Different is Not Deficient: Addressing Student Conduct Concerns Among Residential College Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Different is Not Deficient: Addressing Student Conduct Concerns Among Residential College Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder

T h e J o u r n a l o f C o l l e g e a n d u n i v e r s i T y s T u d e n T h o u s i n g 30

Different is Not Deficient: Addressing Student Conduct Concerns Among Residential College Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder

The University of New Mexico, Albuquerque

fLorenCe a. HamriCK Professor Graduate Program Director, Ph.D. in Higher Education Coordinator, College Student Affairs Ed.M. Program Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey

florence.hamrick@gse.rutgers.edu

amy n. mieLe Assistant Director of Student Conduct for Residence Life Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey

AmyMiele@rutgers.edu

Justin W. KeLLey Assistant Director of Residence Life for Student Support Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey

Justin.kelley@rutgers.edu

The authors thank Dr. Barbara Lee for reviewing this manuscript in its entirety and specifically from a legal perspective.

V o l u m e 4 4 , No. 3 • 2 0 1 8 31

institutions of HigHer eduCation, and more specifically residence halls within colleges and universities, pride themselves in offering and embracing a diverse community of students. a growing number of students with autism spectrum disorder (asd) are attending college and choosing to live on campus. While many are able to do so successfully, some students may behave inappropriately within the halls. residence life professionals should have a foundational knowledge of anti-discrimination law and how that does or does not impact addressing student behavior within on-campus housing.

since the 1990s, increasing numbers of children in the united

states have been diagnosed with autism, asperger syndrome or,

what is more recently categorized as, autism spectrum disorder

(asD). according to the autism and Developmental Disabilities

monitoring (aaDm) network, which provides data to the Centers

for Disease Control and prevention (CDC), an estimated 1 in 68

children were diagnosed with asD in 2010 and again in 2012

within these 16 participating states: alabama, arizona, arkansas,

Colorado, florida, maryland, minnesota, missouri, new Jersey,

north Carolina, pennsylvania, south Carolina, tennessee, utah,

West Virginia, and Wisconsin (Christensen, et. al, 2016). addition-

ally, increasing numbers of students diagnosed with asD attend

college and live in campus housing. many students with asD live

on campus successfully and succeed academically, but others face

challenges. for example, characteristics or expressions of asD can

manifest as perceived behavioral misconduct that affects residen-

tial and campus communities. College and university representa-

tives design and implement sanctions for student misconduct in an

increasingly litigious higher education climate (olivas, 2013).

this manuscript provides an overview of the principal legal

foundations underpinning both educational access and accommo-

dations for students with disabilities and student codes of conduct.

Common characteristics of asD are presented with examples that

A growing number

of students with

autism spectrum

disorder are

attending

college . . .

Residence life

professionals

should have

a foundational

knowledge of

anti-discrimination

law and how

that does or

does not impact

addressing student

behavior within

on-campus

housing .

T h e J o u r n a l o f C o l l e g e a n d u n i v e r s i T y s T u d e n T h o u s i n g 32

lawsuits against public school districts, usually

brought by parents advocating for their chil-

dren with disabilities. the 1968 fair housing

act (fha) was expanded in 1988 to include

rights and protections for individuals with dis-

abilities (u.s. Department of Justice, n.d.). al-

though the fha did not deal with students or

public education, fha mandated access and

protections for prospective homeowners and

tenants with disabilities, including students

living in residence halls or other campus-

owned student housing.

the subsequent americans with Disabili-

ties act (aDa, 1990) outlined a set of civil

rights that mandated equal treatment and

Amy N. Miele • Justin W. Kelley • Florence A. Hamrick

are particularly relevant to college students.

the manuscript ends with a number of rec-

ommendations for residence life and student

conduct professionals.

a comprehensive discussion of higher

education and federal legislation or court de-

cisions relevant to students with disabilities is

well beyond the scope of this article. as expect-

ed, legislation evolves, as do policies and legal

interpretations by courts at various levels. Con-

sequently, the information and recommenda-

tions in this manuscript should be interpreted

and applied with due caution.

