Supports for Students with Autism

Disability Resources and Educational Services (DRES) has been providing accommodations and comprehensive support services to University of Illinois students with autism spectrum disorders for the past 20 years.  We have grown from having 20 students with autism in 1998 to 100 students currently registered with us (35% in the College of Engineering (including computer science majors) and another 40% in STEM majors in LAS).  We provide academic accommodations that are unique for each student.  In addition, we provide additional supports such as academic coaching, individual therapy, group therapy, social skills, and career services.  We work with each student (and in many cases their family, college, and department) to set up accommodations and supports based on the students’ strengths and weaknesses.  For example, most DRES students contact professors and set up their own accommodations; however, with many of our students with autism, we may email their professors for them, role-play to practice talking to instructors, or meet with the student and their professors to discuss accommodations.  We check in with their professors on a regular basis to see how things are going so we can be proactive about solving problems and we serve as consultants with faculty, departments, and housing to provide recommendations for accommodations for unique classroom requirements or problem behaviors.

Our graduation rate for students on the autism spectrum is 85%, which is consistent with the University of Illinois graduation rate.  Most of these students are employed or go on to graduate school.  We spend a lot of time with our students on the spectrum in prepping them for employment.  Many of our students need one-on-one time devoted to putting their resume together, learning appropriate employment social skills/behaviors, prepping for interviews, and planning the logistics required to go on interviews.  At times, the interviewing process can be quite overwhelming for our students on the autism spectrum and we work with them on skills and accommodations so that the can feel comfortable, access the interviews, and be able to show their true skills and potential. 

If you are a student or the parents of a student with autism and are looking for a fee-based "program," you will not find that at DRES because this is not what our students have told us that they want or need or would use.  What you will find are comprehensive supports built on the principles of the social justice and diversity models of disability. This means that when we consider the needs of our students, we first consider the value that each brings to our community as a unique, diverse individual, and we seek to embrace this individuality by supporting each student in building on their strengths. We focus on finding ways to provide access to our students, around systemic barriers, misunderstandings, and we value the autonomy and personal choice of our students.

We work with our students on the spectrum in areas of executive functioning, self-advocacy, self-regulation, and social interaction. We provide academic accommodations for students to be successful but then we provide additional supports to help them be successful at Illinois.

We value neurodiversity and meet students where they are developmental in their journey through college.  We provide advocacy, access, and educational services for students with autism that leads to successful academic outcomes while providing educational opportunities that increase self-knowledge in the areas of executive functioning, self-regulation, social interaction, self-advocacy, and career preparation.  We also actively promote a campus wide environment of inclusion and understanding of students, faculty, and staff with neurological differences.

Areas of Focus:

Academic Coaching that focuses on executive functioning--Task Initiation, Monitoring Progress, Organization and Planning, Time Management, Stress Tolerance, Flexibility, Sustained Attention, Emotional Control, Goal-Directed Persistence, and Response Inhibition.

Academic Lab--For drop in support and academic skills.

Social Interaction--Understanding one’s social interaction preferences and strengths through individual therapy, group therapy, DRES social clubs, campus registered student organization, etc.

Consultation with Housing--Training with RA’s and RD’s to understand autism, a variety of dorms to choose from based on preference and needs, consultation with housing for special requests or individual issues that arise.

Self-Advocacy--Your access specialist is there to meet with you regarding accommodations, be your advocate when you need one, and help you know when you need help, who to ask, how to ask, and when to ask.

Self-Regulation--Handle changes to schedule and/or plans; think of solutions to problems; handle feelings in order to be able to continue class and class work, and achieve personal goals

DRES supports:

  • Regular Meetings with your access specialist
  • Facilitation with professors to discuss accommodations and provide advocacy if issues arise
  • Peer mentors
  • Academic coaching
  • Individual or group therapy to process information or work on strategies
  • Academic lab
  • Social clubs
  • Career supports—deciding a major, job shadowing, mentoring, internships, asking for accommodation, writing a resume, interviewing skills, networking, specific recruiting based on disability, we help you and support you through the process.
  • Consultation/orientation prior to your first year
  • Assistive technology training, if needed
  • Assistance in advertising for personal assistants, if needed
  • Parental meetings with student and parents, as needed with the student’s permission

For more information, please call 217-333-4603 or email disability@illinois.edu.