Starting college can be daunting, even more so when you are on the spectrum! Haley Moss, an artist, autistic advocate, and JKP author gives high school seniors some advice for next year.

Haley Moss, an autistic advocate, provides advice to young people on the spectrum beginning college.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

This is something I’ve always struggled with, and as a slightly older person now, I can honestly say this is the best advice I can give. So, don’t be afraid to ask for help academically if you have questions for your professors or need accommodations from the university’s disability services office. You are not weak if you are asking your resident assistant or support people for help socially. And of course – if you’re stressed, anxious, or feel anything out of the ordinary with mental health – there is no shame in going to counseling or getting support. Independence is not doing everything alone, and no one can do everything by themselves. Asking for help in any aspect of life is brave and helps us succeed!

Know your high school accommodations to translate them into college accommodations.

I like to tell families to include their students in IEP meetings when they are in high school, since ultimately, accommodations and goals are for the student to succeed above anyone else. In college, you are an adult, and your parents aren’t your best advocates on campus (if at all). If you know what services you’ve received, then you can get accommodations in college, or get help determining what will help you  succeed academically. On that note, even if you might feel you don’t need it, make an introduction to the folks in disability services so you know who to approach if you need accommodations. This also will make  you feel more comfortable when you know who you might need to speak with. 

It’s okay to feel nervous and afraid.

With a global pandemic and looming life change, it’s okay to be anxious about the future. College is a huge transition – you might be living away from home for the first time or getting used to being a stronger self-advocate. Any transition can be scary, but know you deserve the opportunity to succeed in college. You’ve worked really hard for it, and there are so many resources and people who want to see you succeed.

Make smart and safe social decisions (you don’t have to give into peer pressure or do things to make people like you).

I have a difficult time making friends, but like to remind people you don’t have to be less to fit in. You will find your people – fellow students who love and accept you for who you are. Be safe and smart – have plans and let people know where you’ll be if you’re going out socially, and be mindful about drugs and alcohol (especially if you’re underage). As much as you might  think these  situations – no matter how uncomfortable they make you feel – might help you be accepted or fit  in, it might ultimately  hurt you because you aren’t being true to yourself in addition to health and safety consequences.

Celebrate the Joy.

Finally, finishing high school is an accomplishment! Take the time to celebrate safely and be proud of yourself. Don’t ever forget to be proud of yourself and feel happy when good things happen– your accomplishments are worth celebrating!    

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