For any young adult, going away to college involves many firsts: the first time living alone, the first time making their own schedule, maybe the first time cooking their own meals. As difficult as this transition is for typical students, it can be especially disorienting for young people on the spectrum, who may also find it difficult to sleep enough, collaborate with others on group projects and advocate for themselves with professors.
Despite those challenges, increasing numbers of young adults with autism have set their sights on a college degree: More than 200,000 students on the spectrum will arrive on campuses around the United States over the next decade, based on statistics from the National Center for Special Education Research. And for the most part, experts say, these students are entering an educational system that is not ready for them. High school comes with a support system — family at home, therapists nearby, special-education classes — but colleges have traditionally embraced a sink-or-swim mentality.