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Joshua Bryan LaFortune is a 2013 graduate of the PsyD Program in Clinical Psychology, Antioch University, New England.

Document Type

Dissertation

Publication Date

2013

Abstract

Currently there is confusion about how to meet the educational needs of students diagnosed with Asperger's Disorder (AD). This is a growing concern for schools where there has been a significant increase in the use of this diagnostic category (Barnhill, 2001). This research project was developed to investigate the lived experiences of college students with a previously identified diagnosis of AD. The aim of this study was to gain a greater understanding of how these students managed the academic and social demands of middle school and high school. Of particular importance were the transitional years during adolescence, where social competence becomes increasingly important and students are expected to function more independently in the classroom. The project was designed around the constructivist paradigm and the principle that reality is socially constructed. Through semistructured interviews, the personal accounts of 10 individuals were gathered using a case report research design. The utilization of semistructured interviews provided the participants the opportunity to define relevant material and offer insights into their experiences during middle school and high school. Individuals with AD who had made the transition to college were selected because of their knowledge regarding the resources and skills that facilitated the completion of their high school education. Participants identified teachers who had a positive impact on their academic experience, effective accommodations, and obstacles that they encountered. Participants were provided with opportunities to reflect on their understanding of the diagnosis and whether their unique learning styles were acknowledged by teachers. The students` interviews were transcribed and then analyzed for prominent themes. Themes that emerged from the students` narratives indicated that the establishment of the diagnosis of AD often provided an explanation for the social and academic difficulties that they experienced and contributed to students feeling less isolated. The students also indicated that teachers and family members played an integral role in their success. The careful consideration of the specific components of AD and the unique presentation of each student allowed for the implementation of appropriate academic accommodations and supports in the school setting and contributed to the participants' success.

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