College Support

Tips for College for Students with Autism

As more young people with ASD graduate and leave school, more are naturally looking at colleges.  

Transitioning to college can be tough for any student, not just students with special needs. Many students often see community college as the “13th grade,” and extension of high school. This is not the case.

There are no IEP’s in college!  Instead, colleges which accept federal or state money must comply with both Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Private post-secondary schools are subject to the lesser standards of Title III of the ADA.  These colleges have a Disabilities Office or Office of Students Support which will work to remove barriers that may prevent a student from accessing a classroom or college environment.

Below are some general guidelines but contact the college Disabled Students Office to find out specifics.

Differences Between High School and College

FAQ Regarding College Services

Typical College Supports for Students with ASD

Colleges will provide reasonable accommodations that are geared toward an individual’s illness or disability without changing the fundamental elements of the course.  Accommodations commonly offered include:

  • Note taker services
  • Reader services
  • Access to adaptive equipment
  • Registration assistance
  • Extra time on tests

Again, please check with the college you are considering for specifics.  Some colleges will require the student with Autism to find their own note taker or be organized enough to look at the syllabus and arrange a testing room 2 week before a test is scheduled.

Colleges will not provide modifications to the curriculum or assignments which may be common in High School.  Qualified disabled students must meet the same academic requirements as all students on campus which mean colleges will not modify the curriculum.  All students will be expected to learn and complete all the work.

Supports Colleges Will Not Provide

Modification which may have been common in High School are not permitted in college.  This often includes:

  • Completing fewer or different homework problems than peers
  • Writing shorter papers
  • Answering fewer or different test questions
  • Creating alternate projects or assignments
  • Being excused from particular projects
  • Colleges will not provide 1:1
What About Tutoring?

Often students with disabilities are required to sign up for the generic tutoring resources on campus.  Please check with the Disabled Students Office how this works for the college you are considering.

How do you Access Services at College?

Students with disabilities entering college or university must self-identify and request accommodations.  To be eligible for support services or instruction authorized under Title V, a student must have an impairment or illness which results in an educational limitation. This illness or limitation must be verified by a doctor or previous school.  Each school may have its own criteria and forms – check with your specific school. Some colleges will request the last Psychoeducational Evaluation or IEP.  Approval of accommodations is based on adequate supporting documentation of a disability.

If Disability Services fins that you need accommodations, a Student Educational Contract (SEC) is developed for each student which links student’s goals, curriculum program, and academic accommodations to his/her specific disability related educational limitation

Self-Advocating in College

Self-advocacy is a key skill for college students with disabilities. It involves understanding the impact of your disability, being able to communicate your needs, understanding your rights and responsibilities in the accommodation process, problem-solving, and utilizing support systems.  Students with Autism or other disabilities will have to make an appointment with the Disabled Students Office and self-disclose not only they have a disability but tell the college what accommodations they need to be successful.  This is very different from High School where a team works together to determine what supports would be beneficial to be able to achieve academic success.

Students (and not parents) will be the ones responsible for talking with the professors and staying on top of assignments.  Unlike High School where teachers are monitoring grades and checking for comprehension, in college, students are responsible for monitoring their own progress and for recognizing when they need additional help. Student must seek professors’ assistance or tutorial center

Self-Disclosure in College

The Disability Office will email your professors telling them which student’s in their class have accommodations (extra time on the test or a note taker).  The email won’t share the name of your disability; only your name and the accommodation.

Some students find it helpful to disclose to the professor that you have autism and some of the behaviors they may notice.  You could send an email, talk to the professor in person, or choose not to disclose at all.

Also realize, your professor may so no to a request you have.  This is a time to work together to get your needs met.  If you need extra help with a professor, the Disability Students Office may be able to help.

What is the parent’s role in College?

As students enter college, the role of the parents shifts as well.  During the school years, parents often are the unofficial case manager and advocate for their child.  Now that the child has reached the age 18 years of age – the age of legal adulthood, the law and adult service systems no longer look to the parent for consent.  Because the individual with disability is over the age of 18 years, these systems are legally unable to share information without consent.  College students may sign a release of confidential information to allow parents to attend meetings with them, but many colleges strongly encourage students to be able to advocate by themselves.

Local Organizations Who Provide College Support

Regional Center may be able to provide support services for clients who are attending college.  These services may include navigating the social part of a college campus, helping with organizational skills and living skills.  There are a arrange of programs to help those who may need minimal support as wells as those who need assistance with getting around campus.  Please note:  Regional Center may not pay for all of the programs listed below or the entire cost of the program.  Please check with your Regional Center caseworker for more information.

