a project of

Removing Access Barriers
for Autistic College Students
Sara Gardner, Program Manager, Autism Spectrum Navigators
Susan Gjolmesli, Director, Disability Resource Center
Bellevue College, Washington State, U.S.A.
Research Shows
 Youths with autism spectrum disorders
(ages 19-23) are less likely than those with
other disabilities to be employed or
enrolled in college
 Students with disabilities lack adequate self-
advocacy skills needed for success in the
postsecondary education setting
 Employment rate rises with family income
Our Experiences
 Without additional access services, college
students with ASDs complete fewer classes, and
drop out of college at a higher rate
 College students with ASDs typically do not seek
out campus services or additional support from
 Even with an extraordinarily low cost program,
some families cannot access it for financial

What Parents Want
 Campus awareness about Autism
 Support for:
Communicating with peers
Orientation & Transitioning
Trained Specialists
Parental Involvement
What Students Want
 Connection with other students with ASDs
 Advocacy with instructors
 Instructors who are educated about ASDs
 Clearly organized assignments and syllabi
 Clear communication
 Organizational support

Before the pilot – what we observed
Share your experiences & questions:
 This may be different based on where
you live! Socio-economic background,
ethnicity, …
 Academic ability
 Physical ability
 Interests, aspirations
 Classroom access needs and more
Share your experiences & questions:
 Different for
 Environment
 Attitudinal

 Similarities?
 Physical barriers?
 Other barriers?

2010-2011(26 students)
Services Group (13 students)
100% retention
Maintained a 3.0 GPA for three quarters
Passed 85% of attempted classes with a C- or better

Control Group (13 students)
61% retention
GPA dropped each quarter: 2.52; 2.44; 2.10
Passed 67% of attempted classes with a C- or better

2011-2012 (18 students)
94% retention
3.04 GPA
Passed 87% of attempted classes with a C- or
2012 -2013 (46 students)
96% retention
3.26 GPA
Passed 86% of attempted classes with a C- or

2013 -2014
Fall 2013 (76 students)
96% retention
3.24 GPA
Passed 88% of attempted classes with a C- or
Winter 2014
(64 students – 1 grad, 8 retained- not in ASN, 3 dropped out)
97% retention
3.12 GPA
Passed 79% of attempted classes with a C-
or better
Our mission is to provide access services for
autistic students that lead to successful
academic outcomes while providing
educational opportunities that increase self-
knowledge in the areas of executive
functioning, self-regulation, social interaction,
self-advocacy and career preparation; and to
actively promote a campus wide environment
of inclusion and understanding of students,
faculty and staff with neurological differences.

Program Areas of Focus:
1. Self-Advocacy
2. Executive Functioning
3. Self Regulation
4. Social Interaction
Four components:
1. Peer Mentoring
2. Instruction
3. Parent Training & Support
4. Faculty & Campus Training &

 Structured around student-identified
 Student initiated check-ins with faculty
 Standardized format ensures:
skills acquisition
academic progress monitoring
program compliance
ease of record keeping
 Marco-Polo Check-In
 weekly agreed-upon objective

ASN students take a series of credit classes as a cohort, in
addition to classes for their chosen degree path. They are
simply students at the college who receive supports.
First Year
Skills for Navigating College & Career
Executive Functioning in the Workplace
Stress Management
Second Year Third Year
Career Exploration Interpersonal Communications
Self-Advocacy Tech Writing & Soft Skills for Bus.
Occupational Wellness Internship
Video: Using Canvas to connect
Parents need:
 Reassurance that their student is in good hands
 Training for how to best support their student
 Networking with other parents
 Focus on Interdependence, Collaborative Problem
Solving, Learned Optimism and Self-Efficacy
Regular Faculty training
Individual communication with N.A.’s
Faculty section on program website
Consultation with program manager

Postsecondary Educational Aspirations of High-
Functioning Adolescents With Autism Spectrum
Disorders and Their Parents:

Collaborative Efforts to Improve Access to
Postsecondary Education for Students with
Report to the Legislature Pursuant to Substitute
Senate Bill 5180 (Washington Student Achievement

Postsecondary Education and Employment Among
Youth With an Autism Spectrum Disorder:

Evaluating Cognitive Web Accessibility

Autism Spectrum Navigators at Bellevue College

Susan Gjolmesli, Director,
Disability Resource Center:

Sara Gardner, Program Manager,
Autism Spectrum Navigators:


Information & Referral Call Center:

Next Webinar:
Saturday, June 21, 2014, 1:00-2:00 PM, Eastern Time
Autism Spectrum Disorders: An Overview in Spanish

Email Phuong (pnguyen@autismnow.org ) to request

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