LeGAL fRAMeWORK OVeRVIeW legal rights and protections for students with

disabilities is a late 20th century phenom-

enon, dating principally from section 504 of

the rehabilitation act (1973), commonly re-

ferred to as “section 504.” until that point,

a public education could legally be—and in

most cases was—unavailable to an estimated

1.8 million students with disabilities (Boroson,

2017). section 504 provisions obligated public

schools to provide otherwise qualified students

with disabilities a “free, appropriate public ed-

ucation” (fape) or risk losing federal funding

(Bauman, Davidson, sachs, & Kotarski, 2013).

section 504 was followed by passage of

the federal education for all handicapped

Children act (1975), now known as the indi-

viduals with Disabilities education act (iDea),

which expanded the section 504 provisions.

iDea required public schools to guarantee

fape are tailored to the individual needs of

students with disabilities and carried out in

the least restrictive educational environment

(lre) (Boroson, 2017). sufficient compliance

with iDea and section 504 generated multiple

Many students with ASD live

on campus successfully and

succeed academically, but others

face challenges . For example,

characteristics or expressions of

ASD can manifest as perceived

behavioral misconduct that

affects residential and campus

communities . College and

university representatives

design and implement sanctions

for student misconduct in an

increasingly litigious higher

education climate .

V o l u m e 4 4 , No. 3 • 2 0 1 8 33

Different is Not Deficient

advanced a broad range of civil rights for

people with disabilities in virtually all aspects

of living. Currently, medical and mental

health providers, rehabilitation specialists,

and related professionals diagnose disabilities

and may recommend appropriate accommo-

dations as necessary.

With respect to the second component

above, federal and state disability discrimi-

nation laws require both public and private

institutions to provide reasonable accommo-

dations for otherwise qualified college stu-

dents with disabilities (Kaplin & lee, 2015). in

fact, state legislation is often more protective

than federal legislation, though this depends

on the state. specifically related to residence

life and housing professionals, “the regula-

tions for section 504 of the rehabilitation act

on discrimination against people with dis-

abilities require institutions to provide ‘com-

parable, convenient, and accessible’ housing

for students with disabilities at the same cost

as for nondisabled students. the regulations

also require colleges to provide a variety of

housing and that students with disabilities be

given a choice among several types of housing”

(Kaplin & lee, 2015, p. 451). on many cam-

puses, a disability services office or related unit

is responsible for recommending reasonable

campus accommodations.

there is a myriad of accommodations

that colleges and universities grant qualified

students living within on-campus housing;

some examples include allowing an emotion-

al support animal to live on campus with the

student, which some courts have determined is

required by the fair housing act (ligatti, 2010);

providing an air conditioner in a bedroom for

someone with respiratory difficulties; widen-

equal access for all people with disabilities.

in terms of education, aDa required a non-

discriminatory (rather than appropriate) public

education (Boroson, 2017; emphases added).

additionally, aDa encompassed public and

private higher education institutions via its

titles ii and iii (Bauman et al., 2013). accord-

ing to smith and allen (2011):

The ADA includes two primary components

important for institutions of higher education:

1. Whether or not a student has a qualifying

disability and 2. If the student has a qualifying

disability, whether or not the accommodations

requested by the student are reasonable or

unreasonable (p. 768).

With respect to the first component, sub-

sequent court decisions in the wake of aDa’s

passage collectively served to narrow defini-

tions of “qualified disability” (Bauman et al.,

2013). the 2009 americans with Disabilities

act amendments act (aDaaa) expanded

aDa’s scope largely by broadening the defi-

nition of “life activities,” which effectively

extended aDa protection to many more citi-

zens. according to Cortiella and Kaloi (2009),

the aDa defined disability as an impairment,

mental or physical, that substantially limits or

prevents an individual from full engagement

in life activities including breathing, sensing

(e.g., seeing, hearing, speaking, complet-

ing manual tasks), learning, and caring for

oneself. the aDaaa covered additional life

activities including eating, reading, sleeping,

walking, standing, lifting, bending, working,

and—of particular relevance to this article—

concentrating, thinking, and communicating.

