Accessing Information in "A System that Wasn't Really Optimized for Me": A Qualitative Study of Autistic University Students

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Stockwell, Kayden, Psychology - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Jaswal, Vikram, Psychology, University of Virginia

More autistic adults pursue higher education each year, but the graduation rates and qualitative accounts of autistic university students suggest they are not being adequately supported. Contributing to this inadequate support is our limited understanding of the factors that influence how autistic students learn about the resources and opportunities that may facilitate their success. We interviewed 14 autistic university students about their university experiences in order to provide informed recommendations about support to their university. Using reflexive thematic analysis, we constructed themes that focus on 1) how participants experienced difficulty when navigating the interactions that often hold the key to information, and 2) university expectations that informed practices and policies that impeded participants’ access to information. By better understanding the multiple, interacting factors that influence autistic university students’ access to information—and subsequently, resources and opportunities—we can move towards informed, structural changes in higher education that will provide more equitable access to autistic people.

MA (Master of Arts)
Autism, College Students, Information Access, Disability, University Resources, Reflexive Thematic Analysis
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