College 2 career (C2C) and traditional higher education pathways for youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and intellectual disability (ID) : a comparative study

The purpose of the study was to examine factors identified as significant in preparing individuals who fall on the autism spectrum and have intellectual disabilities for postsecondary experiences. The study was exploratory in nature and designed to identify perceived critical program elements needed to create successful postsecondary transition programs for students with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or an Intellectual Disability (ID). This study utilized a qualitative comparative study interview methodology to explore the transitional pathways to postsecondary education and first-year postsecondary educational experiences of eight students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and/or Intellectual Disabilities (ID). More than likely, due to an overall increase in the prevalence of ASDs, many more students with ASD and/or ID will be attending a postsecondary educational setting in the near future. Understanding expectations and particular challenges faced by students with an ASD and/or ID will be necessary if colleges are to meet the unique needs of this population. This research explored the ecological factors that impacted the students’ first-year postsecondary experiences through analyzing the students’ perspectives and their experience with the College 2 Career (C2C) program and the students entering college in the traditional pathway through which the general population enters the community college which typically consists of an application and placement assessments without support from a program similar to C2C. It also investigated how students’ prior experiences and perceptions of ASD/ID influenced their educational experience. Parental support, C2C and DSPS support were perceived to have positively impacted the students’ experiences. The study also found that the students perceived their diagnoses of ASD/ID as both positive assets and hindrances to their experiences. Recommendations for policy, practice, and further research are also provided.