only 36 years after the 1973 rehabilitation act

instituted educational opportunities for chil-

dren with disabilities, the aDa and aDaaa

T h e J o u r n a l o f C o l l e g e a n d u n i v e r s i T y s T u d e n T h o u s i n g 34

. . . federal and state disability

discrimination laws require both

public and private institutions to

provide reasonable accommodations

for otherwise qualified college

students with disabilities. . . . The

regulations also require colleges to

provide a variety of housing and

that students with disabilities be

given a choice among several types

of housing .

ing doors for wheelchairs; placing a student

with Crohn’s Disease in a room with a single

bathroom; and countless others. however, dis-

agreements about whether accommodations

provided by the college are reasonable or sat-

isfactory frequently give rise to legal disputes

and lawsuits in which court decisions serve to

provide evolving parameters of “reasonable.”

still, in cases of alleged student conduct viola-

tions—regardless of the student’s documented

disability status—campus judicial or student

conduct offices are charged with determining

responsibility for the violation and if necessary,

assigning appropriate sanctions.

sTUDenT cODes Of cOnDUcT Virtually all colleges and universities outline

behavioral expectations of students, academic

integrity, and perhaps additional campus rules

or regulations—particularly at private institu-

tions—in a handbook, guide, or website. these

collective policies are often titled “honor code,”

“student code of conduct,” or a related descrip-

tor; the general term “code of conduct” is used

in this manuscript. Codes of conduct frequent-

ly contain protections for students, such as due

process, and encompass three elements: the

policies, procedures for alleged violations of

the policies, and potential sanctions for viola-

tions of the policies, generally ranging from

a warning to expulsion with an abundance of

intermediary options (Kaplin & lee, 2015). for

public institutions, constitutional law must

apply to each element of the student code of

conduct; private institutions must follow state

law but do not have a requirement to follow

the federal constitution (Kaplin & lee, 2015).

there are several federal requirements under

constitutional law that public schools must

Amy N. Miele • Justin W. Kelley • Florence A. Hamrick

abide by. first, due process requirements state

that “the code must be clear enough for stu-

dents to understand the standards with which

their conduct must comply, and the code must

not be susceptible to arbitrary enforcement”

(Kaplin & lee, 2015, p. 572). second, the student

code of conduct must avoid the problem of

over-breadth, such that “the code not be drawn

so broadly and vaguely as to include protected

first amendment activity along with behav-

ior subject to legitimate regulation” (Kaplin

& lee, 2015, p. 572). lastly, the student code

of conduct “cannot arbitrarily discriminate in

the range and types of penalties or in the pro-

cedural safeguards afforded various classes of

offenders” (Kaplin & lee, 2015, p. 572). private

institutions do not have to follow these consti-

tutional requirements; however, they ensure a

certain level of procedural fairness and may be

V o l u m e 4 4 , No. 3 • 2 0 1 8 35

used as a guideline for best practices (Kaplin &

lee, 2015). Complications arise when students’

disability-related behaviors or expressions lead

to violations of the student code of conduct

and/or residence hall policies.

AUTIsM sPecTRUM DIsORDeR (AsD) asD first appeared in medical journals during

the mid-1940s (newschaffer, et. al, 2007), and

comprehensive descriptions of asD, its symp-

toms, and recommended therapies can be

located elsewhere. resources include the fifth

edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual

of Mental Disorders known as Dsm-5 (ameri-

can psychiatric association, 2013), federal

health and medical resources, and educational

or advocacy websites such as autism speaks

(www.autismspeaks.org). By definition, asD

symptoms appear during early childhood years

even if the diagnosis is made later. following is

a brief overview of a range of indicators widely

associated with asD in the literature base; we

focus principally on social characteristics and

social behaviors.

