By Bojana Petkovic
It’s 2020, and it’s high time we ditched the stigma related to students with disabilities. The good news is, higher education is more accessible than ever. Thus, every student should be able to get equal opportunities to learn and develop their skills.
What’s more, according to the latest higher education statistics, the number of enrolled students in college could grow up to 262 million by 2025. So, it’s imperative to create a welcoming climate for everyone, including students with autism.
Let’s see what needs to be done to make higher education as inclusive and fair as possible.
What Is Inclusive Education?
Inclusivity is a multi-layered term, and it can relate to different groups. In essence, inclusive education is a system that provides every student with equal attention and equal opportunities.
In other words, inclusivity removes discrimination from the classroom. At the same time, this system promotes diversity, fairness, and open-mindedness.
Open-minded individuals do not discriminate against gender, ideology, ethnicity, race, or disability. They accept people for who they are.
So, it’s crucial to develop appropriate structures to promote inclusive education and to make it as efficient as possible.
Higher Education for Individuals with ASD
The number of students enrolled in higher education is growing at a steady rate. And, 96% of colleges and universities educate students with disabilities, making inclusive education essential.
When it comes to the number of individuals with ASD, the proportion of enrolled students is on the rise as well. In the period between 2010 and 2016, the percentage more than doubled in size (from 0.20% to 0.45%).
Still, there’s still a long way to go. Thousands of young adults with autism also deserve a chance to enroll in college. After all, statistics show that at least 44% of individuals with ASD have above average or average intelligence.
In particular, girls on the spectrum often perform at an average to an excellent level at school, even socializing at what appears to be an age-appropriate level. However, while they may appear to manage their challenges at school, meltdowns at home are a common occurrence as they release the feelings they have been keeping under wraps all day.
Going to College with Autism: Problems and Challenges
Unfortunately, many educational establishments look at inclusive education as a conceptual placeholder. In other words, they only develop a theoretical framework, without actual structures to support students with learning difficulties.
On top of that, most campuses are still using the so-called “sink-or-swim mentality” when it comes to new students. For that reason, individuals with communicative difficulties or poor interpersonal skills tend to struggle during their early college years.
As a result, many of those students begin to feel left out or isolated. Of course, that’s when depression and anxiety decide to invite themselves and make things even worse.
Social segregation and lack of interaction with other members of society deepen the problems for students with autism.
On the other hand, many individuals with ASD who manage to overcome those issues are excelling in their education. That said, their unique talents and possibilities can only emerge if the climate within the classroom is positive and inclusive.
Methods for Improving Inclusivity in Higher Education
So, how can we remove obstacles and help students with ASD?
First of all, educational institutions have a moral and legal obligation to help these students and provide them with proper education. In essence, this is the basis of the democratic principle in our society.
Therefore, colleges and universities must create adequate programs to help marginalized students and include them in the conversation about their learning needs. Teaching methods must minimize inequities and provide every student with a chance to participate.
Students with autism sometimes have specific learning needs. In those cases, tailored teaching techniques and accommodations can allow them to follow the curriculum and graduate.
As you see, inclusive education is not some fancy word that means nothing. On the contrary, millions of young adults depend on this system when it comes to higher education.
Without diversity and fairness, many students with autism will never get a chance to earn their diploma. So, we need to work hard as a society to promote inclusive education as much as possible.