I recently attended a conference on career strategies for students on the autism spectrum. Besides the fact that the presenters were absolutely fantastic – engaging, funny, and smart – the topic itself was both intriguing and thought provoking. Among the many issues raised, the presenters pointed out that colleges may be admitting students with Autism Spectrum Disorder who, while able to do excel in their coursework, are not able to satisfactorily complete the technical requirements of the program. This, are presenters claimed, is a law-suit waiting to happen. And I agree (in principal at least, have no idea about actual legality), though this issue is in no way at all limited to students with ASD. In fact, institutions of higher education are far too often accepting students (and their tuition dollars) who won’t be able to hack it in the fields they aspire to enter. Students who may be unable to find jobs, despite excellent grades, includes those students with especially poor writing or community skills, as well as specific populations of students, such as the many international students currently studying on American soil who lack English language proficiency. There’s only so much a college or university can teach in 4 years, and, as our presenters suggested, accepting students who are unprepared or unable to master the technical necessities of their careers may be akin to lying, or even robbing them. Of course, the question remains, what is the responsibilities of an institution? What do they owe their students – an education or a job? Despite the fact that this question is highly relevant to my work and studies, it’s also a challenging and contentious one . . . which is why I’m not answering it. At least for now.
Check back next week for more take-aways from this conference, as well as best practices for working with students with ASD.