More Students With Asperger Syndrome Going to College

Colleges around the country are responding to an influx of autistic students.

ByABC News via logo
April 1, 2008, 4:23 PM

April 2, 2008 — -- Like many of his high school classmates, Robby Cvejanovich is trying to decide which college to attend this fall.

While Cvejanovich is concerned about picking a school with a good zoology program, his parents are anxious about what will happen outside the classroom as their autistic son transitions into college life.

"I am very nervous because Robby is the most honest and trusting person I have ever known. He doesn't understand that people can lie. He doesn't understand why people lie," said his mother, Beth Cvejanovich.

The issue is not limited to the Cvejanoviches. As scores of autistic young adults enter universities for the first time, colleges across the country are trying to find ways to deal with the first generation of Asperger's students to hit campuses in large numbers.

A decade ago the idea of Asperger's students who have a mild and high functioning form of autism that is characterized by social isolation working their way through a four-year college may have seemed impossible.

But today, with early diagnosis and therapy, an influx of students across the autistic spectrum are heading off to college and the schools are trying quickly to adapt.

Marshall University has one of the few programs in the country specifically for those with Asperger's syndrome.

"If you attend two classes for 50 minutes a day, the rest of your day is spent on campus. So it's that community that is hard to navigate many times to know where to go to feel safe or where to go to get support and that's where our program really fits in," said program coordinator Marc Ellison.

The university has graduate students who work daily with the 14 students in its Asperger's program to review assignments and help with classroom etiquette.

"They have levels of anxiety or stress that prevent them many times from coming in and seeking help," Ellison said.

Autistic students also have weekly life skills meetings. Though programs like Marshall University's are rare and small, other schools are beginning similar curriculums.