1) Introduction a) Higher education institutions are experiencing an increasing number of collegestudents on the autism spectrum (Jansen et al., 2017; Gillespie-Lynch et al., 2017) c) Autistic students may experience significant challenges navigating college life, including atypical sensory processing, inflexibility, executive function difficulties, challenges engaging in self-advocacy, social difficulties, depression, and anxiety (Gillespie-Lynch et al., 2017). c) Data collection on retention, graduation, and postgraduate outcomes of autisticstudents is extremely limited due to several factors, notably that many colleges have beenproviding specialized services to students on the spectrum for less than 5 years. (Barnhill, 2016)d) This study will examine the effects of utilization of Universal Design for Learning(UDL) Strategies on autistic students’ (a) perception of their college experience, (b) anxiety levels, and (c) graduation timing and rates.
2) Body a) Perception of college experience i) Few studies have directly assessed the needs and experiences of a large numberof autistic college students (Gillespie-Lynch et al., 2017).ii) Participation in self-advocacy groups is associated with “increased perceived social support from friends, academic self-efficacy, and more accurate definitions of self-advocacy” (Gillespie-Lynch et al., 2017). b) Anxiety levels i) Typical stress and anxiety levels typical of students to experience whiletransitioning into college may be compounded for autistic students, considering difficulty coping with change is part of the diagnostic criteria for ASD. Loss supports previously provided in high school or other environments may also provoke anxiety (Glennon, 2001).
ii) Emerging research suggests that social skills interventions for autistic adultsmay reduce feelings of social anxiety (Hillier et al., 2011; Spain and Blainey, 2015). c) Graduation rates i) The functioning and participation difficulties experienced by college studentsmay cause difficulties such as drop out or low grade point averages (Jansen et al., 2017). 3) Hypothesis: Promotion and application of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles in higher education are more effective at improving the a) perception of college experience, b) anxiety levels, and c) graduation timing and rate of college students on the autism spectrum than individual accommodations.