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    Assessing College-Readiness for Teens with Asperger’s Syndrome

    Posted June 22, 2014, 3:00 pm by Elizabeth Suneby
    Assessing College-Readiness for Teens with Asperger’s Syndrome

    Is your high school teen ready for college? Determining the answer warrants serious deliberation. No parent wants to put his or her child in a situation that is destined for failure.

    College-Readiness for Teens with Asperger’s

    Brenda Dater, Director of Child and Teen Services at Asperger’s Association of New England (AANE), identifies two key attributes that signal readiness: self-awareness and self-advocacy. She offers the following questions to help you and your teen figure out your child’s degree of readiness and, equally important, identify developmental priorities for getting ready.


    • Does your child have a realistic view of his/her strengths as well as challenges?
    • Does your child understand how AS can get in the way and how it can be helpful?
    • Is your child clear on the types of supports and services he/she needs need to be successful?
    • Can your child handle tasks of daily living such as banking, navigating public transportation, and laundry?
    • Can your child be responsible for his/her own nutrition and personal care?
    • Is your child ready to manage study versus leisure time on his/her own?
    • Is your child ready to handle the social aspects of college?


    • Is your child aware of the services you and the high school put in place to provide support?
    • Will your child advocate for needed services in college?
    • Does your child solicit help from adults as needed?
    • Does your child speak up to peers to facilitate positive interactions?

    What Self-Awareness and Self-Advocacy Necessary for College Look Like

    Dater offers a story to illustrate what self-awareness and self-advocacy necessary for college look like. A high school senior with AS walked into his AP Chemistry class taught by a teacher he had had previously, but with a new group of classmates. The senior introduced himself to his peers, saying, “I just want to let you know that I have Asperger’s. Please let me know if I say or do something offensive. I don’t intend to be hurtful, but sometimes I am without realizing it. Also, I don’t have good control with my hands, so I need a lab partner who doesn’t mind holding equipment.”

    If your teen believes he or she is ready for college, but you have concerns, create a checklist of skills required to handle the type of college experience your child wants, whether that be full-time, part-time, commuter, or residential. A checklist can turn an emotional discussion into an objective one. Dater recommends creating the checklist in the first year or two of high school to provide a roadmap for your child and give them time to work towards goals.

    AANE hosts webinars and seminars about managing the college process. Check out their website for more information or call 617-393-3824.

    Dater also recommends a book, The Parents Guide to College for Students on the Autism Spectrum, by Jane Thierfeld Brown, Lorraine Wolf, Lisa King, and G. Ruth Bork.. The book jacket includes this synopsis:

    Sending a son or daughter off to college is daunting and fear-provoking experience for most parents, but if your child has an autism spectrum disorder, the challenge is magnified many times over. Even high-functioning students with excellent academic preparation face difficulties in higher education, primarily related to communication, social skills, and sensory-based issues. For many, the accommodations and special interventions that supported them in high school will no longer be available on a college campus. This parent-friendly book, made especially so because it is written by parents, who also are autism professionals, takes the fear and mystery out of the college experience. Learn how to select the right campus, how to work with Disability Services staff, what legal protections apply, how to prepare your son or daughter to be an effective self-advocate on campus, what assistance can be reasonably be expected from residence hall managers, faculty, and much, much more.

    There is Not One Right Path to College

    Perhaps the most important piece of advice Dater offers for parents to remember is that there is not one right path to college. Each teen is different and therefore the ideal route for one may not be optimal for another.

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    Elizabeth Suneby

    Elizabeth Suneby

    Liz Suneby is the author of books for children and teens, including “The Mitzvah Project Book: Making Mitzvah Part of Your Bar/Bat Mitzvah” and “Your Life”, published by Jewish Lights, and the Children’s Choice award-winning “See What You Can Be: Explore Careers That Could Be For You.”