For students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), deciding when and how to tell people about their diagnosis is a difficult decision. This is particularly true for new college students, who may decide that starting fresh, without disclosing a diagnosis, is the best course of action. However, a new study indicates that revealing an ASD diagnosis has benefits for college students. Students who make their condition known receive institutional and peer support. The study suggests that universities may be more accepting than other environments for individuals with ASD.
The researchers assessed participant responses to a scenario in which a student demonstrated unusual behavior. The scenario involved putting away chairs in a communal area. In some cases, the student with unusual behavior was described as a ‘typical student’ and in others, as a ‘student with ASD.’
Peers responded much more positively to the student when they were informed that the student had ASD. Their responses were significantly more positive (and less negative) when they were aware of the diagnosis, compared to when they thought the student was a typical student.
The study also indicates that college students do not perceive any differences between the terms autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, and ASD.
“Deciding how and when to disclose a diagnosis is a very personal decision. Whilst disclosing a diagnosis can enable access to support, students can be uncertain about whether or not to disclose. The research suggests peers may be more positive in interpreting mildly unusual behavior in the university context,” stated Dr. Mark Brosnan, a researcher who took part in the study.
This research is published in the journal Autism.
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