Report Offers Roadmap to Success for Postsecondary Students with Autism

TORONTO, June 14 /CNW/ – A new report released today estimates that 5,800 students identified with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are currently in Ontario’s publicly funded secondary schools. School staff expect that approximately 1,100 of these students will seek to enter college or university between 2009 and 2011.

The report, “Identifying Trends and Supports for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder Transitioning into Postsecondary” makes a number of suggestions for postsecondary institutions to support students with ASD based on successful practices at the secondary school level. These include:

  • more specialists and staff who are trained in meeting the needs of
    students with ASD working in postsecondary institutions, especially
    in institutions where there are large numbers of students identified with ASD;
  • active partnerships with parents where designated disability service staff, students and their families can work together to build an
    effective support plan;
  • adjustments to the learning environment to make it more accommodating to students with ASD,
  • close monitoring of social-emotional needs particularly during transition periods; and,
  • training for staff at postsecondary institutions in ASD-specific learning strategies and flexibility for support personnel to work
    more intensively with students during transition periods.

The full report is available online at:

“Having the appropriate supports in place to ensure that students with ASD and other disabilities succeed is an important area of focus for postsecondary institutions,” said Susan Alcorn-MacKay, author of the report and Director of the Northern Ontario Assessment & Resource Centre. “We know from our experience with secondary schools in Ontario that with well-trained staff and the necessary supports in place students with ASD can flourish.”

Postsecondary institutions in Ontario report that 400 students are currently enrolled and have ASD. Enrolment numbers and recommendations from the report are garnered from a survey of publicly funded school boards and school authorities and colleges and universities in Ontario. Of school boards and school authorities 86 per cent responded to the survey along with 15 of Ontario’s 19 universities and all 24 of Ontario’s colleges.

“Identifying Trends and Supports for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder Transitioning into Postsecondary” was commissioned by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) and adds to the work they support to improve accessibility in postsecondary education. HEQCO has sponsored other research in this area including a Quantitative Assessment of Financial Barriers Affecting Students with Disabilities in postsecondary education and an Employment Follow-up: Success of Graduates with Learning Disabilities from Ontario’s Colleges and Universities which will be released later in the year.

About the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario

The Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario is an arm’s-length agency of the Government of Ontario dedicated to ensuring the continued improvement of the postsecondary education system in Ontario. The Council was created through the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario Act, 2005. It is mandated to conduct research, evaluate the postsecondary education system, and provide policy recommendations to the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities with a view to enhance the quality, access, and accountability of Ontario’s higher education system.

For further information: Jeff Rohrer, Communications Manager, Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario, (416) 212-5242,,

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