Dissecting, “Autism Goes to College”


Kimberly Perez

Wednesday, January 29th, Da Vinci showcased a screening, “Autism Goes to College” made by a non-profit team and directed by Erik Lanthorst. 

The movie followed five students on the autism spectrum and displayed how they individually handled college life. It’s safe to say, not all problems were touched on, as those students are only five out of thousands of students on the autism spectrum that graduated from college in the past years.

The film itself, while accompanying the students through their class and even their daily life, discussed the challenges of having autism in college. For some, adjusting to college is difficult enough, however, being on the spectrum can make it challenging for said person and those around them. It’s about finding the balance and accommodating to everybody.

Many colleges in the U.S. are required by law to make accommodations for students with disabilities, however, some do the bare minimum according to Autism Spectrum News. Despite having the IEP (Individualized Education Programs) in high school, it is up to the discretion of the college whether to accept it or not. This essentially means that students on the spectrum are not, and not required to, receive the same amount of help they had in high school.

The problem of universities not accommodating to students on the spectrum is a subject lightly touched upon in the film, as many difficulties arise during the transition into college; there are many other problems that aren’t directly covered, both in the film and in the media. 

“What we covered in the film is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the issues that need more awareness, but I think there are a lot of themes in the film that we touch on,” said film director Eric Lanthorst. “Like specific to professors, students getting accommodations, roommates, and all kinds of important issues that I hope the media covers in greater detail.”

A recurring theme in “Autism Goes to College” is the notion of self-help. Parents are used to protecting their child, regardless of being on the spectrum or not, but when a student is 18 and in college, they are expected to seek help themselves. If they don’t, some universities and colleges close their services towards students with autism after the first semester. As a result, they’d have to wait until the beginning of the second semester to sign up for special services.

Despite the offer for special services in college, office hours are also available before class, which some students took advantage of in the film. However, a few professors brought up concerns with having students on the spectrum together with other students in the classroom, making this another theme and debatable topic within a small portion of the film.

“I feel like my mindset and the teachers’ mindset is like we want to make sure we include space for everybody to have their voices [heard] in class,” Kristina Becht, a 9th-grade math teacher said. “And so it’s kinda hard for me to imagine being a teacher and being like, ‘your questions are disruptive’.”

Despite the differing views on students with autism attending the same classroom or workplace with others, there is an analogous opinion, as explained in the film, on how those students add to a company’s success. It was also reported from a U.S. study in 2014 regarding children with ASD, Interactive Autism Network, which shares how half of these children had average or above-average intelligence. Students on the spectrum show their worth to be considered more than just a child with a disability and that they are capable of doing more.

The film, “Autism Goes to College” covers several topics regarding students on the spectrum and appreciates how everybody has a place, regardless of where they are. The film creates a learning experience and gives encouragement to those students who watched in the audience that they too can go to college or get a job.

“I just want parents who have young children on the spectrum to know that college is absolutely a possibility and if you saw the students in the film you saw they jobs, they boyfriends, they had girlfriends, they graduated, some of them lived independently, [and] drove cars…,” said Lanthrost. “Just know, just because your child is diagnosed on the spectrum does not mean some of the old stereotypes of the limitations, that those aren’t necessarily true anymore. And that the sky really is the limit for these kids.”