California Autism Network

Adolescents and adults diagnosed with ASD often require specific training to develop college and work readiness skills. California Autism Network (CAN) provides this training, as well as assistance in the development of self-advocacy, communication, and executive function skills. CAN believes in helping individuals with ASD to develop meaningful lives and thrive as independent adults. CAN services include:
  • Assessment of client skills, interests, and areas of need.
  • Development of the individual treatment plan identifying goals and objectives to increase client’s independence at home, school, work, or within the community.
  • Recommendations for needed assistive technology.
  • Support to the client and family throughout implementation of the treatment plan.
CAN services are provided individually or in small group instruction, both in-person or virtually, supporting clients to learn skills such as appropriate school and workplace behaviors including time management, social skills, self-advocacy, goal setting, hygiene, and professional appearance.
CAN accepts private payment plans and is in process for Inland Regional Center vendorization. 


Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD)
CARD Temecula – 27720 Jefferson Ave., Suite 150, Temecula (951) 699-8640
CARD Corona – 802 Magnolia Ave, Suite 202, Corona (951) 686-2020
CARD Moreno Valley – 12125 Day St, Suite E301, Moreno Valley (951) 344-2166
CARD Ontario – 2151 E. Convention Center Way, Suite 103, Ontario (951) 259-5600
CARD Temecula – 27720 Jefferson Ave, Ste 150, Temecula (951) 699-8640
CARD Riverside – 5750 Division Street, Ste 104, Riverside (951) 900-6390
Potential Clients: Enrollment Portal
CARD provides trained staff to implement applied behavior analysis (ABA) to children, teens, and adults at home, school, community, and center-based settings. Now has a college program which can assist students attending local college classes. Not all colleges are supported.  Call to find out if the local CARD office can help.


College Autism Network Autism Network is a nonprofit organization linking varied stakeholders engaged in evidence-guided efforts to improve access, experiences, and outcomes for postsecondary students with autism. Has online resources.


College Internship Program (CIP) – CSU Long Beach, CSU Berkeley
(310) 569-9308 or 1-877-KNOW-CIP
The College Internship Program is a comprehensive post-secondary support program for students ages 18 to 26 with Asperger’s, high-functioning autism, and learning differences. Each student receives individualized social, academic, career and life skills instruction to develop and strengthen their areas of social thinking, executive functioning, sensory integration, money management, recreation, and health and wellness.


College Living Support (CLE)
[800] 486-5058
Orange County
Offers support independent living support, social skills, academic, self-advocacy, and career development for students wanting to attend the Art Institute in Orange County, Cal State Fullerton, Cal State Long Beach and Chapman University.


College to Career Program – Cole Vocational/CA Mentor Program
(855) 636-8672
Chaffee College and Long Beach City College, Big Bear Lake, Ontario, Moreno Valley, Riverside, San Bernardino, Temecula, Victorville
As part of California MENTOR’s day programs, the College Support program offers individuals the chance to take community-college classes.  They offer assistance with everything from enrollment to tutoring and transportation, ensuring a successful experience for each individual.  College Support is an option for adults with minimal support in day programs throughout California who are able to attend class independently, as well as those who need assistance with getting around campus.


Howard Chudler and Associates
626 West Route 66, Suite # E, Glendora
(714) 529-2549
Specializes in providing behavioral and educational services to individuals with developmental disabilities.


Pathway at UCLA Extension
Is a sequential program for students with intellectual and other developmental disabilities, offering a blend of educational, social, and vocational experiences, taught and supervised by experienced instructors sensitive to the individual needs of our students. On campus, Pathway students attend classes and participate with UCLA students in the many social, recreational, and cultural activities of a major university.


Project College – United Cerebral Palsy of San Diego County
Camp held at the University of San Diego
(858) 278-5420 x 131 For ages 17-22, with a developmental disability or autism spectrum disorder who are considering attending college in the near future, or already attending, and are diploma bound. Cost Includes housing for 5 nights, all meals, activities, and program materials. Participants are responsible for transportation to and from USD and their own spending money. The full tuition for the week (including meals, lodging, and activities) is $850. Needs based scholarships are available.

The Autism Society Inland Empire Autism (ASIE) maintains these Resource Listings as a service to families as a reference tool. Every effort is made to ensure listings are up-to-date. ASIE does not endorse or claim to have personal knowledge of the abilities of those listed. The resources listed are not intended as a recommendation, referral, or endorsement of any resource or as a tool for verifying the credentials, qualifications, or abilities of any organization, product or professional. Users are urged to use independent judgment and request references when considering any resource associated with diagnosis or treatment of autism, or the provision of services related to autism.