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Aspergers 101. Disabilities in college. Nationally approximately 11% of college students have a disability of some kind Typically only 8-10% report this disability to the Disability Services Office At UTC, we currently have over 950 students registered with DRC. Invisible Disabilities.

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disabilities in college
Disabilities in college
  • Nationally approximately 11% of college students have a disability of some kind
  • Typically only 8-10% report this disability to the Disability Services Office
  • At UTC, we currently have over 950 students registered with DRC
invisible disabilities
Invisible Disabilities
  • Face more discrimination
  • Include disabilities such as:
    • Learning Disabilities
    • ADHD
    • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
    • Depression
    • Generalized anxiety Disorder
fastest growing
Fastest growing
  • One of the fastest growing populations on UTC’s campus is Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)
  • What do you know about ASD?
what are autism spectrum disorders
What are Autism Spectrum Disorders?
  • Students with ASD struggle with non-verbal behavior and social nuance
  • ASD is a development disorder
  • No two people with ASD have the same behaviors or symptoms.
  • ASD represents a broad spectrum of students
  • They are all unique individuals

Students with ASD may also have strange, odd or less socially acceptable interests that draw teasing and isolation from other students. These may include:

  • Dungeons and Dragons, Live Action Role Play (LARP), World of Warcraft video games
  • Japanese Anime movies or cartoons
  • Specific movie or music interests that seem obsessive (punk, gothic, twilight/vampire)
  • Obsession with odd items (French windows, turn of the century soda cans)
what is asperger s
What is Asperger’s
  • High functioning Autism
  • Social Dyslexia or Social Blindness
  • DSM Criteria is as follows:
    • Impairment in non-verbal behaviors
    • Lack of appropriate peer interactions
    • Lack of spontaneous sharing of attention
    • Lack of social/emotional reciprocity
    • Abnormal preoccupation with a restricted pattern of interest
    • Inflexible adherence to routines
    • Repetitive mannerisms
impact triad
Impact Triad


Flexibility of Thought


psychological theories
Psychological Theories
  • Theory of the Mind
  • Central Coherence
  • Executive Function
theory of the mind
Theory of the Mind
  • Theory of mind is the capacity we have to understand mental states such as: beliefs, feelings, desires, hope and intentions. It’s the way we imagine other people’s feelings or thoughts.
central coherence
Central Coherence
  • Central coherence can be described as getting the point. It is the ability to pull information from different sources, both internal and external, to gain a more clear understanding.
executive functioning
Executive Functioning
  • Executive Function refers to brain functions that activate, organize, integrate and manage other functions.
what it is not
What it is not…
  • Rain Man
  • Savants
  • Obvious
  • Monotone
  • Homogenous
how to work with students with asd
How to work with students with ASD
  • Be clear, concise, consistent
  • When working with these students, it is essential to offer clear messages. Avoid trying to address multiple issues at one time.

CLEAR: “It is against the student code of conduct to threaten a faculty member”

  • UNCLEAR: “We have a student code of conduct in place so everyone can feel safe in the learning environment but when you speak in a threatening tone, people may feel afraid of you…”
  • Clear: “The due date for your final paper is April 17, 2012 at 5:00 PM
  • Unclear: “I would like to have your final paper before the end of the semester”

Set clear boundaries and expectations. Be aware they will not always keep them and have a plan of “what to do next.”

  • Separate emotions from your interactions; be clear and focused in what you are trying to communicate
  • Seek specific help on how best to interact with students who frustrate you. Often students with these kind of social difficulties (1) are very difficult to change or (2) aren’t aware of their behaviors
managing difficult behaviors
Managing difficult behaviors
  • Support the challenging behaviors
    • How many questions are too many? When is a challenge disrespectful?
    • Don’t see the challenging behavior as threat to your competence
    • Control your own frustration
    • Avoid sarcasms, metaphors and colloquialisms
avoiding power struggles
Avoiding Power Struggles
  • Pick your battles
  • Focus on the goal at hand
  • Control your own emotional response
  • Avoid challenging the core belief system
  • Offer alternatives for more conversation at a different time and place
too many questions one of the most prevalent behavioral obstacles in the college classroom
Too many questions? One of the most prevalent behavioral obstacles in the college classroom
  • Setting clear boundaries in the beginning
  • Defining the appropriate amount of questions in a single class period
  • Offering meeting times outside of class for further questions
  • Flexibility of thought inhibits the ability to move on from a topic
real life application
Real life application
  • Large vocabulary often hides misunderstanding
  • Doesn’t understand sarcasm
  • Lack of reciprocity in communication means they talk at you
  • Misses body language
  • Anxious in social situations
  • Very naïve so easy target for bullying
  • Wants friends, but doesn’t know how
  • Cognitive rigidity makes changing focus of conversation very difficult
  • May have acute understanding of subject matter, but failing the class
  • May have an incredible memory for minute details, but cant memorize facts for an exam
  • May appear to be lying or manipulating, but in actuality, they are telling you what they want to be reality
  • Want to fit in desperately, but don’t know how
what does this mean for you
What does this mean for you?

Stress/Anxiety escalates the difficulties

  • Will either act out or withdraw completely
  • Personality conflicts
  • Need for structure
  • Lack of belonging
  • Need for personal space
  • Organizations skills are poor
  • Poor executive functioning skills
what can you do
What can you do?
  • Read the many books available
  • Take Universal Design approach
  • Educational programming about being accepting of differences
  • Know how to get in touch with Disability Services in case you have questions
disability resource center
Disability Resource Center
  • General Office Number: 425-4006
  • Michelle Rigler/Director: 425-4008
  • Steve Kinane/Asst. Director: 425-4059
  • Amy Rutherford/Program Specialist:


  • Understanding Autism: A College Professor’s Guide