Being a college student is not easy, and the road to success may not be that smooth as one would expect it to be. For an autistic person, that same road may even be bumpier and more crooked as they continue to face the challenges that their disorder would throw at them along the way. As autistic individuals enter a college institution, they will soon realize that it is not the same as their previous educational playground – high school. Books aren’t as free and affordable as before, professors and faculty aren’t too forgiving, topics and lessons aren’t spoon-fed, and the number of acquaintances is greater than any close friend you might have. Recognizing that college requires students to exert more effort in their studies and become more resourceful, your student life as a person with ASD will be more occupied than before. How do you deal with the challenges ahead and cope up with the new environment as soon as possible without compromising your special needs as a person with ASD? Here are a few helpful tips to lighten the load and make your educational endeavours all worth it.

Make a clear and concise class schedule. Passing in all subjects is a student’s top priority, which is much true in college. Having one will make it easier for you to estimate the total number of hours you’ll need for all your classes and to plan out how much of the free time you’ll give for studying.  Make sure to include in your schedule the duration of each class, and make allowances for contingency situations such as emergency meetings make up classes and special examinations. Doing so will make you more efficient with your book readings, research, and self-studies as you can allocate much needed time for these activities without worrying that you’ll compromise your sleeping time and other non-academic aspects.

Plan out all your non-academic activities ahead as much as possible. If you’re living in a dormitory far away from home, that means you’ll have to carry some household responsibilities with you. These duties can easily affect your study time if you do not know how to manage your free time and allocate a specific portion of these tasks. As part of taking care of yourself in college, you will have to do the laundry on your own, as well as room cleaning and groceries, if needed. But if you have planned out most of these things in advance you won’t be having any trouble accomplishing a focused and unhindered study time.

Remind yourself to relax every once in a while. Other than these mundane activities, you will also be invited to many non-academic events simply for recreation or any other purpose, which means that you set aside a portion of your time for these situations as well. Your classmate or friends may invite you to the cinema, sports practice, or gatherings. While you can just refuse to go to all of them, college students are also encouraged to participate in non-academics to relieve the stress caused by school pressures, including students with ASD. As a famous adage goes, “all work and no play make a man dull”, which is also applicable to college life. If you find it hard to join in social conversations, maybe you can enjoy other things like the food or drinks, the music, and the ambience.

Choose the best study environment for you. As a student with ASD, distractions can be one of your weaknesses that can really hamper your study if not addressed. What you need to do first is to determine the type of stimulus or stimuli that cause you to get distracted, and then avoid studying in places where such stimuli are present. Like those of normal students, the library is one of the most suitable places to study, because there are fewer distractions to be found. But you can’t always control the situation in a library, and there are times when the place because more crowded than usual hence not good for your study set up. If that’s the case, you have to find a more study-friendly area like an empty classroom or a specific cubicle in the library that provides more personal space.

Set your priorities according to schedules and deadlines. If the nature of your autism condition makes you less able to prioritize accordingly on a given set of objectives,  it is highly encouraged that you start developing your sense of priority to become more productive with your studies. All of your efforts would be gone to waste if you fail to recognize what’s more important to accomplish first. You shouldn’t spend most of your time studying for a long examination to be conducted two weeks from now if you got a class report to be done the day after. While a quiz may be less important than a major research paper that’s due next month, you should still study first for it if it will be given not later than next week.

Avoid hyper-focusing in any of your study time. Some autistic individuals have the tendency to focus too much on things that interest them, often neglecting their surrounding environment as well as their other needs, to the point where they even forget to eat or drink something. If you have this kind of tendency, it is very important to set up a timer to remind you that you also need to take a break from whatever it is you are studying. Not only will this help you remember to address other needs, but it will also improve your retention and somehow replenish your stamina for more studying.

Improve your ability to organize by using visual tools. Make good use of visual aids to further increase your memory recall when it comes to your schedule or timetable. A set of pictures or distinct objects can be mixed in with the schedule you created paired with a systematic colour-coding to help you with your study time management.

As helpful as it is, all of the above-mentioned tips are generated from a summary of statistical data and personal accounts of college students with autism. We recognize the fact that all individuals, even those with autism disorder, are different in a way and the same goes for our needs and preferences. If you have more concerns regarding this topic or the content of this page, we recommend that you seek professional help or see further links for more support.