Social Engagement, Interpersonal, and/or Nonverbal Communication Styles

these characteristics are most commonly

identified with asD, but are not asD’s sole

indicators (american psychiatric association,

2013). making and maintaining social connec-

tions and developing interpersonal relation-

ships are often challenging (pinder-amaker,

2014; VanBergeijk, Klin, & Volkmar, 2008)

due to difficulties perceiving and responding

to oral, non-verbal, or environmental social

cues. While people without asD can easily and

even subconsciously pick up on social cues and

Different is Not Deficient

While people without ASD can

easily and even subconsciously

pick up on social cues and

switch communication styles

to fit particular contexts and

environments, people with ASD

may not have developed a range of

communication styles appropriate

to particular social contexts, such as

the college classroom as opposed to

casual peer interactions .

switch communication styles to fit particular

contexts and environments, people with asD

may not have developed a range of communica-

tion styles appropriate to particular social con-

texts, such as the college classroom as opposed

to casual peer interactions. these character-

istics can result in difficulties with making

friends or even being avoided, ostracized, or

laughed at by peers, leading to potential lone-

liness or social isolation (White, ollendick,

& Bray, 2011). for example, efforts to make

a friend may include following the prospec-

tive friend within the residence hall or across

campus, or staying in close physical proximity.

efforts by students with asD to engage a peer

in conversation may include posing personal

questions or broaching topics that ordinarily

would be inappropriate to the context, stage, or

nature of the peer relationship.

T h e J o u r n a l o f C o l l e g e a n d u n i v e r s i T y s T u d e n T h o u s i n g 36

Amy N. Miele • Justin W. Kelley • Florence A. Hamrick

people with asD commonly have difficul-

ties with generalizing, drawing inferences,

or developing conclusions (VanBergeijk et

al., 2008) that may be readily apparent for

people without asD. By their nature, formal

codes, guidelines, and rules usually require

interpretation in order to be implemented (or

knowingly violated), but students with asD

are often disadvantaged by rules that are not

concrete or clearly specified (livingston, et. al,

2013; thierfeld Brown & Wolf, 2014).

Insistence on Routine or Sameness

adhering to relatively strict routines provides

predictability, so making transitions to new

and different environments is often challeng-

ing for people with asD (White et al., 2011).

new or unanticipated sensory input from

people or the environment can be extremely

disconcerting (apa, 2013), including fire

alarms/drills, noisy residence halls, and even

non-routine interactions, such as conduct

meetings and formal hearings (livingston, et

al., 2013). life with a roommate who does not

have structured routines can also be unsettling

(White et al., 2011). routine may help people

with asD partially offset difficulties exercis-

ing impulse control and executive function-

ing (hoffman, 2016; White et al., 2011), and

distractions found in new, less predictable, or

relatively unstructured environments can lead

to lapses in self-care, such as personal hygiene

(White et al., 2011), exacerbating potentials of

loneliness or social isolation, and challenges

living with roommates and other residents.

repetitive behaviors or persistent thought

patterns (apa, 2013) and fixation on a limited

set of interests (national institute of mental

health, 2016; pinder-amaker, 2014) are also

documented characteristics of people with

asD. Depending on particular behaviors or

thoughts, students with asD may pace, rock,

or go deeply into concentration. in interper-

sonal interactions, students with asD may

introduce the same topic or ask the same set

of questions, perhaps giving the impression of

intellectual or cognitive impairment.

Additional Symptoms and Treatment

the severity of asD symptoms or characteris-

tics can range from very mild to quite severe

(newschaffer, et al., 2007). asD is often ac-

companied by intellectual disabilities, and

both are classified by the Dsm-5 as neurode-

velopmental disorders (apa, 2013); however,

. . . making transitions to new and

different environments is often

challenging for people with ASD .

New or unanticipated sensory input

from people or the environment

can be extremely disconcerting,

including fire alarms/drills,

noisy residence halls, and even

non-routine interactions, such

as conduct meetings and formal

hearings . Life with a roommate

who does not have structured

routines can also be unsettling.

