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Autism U: As College Application Deadlines Near, Growing Adult Autism Population Focuses on Higher Education

PITTSBURGH, Nov. 29 /PRNewswire/ -- As early detection and treatments improve, a growing number of young adults with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's Syndrome are considering higher education.

While some colleges scramble to meet the needs of an aging population with autism, others have turned to third-party programs, such as Achieving in Higher Education with Autism and Developmental Disabilities (AHEADD), to enhance their level of support. Originally developed in collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University's department of Equal Opportunity Services, AHEADD provides mentoring and personal advocacy services for students with Asperger's Syndrome, Attention Deficit Disorder, High-Functioning Autism, and Non-Verbal Learning Disorder. The program is quickly expanding to higher-education environments in the District of Columbia, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia.

For students on the Autism Spectrum, programs such as AHEADD greatly influence their college application decisions. "These students are often served really well in the K-12 public school system, and then they're cut off," says Carolyn Komich Hare, AHEADD's founder and director. "College poses a whole new set of communication, organization, and social challenges, and it is important to have a plan in place to make the transition as seamless as possible. I have students who apply to colleges in Pittsburgh just because of the level of support they can receive here."

As accommodations improve, students, as well as their universities, are feeling the effects. One hundred percent of college students who participated in AHEADD for one semester improved their GPA by at least .5, and sometimes by as much as two, points. Ninety percent of students who were on academic probation were able to successfully continue their college careers with the program's support. "The Asperger's population is much bigger than we think it is," says Larry Powell, manager of Disability Resources at Carnegie Mellon University. "If we could put together systems that would adequately support these students, word would get around and more students would disclose it and would come."

For more information about AHEADD and its higher education support programs, visit, or call 412.519.0720.

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