Date Approved

2020

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Leadership and Counseling

Committee Member

Rema Reynolds, PhD

Committee Member

Carmen McCallum, PhD

Committee Member

David Anderson, PhD

Committee Member

Calvin McFarland, EdD

Committee Member

Patrice Bounds, PhD

Abstract

The purpose of this qualitative study was to analyze the perceptions of 14 higher education disability professions (HEDPs) from 4-year public universities in Michigan regarding the transition process for students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) from secondary to postsecondary institutions. A phenomenological analysis approach was used to analyze data. ASD is a lifelong disorder, and people with ASD who seek postsecondary education require individualized supports. Additionally, a growing number of students with ASD are attending college after high school, so universities need to be prepared for them. ASD students have unique communication, social, and behavioral characteristics and need accommodations to help them achieve academic success. The transition to college can be arduous for these students, and a failure to plan appropriately will nearly always lead to the first-semester failure. Virtual interviews were conducted with participants in which they responded to a 21- question survey instrument that was developed for this study. Five research questions examined retention, barriers, gaps, support services, and practices. Open-ended interviews provided key data, which I analyzed using a theoretical framework informed by transformative worldview inquiry, disability theory, organizational theory, and critical race theory. Nine themes and multiple subthemes emerged from this analysis. These themes identified key factors impacting the postsecondary transition process for students with ASD: parental involvement, accommodations, influencers of success, social and independent functioning, ASD issues, career employment, the transition from K-12 to postsecondary, faculty, and academic functioning. The appendices contain supportive materials to guide the potential implementation of this study for stakeholders: Transition from High School to College Overview Tool, Transition Tool for Students with Autism for College, Transition Tool for Parents, and Informal Inventory for Schools. These tools assist with understanding the key elements that support a successful transition to college for students with autism.

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