of postsecondary institutions to provide insight into effective interventions that support students with ASD. This study used a web-based survey and yielded a 41.9% return rate. Findings indicate that a “base level” of support exists at the vast majority of institutions. Additionally, 28.3% of institutions offered ASD specific services free-of-charge; whereas 2.2% provided ASD specific services for an additional fee. This research revealed significant differences in the number of students with ASD by institution type; however, there were no significant differences in the provision of ASD specific programs. Fifty-five to sixty percent of institutions used workshops, in-services, or online information to educate faculty regarding ASD specific issues. Logistical regression models indicated that existing programs are the strongest predictors of whether or not an institution offers ASD specific services and educates faculty regarding ASD issues.
Successful interventions that support students with ASD educate community members (e.g., residence life staff), target ASD specific issues (e.g., transition), and address the institutional culture (e.g., diversity on campus).


Successful interventions also have a proactive purpose and honor the value criterion of equity. Pitfalls to avoid when designing interventions include “one-size-fits-all” programs. Practitioners must carefully consider cost, feasibility, and political support for neurodiversity. Institutions without ASD specific programs support students by using existing reasonable accommodations or general services.


Implications of the findings and recommendations for future research are discussed. Notably, future research should consider exploring the effectiveness of transition programs to support students with ASD.

Michael Coomes, EdD (Committee Chair)
Opportune Zongo, PhD (Committee Member)
Patrick Pauken, JD, PhD (Committee Member)
Dafina Lazarus Stewart, PhD (Committee Member)
331 p.

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Brown, K. (2012). Institutional Practices that Support Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders in a Postsecondary Educational Setting. (Electronic Thesis or Dissertation). Retrieved from https://etd.ohiolink.edu/

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Brown, Kirsten. "Institutional Practices that Support Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders in a Postsecondary Educational Setting." Electronic Thesis or Dissertation. Bowling Green State University, 2012. OhioLINK Electronic Theses and Dissertations Center. 22 Sep 2018.

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Brown, Kirsten "Institutional Practices that Support Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders in a Postsecondary Educational Setting." Electronic Thesis or Dissertation. Bowling Green State University, 2012. https://etd.ohiolink.edu/

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