USA Today – Autism in College: These Schools Offer Support


What autism support programs do

Erik Uri, a computer science major who graduated from Bellevue last year with a bachelor’s degree in computer science, said advocating for himself was one of the most important things he learned there.

Uri recalled a situation in which his grade dropped significantly because he didn’t turn in a paper. His professor said he would have been willing to work with Uri if he’d asked for a deadline extension ahead of time.

“I learned about not being afraid to talk to teachers. They’ll meet you halfway,” said Uri, a software engineer at Microsoft.

Many autism support programs attract students who struggled at other institutions. Lana Wagner spent her freshman year at an art school that didn’t have any special services for students with autism.

“I sort of had the rug pulled out from under me in terms of what I didn’t actually know how to do and what I felt fear over,” Wagner said.

She moved home to Washington state and enrolled at Bellevue College, a community college that has a program called Neurodiversity Navigators (formerly Autism Spectrum Navigators).

Even there, she was hesitant to sign up.

“I spent a lot of time trying to distance myself from that label,” Wagner said. “I passed as neurotypical very well, but I saw how other autistic kids around me were being treated, and I was terrified of being seen as less than a person.”

She found a sense of community in the Navigators program because she didn’t feel the need to hide her autism. She said she didn’t realize “how much energy it took up in my life to constantly be doing that.” Wagner graduated in the spring and transferred to a BFA program at DigiPen Institute of Technology.

Last Updated November 28, 2019