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The experiences of students with autism spectrum disorder in post-secondary education
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 09:56 authored by Anastasia H. Anderson
The purpose of this thesis was to investigate, from the student perspective, the experiences of post-secondary students with ASD. The benefits and barriers, and the supports made available to students, were analysed, as were the student satisfaction with those supports. A systematic literature review of 23 studies examined the perspectives of 378 post-secondary students with ASD, representing the most comprehensive review conducted to date. The quality of the studies were assessed and interrater reliability conducted at all stages of data collection and coding, increasing confindence in the findings. Most of the studies were qualitatative with small sample sizes, and originated from either the UK or USA, limiting generalisation. Nevertheless, the studies highlighted the diverse problems experienced by students with ASD, and how supports were often inadequate or inappropriate, providing differing benefit to students and illuminating the need for supports to be individualised. Also, the strengths of students, and the benefits they obtained from attending post-secondary education were described. Finally, the theoretical concepts that informed the studies were presented. In response to identified limited survey research, and none from New South Wales (NSW) or the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), a report of an on-line survey of 48 university students with ASD from eight universities acros NSW and the ACT was conducted. The respondents revealed a range of personal strengths and weaknesses, as well as their difficulties coping with loneliness, anxiety, depression sensory sensitivities, and the lack of structure at university. In contrast to prior research (e.g., Cai & Richdale, 2016), only a minority of respondents declared a delay in disclosing to disability services. In spite of this, many respondents declared that they had not used many of the available supports, even though the majority of those who did stated that the supports were helpful. Respondents provided more positive appraisals for academic supports than non-academic supports, and rarely reported that supports were refused. These findings reveal that in addition to individualised supports, there is also a need for transition planning and novel solutions for some students. Thus, this thesis extended the research by updating the only prior review of post-secondary students with ASD. Also, the survey is the largest to date, and the only study from the student perspective of university students with ASD from NSW and the ACT. Moreover, the survey provided a unique perspective from a cohort that had predominantly disclosed their disability to disability services at or prior to enrolment in university courses. It highlighted the possible need to educate students with ASD about the supports that are availabl, and to encourage them to make greater use of them. In addition, it was noted that new approaches may be needed for those who find existing supports inappropriate.