I recently went to talk to a group of Associate Instructors at Indiana University about working with college students with autism. During the question-and-answer portion of my talk, several students expressed that they wanted to make sure students with disabilities in their classes are served well and have a successful experience, but that many of these students may not come forward and discuss their disables with the professor or AI or furnish a memo documenting need for accommodations due to disability or medical diagnosis.
I told them this is common for young adults in post-secondary education. Most teens and young adults with disabilities want to fit in with their peers. For those with disabilities, realizing and coming to an understanding and acceptance that their lives in various ways will probably be different than that of their peers can be difficult and full of emotional angst. However, they must first come to that understanding of how their disability affects them in various settings and be comfortable openly discussing it with others before many of them will accept the help that departments like Disability Services and others can provide them throughout college.
Self-Acceptance is one of my favorite topics to write about and talk about with audiences. Although this was at first a very difficult journey for me in which I did not like who I was and resisted accepting my life situation well into my mid-twenties, I found that with consistent support from child and adolescent psychotherapists as well as supportive parents who accepted my diagnosis young and began to talk about the fact that I was different very early, I was eventually able to come to terms with my situation and accept myself and my life as it is.
Many teens and young adults worry that if they disclose their diagnosis, others, such as peers or employers may treat them differently or see their disclosure as “receiving special treatment.” Some may worry that they will be judged. I do understand where theses concerns come from, but now that disclosure and talking about my disability has just become more common for me, I have discovered that most people including peers, college professors, and employers and very understanding and that talking about it has actually helped me develop closer relationships with people instead of driving us farther apart because they want to learn about my life and what my experiences have been like and what they can do to help me.
Although it was a long and difficult road, the road to self-acceptance was ultimately one of the best journeys I have taken in young adulthood. It was hard but noting that is worth doing is ever easy. Today, I can say I am truly happy. I told the AI’s:
“Every student deserves to have a great college experience. For students and young adults like me, it will often come down to how comfortable they are with themselves and how willing they are to let people into their lives and discuss their differences. At the college level, it is their choice whether they wish to disclose a diagnosis or receive any type of accommodations, so as honorable as your intentions are in wanting to help, they must first come forward say they have a diagnosis, and then accept the help you are willing to give.”
Nassim, A. (2022). To Find Happy: Stop Resisting and Start Accepting. Retrieved from https://www.iidc.indiana.edu/irca/articles/stop-resisting-start-accepting.html