V o l u m e 4 4 , No. 3 • 2 0 1 8 37

Different is Not Deficient

among college students with asD, intellectual

disabilities are less likely to be a central issue

because college students have shown evidence

of appropriate intellectual ability when apply-

ing for admission. all applicants to college,

irrespective of disability status, must be “oth-

erwise qualified” for college admission, a

legal provision reviewed earlier. indeed, some

memoirists relate their academic or career suc-

cesses, at least in part, to the strengths they

associate with their autism; see, for example,

temple grandin (1995/2006) and John elder

robison (2007/2008).

students with asD also have increased

risks of depression, anxiety, or aggression

(hoffman, 2016; White et al., 2011), which

may well affect their abilities to function so-

cially and academically at school or in work

(national institute of mental health, 2016).

students with asD are not required to self-

disclose to peers or college officials, potentially

making their asD an invisible disability—a

group of diagnoses that can include depression

or anxiety.

While there is no medication to treat asD,

early intervention with teaching and reinforc-

ing communication and social skills can help

temper the symptoms of asD (newschaf-

fer, et al., 2007). role playing and otherwise

practicing social skills can be particularly ef-

fective (pinder-amaker, 2014; VanBergeijk,

et al., 2011), and such interventions are most

effective when initiated during childhood. to

address common difficulties with generaliz-

ing and interpreting, persons with asD also

benefit when descriptions or instructions are

explicit (VanBergeijk, et al., 2011). most criti-

cally, persons with asD benefit from one or

more resources and support persons/systems

Students with ASD are not required

to self-disclose to peers or college

officials, potentially making their

ASD an invisible disability . . .

(livingston, et al., 2013; pinder-amaker, 2014;

thierfeld Brown & Wolf, 2014; VanBergeijk,

et al., 2008; Wolf, thierfeld Brown, & Kukiela

Bork, 2015).

The Neurodiversity Movement

in the 1990s, the terms neurotypicality (to de-

scribe people who are not on the autism spec-

trum) and neurodiversity (ranges and types

of neurological functioning) were coined

(Boroson, 2017, p. 21). Within the growing neu-

rodiversity movement, people with neurode-

velopmental differences are no longer viewed

as in need of a cure; they may be different, but

difference does not signal deficiency (Boroson,

2017; hoffman, 2016). for example, many of

the above behaviors and characteristics of asD

are not limited to people with asD. isolation,

transition difficulties such as homesickness,

and difficulties relating to impulse control

are common among traditional-age college

students, as the developmental theories of

Chickering and reisser (1993) and goodman,

schlossberg, and anderson (2006) have ex-

plained. Consequently, the principles of uni-

versal Design for learning (uDl) that advocate

providing “varied and flexible options for learn-

ing, along with appropriate supports and ac-

commodations” (Boroson, 2017, p. 22) apply.

T h e J o u r n a l o f C o l l e g e a n d u n i v e r s i T y s T u d e n T h o u s i n g 38

Consistent with uDl, when educators provide

flexible options for learning instead of applying

largely uniform approaches, even if the flex-

ibility is targeted to help a specific student or

population of students, more students benefit.

Closed captioning of video broadcasts is one

example of uDl; while it was initially target-

ed to the hearing impaired, everyone benefits

from closed captioning in a noisy environment,

if the speech patterns or accent are difficult to

understand, or if the volume control is set too

low for hearing or otherwise muted.

cODes Of cOnDUcT AnD sTUDenTs WITH AsD students with asD can violate the student code

of conduct without intention. for example, a

student following another student on campus

can be regarded as stalking. refusing to evacu-

ate during a fire alarm or drill—or potentially

disrupting other residents or impeding their

evacuation—is a serious safety concern. in

practice, educators and mental health profes-

sionals do not always agree on whether college

students with mental or developmental dis-

abilities should be subject to the same disci-

plinary procedures following code of conduct

violations or depending on the circumstances

be allowed to withdraw from the institution

in lieu of going through the conduct process

(Kaplin & lee, 2015). one overarching obli-

gation of campus officials is to warn possible

victims of violence if any student is poten-

tially dangerous. however, campus officials

may violate the family educational rights

and privacy act (ferpa, 1974) and state

privacy laws by routinely “warn[ing] students’

families or others of medical or psychological

Amy N. Miele • Justin W. Kelley • Florence A. Hamrick

conditions” (Kaplin & lee, 2015, p. 584). the

presence of a disability is not automatically a

relevant or mitigating consideration.

