The Autist’s Guide to College will be a series of posts consisting of information, recommendations, and insights meant to aid autistic people who are in college. Resources for autistic college students are few and far between, which is why I decided to create some of my own. The Guide will be completed by the end of this August, but I may continue adding to it afterwards. Here are the specific goals of the guide:
- Explain the hidden curriculum of college – that is to say, the skills, norms, and expectations in college that are never really stated explicitly, and that don’t come as easily to autistics. This includes things like how to make small talk, how to raise your hand in class, how partying works, how to leave a conversation politely, and so on.
- Give concrete strategies to help autistics deal with college-related challenges, including stuff like overwhelming sensory environments (*cough cough* every dorm ever), navigating a confusing social scene, adapting to new and unexpected circumstances, managing executive dysfunction, and so on.
- Give very specific and detailed instructions. Because of executive dysfunction and the difficulty of adapting to routines, tasks that might seem simple to non-autistics, like doing laundry or making a phone call to schedule a doctor’s appointment, can be overwhelming, confusing, and exhausting. Hence the need for specificity and concrete suggestions.
- Provide information for readers to make their own decisions. So much “advice” for autistics is prescriptive (“do this, don’t do that”). A lot of those prescriptions are based on neurotypical norms and the assumption that typical = better. As a result, they subtly (or not-at-all-subtly) convey the message that doing things autistically is bad. I’m not okay with this, and hopefully, you aren’t, either. So The Autist’s Guide won’t be about getting readers to do things the neurotypical way, but rather, understanding what the neurotypical way is, how people might perceive certain autistic behaviors, how to bridge the neurotypical/autistic communication gap, and so on.
- Empower autistic college students to be their/our wonderful autistic selves in a way that works for them/us. There’s no wrong way to be autistic. In addition to helping autistics with challenges listed above, I want to celebrate autistic identity and infuse The Guide with the spirit of neurodiversity, autism positivity, and autism acceptance.