Journal of College & University Student Housing Vol. 47 No. 2 - 28

Understanding the Expectations
of Students with Autism
to Increase Satisfaction with
the On-Campus Living Experience
STUDENTS IN THE AUTISM COMMUNITY are a currently underrepresented,

yet growing, population in higher education, which strives to understand student
experiences on campus and find ways to better support students with autism. This
qualitative research study examined the expectations and experiences of seven
students on the autism spectrum in relation to residence life. Participants expressed
having expectations related to academics, campus housing, community, roommates,
and the overall collegiate experience. As expectation confirmation theory suggests,
if the expectations of students with autism are met, satisfaction and success may be
bolstered. The article provides insights on how to fulfill expectations unique to this
student population and provides recommendations for practice.

C

ollege is often an overwhelming time
and can involve a difficult transition
for all students, but it can be particularly challenging for students with autism
spectrum disorders (ASD). Since students
must self-disclose their diagnosis to university personnel, the exact number of college
students with ASD may never be known to
researchers. Also, it is possible that some
may not be medically diagnosed at the time
they begin their undergraduate studies.
The American College Health Association's
National College Health Assessment, a leading
national instrument examining health-related concerns in higher education, added an
item in 2019 to its U.S.-based survey asking
respondents if they have a formal medical diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ACHA,

2020, p. 60). These data will inform national
estimates of the number of college students
with ASD. However, estimates report that, at
one university, " between .7 percent and 1.9
percent of college students could meet criteria for high functioning autism spectrum disorder (HFASD) " (White et al., 2011, p. 683).
Given the widespread and increasing prevalence of students with ASD, all higher education institutions will be enrolling more
students who meet this diagnostic criterion
in the coming years.

AUTISM AND POSSIBLE
CHALLENGES IN COLLEGE
Autism is a developmental disability that is
diagnosed on a spectrum. Individuals who
identify on the autism spectrum may face
Volume 47, No. 2 * 2021

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Journal of College & University Student Housing Vol. 47 No. 2

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