Autism on Campus – Part 2

Dori Zener

A Discussion with Dori Zener, Continued


What are some myths or even stereotypes about students with ASD? How do we break those down?

One major stereotype is that ASD often only affects males, however many females fly under the radar because they have learned how to “fake it” when it comes to social situations. I see many females who don’t get diagnosed until later in life when they hit a roadblock in academic, work or personal life.

One stereotype is that often these students are only enrolled in engineering or computer science programs. That isn’t the case —  many students are in arts-based programs, humanities and so forth. People with ASD can be highly creative!

And I think one take away is that people with ASD are really enjoyable to work with and are able to make changes in their behavior and insight at any age.


What would you suggest to colleges and universities that may be in rural communities or may not have specialists who work with people with ASD in their communities?

There are many resources out there. Some I can definitely share with the Centre for Innovation in Campus Mental Health.

I think that service providers who approach working with students with ASD will have success if they value the strengths and resilience of this group. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy works very well. Service providers should also skills practice and role play scenarios.

Skill-building in certain areas – one example is that students with ASD often struggle with group work or group assignments. Helping them develop strategies to do group work can be helpful to achieve success.


Tips for Campus Mental Health Practitioners

What are 5 tips you would recommend to colleges and universities to support the needs of students with ASD?

  1. Offer a transitions program (program could include tips like what is it like to live in residence, what is it like to navigate campus services, classrooms/lecture settings)
  2. Offer some form of peer mentorship or peer support program
  3. Accommodations (ensure that faculty can accommodate the learning needs of students)
  4. Awareness (some form of awareness or education campaign on how students with ASD can positively contribute to campus life)
  5. Scholarships or Financial access for this growing population on campus.


Tips for Students

What are 5 tips you would give to a student with ASD as they prepare to enter the post-secondary world?

  1. Do your research (make sure you are prepared for the realities of what student life is like)
  2. Know your strengths and learn how and when to ask for help
  3. Find out what services your college or university has to offer and connect with disability and counseling services before you start school
  4. Meet with others/search out a support network
  5. Meet with a therapist to help anticipate challenging situations at school and how to cope effectively

Dori Zener is an Individual, Couple and Family Therapist at The Redpath Centre. She has been working with families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), learning disabilities and intellectual disabilities for over ten years. As a Social Worker in the Child Development Program at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, she supported families following a diagnosis of ASD. There, she spearheaded the implementation of ‘Stepping Stones Triple P’, an evidence-based parenting program that increases parenting confidence and reduces challenging behaviour in children with disabilities. She has been interviewed by national media regarding the impact of diagnosis and support options for families of children with ASD and has presented at national and provincial conferences on special needs parenting, eating disorders and autism spectrum disorder.


Dori Zener will be joining the Centre for Innovation in Campus Mental Health for a one hour webinar on Wednesday March 26th from 2:00pm to 3:00pm

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