The Parents Guide to College for Students on the Autism Spectrum. (2012). Jane Thierfeld Brown EdDLorraine Wolf PhD , Lisa King MEd, G. Ruth Bork MEd. Shawnee Mission, KS. AAPC Publishing. $23.95 ISBN 978-1934575895. https://www.amazon.com/Parents-College-Students-Autism-Spectrum/dp/1934575895

Review by Kristin Ciampa, Advising, University of Sourthern Maine, [email protected]

A Parent’s Guide to College for Students on the Autism Spectrum is written by parents and professionals and outlines the challenges present and supports needed for students with Autism Spectrum Disorders to make the transition to college in a successful way. Common issues are outlined that occur in the transition process for students with ASD and gives helpful tips for parents to help assist their students in the process. The book begins with acknowledgement of the process that families have been through throughout their educational journey with their student and gives tools for helping identify what the next steps are in terms of higher education. Choosing a college is the first step that the text outlines. It walks families through the search process, including determining whether the student will be a commuter or residential student, size of institution, and whether the institutions being considered offer specialized programs and supports for students with ASD. The admission processes is covered in terms of issues of disclosing disability and interview tips and suggestions. A breakdown of how the laws differ from secondary education to post-secondary education are included to help families understand what the student is entitled to in terms of accommodations and supports as a student with a disability. Various aspects of college life such as determining who’s who on campus, working with disability services, academic issues, housing and residential life, student physical and mental health, social and extracurricular life and life after college. The primary goal of this book is to be a comprehensive guide for students and parents to support the transition to college life.

A lens is provided with which to view advisors work as higher education professionals with students with ASD. NACADA’s core competencies serve as foundational structure for effective advising and they are broken up into three categories; conceptual, informational and relational (NACADA, 2019). This text addresses NACADA’s relational core competency by giving framework for building advising relationships, communicating in an inclusive and respectful manner, and planning and conducting successful advising interactions. Jane Brown et al (2012) state that “there is a common misconception that individuals with AS are cold or unemotional and there may be a disconnect between his output (in terms of behavior, performance) and intent and the expectations of others” (Brown et al, 2012, p. 168).  Because this book is written as a guide for parents and students, it is a peek into the things that families are thinking about and concerned with as they begin to think about the world of higher education. This book gives some areas to focus when onboarding new students and supporting current students with Autism Spectrum Disorders. This text can be used as a guide to determine what issues and challenges students and parents are facing and to build resources for advisors that will help meet the students at their area of challenge in order to best support them. Brown et al. point out that “successful students eventually learn to advocate for themselves with their teachers, with administrators, and with staff to survive and succeed” (Brown et al, 2012, p. 138).The chapters that cover incoming freshman, academic issues, student mental health, and social life were especially helpful in terms of building advising tools.

One of the primary strengths of this book was the comprehensive visuals, checklists, and charts that are provided. These tools are helpful for families and students in having a visual representation of the information. There are visual guides included about disability law, shift in parent/student responsibilities, and timeline from high school to college. The differences between high school and college, college comparison, benefits of various college environments, pre-semester prep checklist, sample registration planning sheet, and many others are also included to provide needed context. A major strength of this book is that it offers practical and user friendly tools. Taking into consideration the strengths and challenges of many individuals with ASD, this book has provided needed resources in the processes of preparing for higher education. If you are someone new to the world of disability or autism spectrum disorders, you would need more introductory information in order to find the resources contained in this book useful. This book is not intended to provide background on ASD, and further resources would be needed if you required that foundational information.

Reading a book that has an intended audience of students with ASD and their parents provided context that was incredibly helpful in taking a compassionate viewpoint as an advisor. When we know what information and resources students and families need, we can come to the work of providing it in a useful and supportive way. If we try to provide resources without the full scope of what is needed, even with the best intentions, the support will not be as useful as it could be. This book related to NACADA’s core value of Inclusivity by helping advisors gain the information needed to create supportive environments that consider student needs and perspectives (NACADA, 2019). My major take-away from this text is that it takes fully engaged and supportive families, student support staff, and students to create a successful environment for students with ASD to thrive. Students with ASD can provide a vibrant thread to the fabric of our college campuses, and we have the privilege of engaging with new and innovative ways to provide comprehensive student support.  The context provided in this text will help advisors provide that support.


Brown, J. T. (2012). The parents guide to college for students on the autism spectrum. Shawnee Mission, KS: Autism Asperger Pub.

Resources. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Pillars/CoreCompetencies.aspx

Resources. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Pillars/CoreValues.aspx

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