in Bercovitch v. Baldwin School (1998), the

parents of a student with attention deficit

disorder filed a lawsuit under aDa’s title iii

when their child was suspended following be-

havioral disruptions in the classroom and nu-

merous unsuccessful efforts made by school

staff to control or eliminate the behaviors. the

appellate court determined that the student’s

disability did not qualify him for protection

under the aDa because the disability did not

substantially limit his ability to learn. however,

the court also noted that a pattern of disruptive

behaviors may be inconsistent with the aDa’s

“otherwise qualified” standard. according to

Kaplin and lee (2015), “if a court determines

that following the rules is an essential func-

tion of being a student then the student may

not be ‘otherwise qualified’ and thus would

. . . many of the . . . behaviors and

characteristics of ASD are not

limited to people with ASD . . . .

when educators provide flexible

options for learning instead

of applying largely uniform

approaches, even if the flexibility

is targeted to help a specific student

or population of students, more

students benefit.

V o l u m e 4 4 , No. 3 • 2 0 1 8 39

be unprotected by disability discrimination

law” (p. 585). although this case arose in the

context of a private elementary school, the de-

cision has implications for higher education.

for instance, if a student violates a college or

university’s student code of conduct, whether

intentionally or unintentionally, they may or

may not be protected under aDa or other dis-

ability discrimination statutes. misconduct by

any student, including students with disabili-

ties, can and should be addressed. the follow-

ing recommendations are designed to assist

residence life and student conduct profession-

als in working with students with asD.

RecOMMenDATIOns fOR ResIDence LIfe AnD sTUDenT cOnDUcT PROfessIOnALs the recommendations below are grouped into

four categories: staffing, training, education or

information, and conduct processes and sanc-

tions. Because of this article’s topical empha-

sis, we do not include facilities professionals

or staff involved with physical or architectural

accommodations for students with disabilities.

echoing the goals of neurodiversity and the

purposes of uDl, these recommendations are

specifically geared toward residential students

on the autism spectrum, but their use could

benefit many other residential students who

are charged with conduct code violations.

Staffing

many campus residence halls, residential

learning communities, or themed housing

units incorporate undergraduate peer

mentors, usually in addition to resident as-

sistants (ras). a group of residential peer

mentors, hired and trained by both residence

Different is Not Deficient

life and disability services staff, can serve as re-

sources to (self-identified) residents with asD,

providing informal assistance and support

for living and succeeding in residential com-

munities. such peer mentors could improve

initial transitions to college and the residential

and social environments, foster connections

among residential students, provide informal

advice, and ultimately help mitigate social iso-

lation and loneliness.

increasingly, residence life departments

are incorporating “case management” models

and/or teams of residence life professionals

and paraprofessionals to monitor students

with disabilities (including asD). such teams,

or individual team members, can help with

early identification of students who are having

difficulties and could benefit from specific re-

sources, targeted interventions, or additional

attention and support. appropriate levels and

types of confidentiality, as well as reaching out

to professional staff members when necessary,

must be incorporated.

. . . if a student violates a college

or university’s student code of

conduct, whether intentionally

or unintentionally, they may or

may not be protected under ADA

or other disability discrimination

statutes. Misconduct by any student,

including students with disabilities,

can and should be addressed.

T h e J o u r n a l o f C o l l e g e a n d u n i v e r s i T y s T u d e n T h o u s i n g 40

trained to interpret potential warning signs

and to identify appropriate referrals would be

extremely helpful in ensuring that students

receive needed supports and connections.

this ra training could take many forms

but the most effective might be to have stu-

dents who identify on the autism spectrum

serve on a panel during training. the students

can discuss why they enjoy living on campus

and difficulties they face by living on campus,

and offer recommendations to the residence

life staff. the ras then will have an opportu-

nity to ask the panel questions and increase

their knowledge on asD. a well-known quote

among the autism community that often is at-

tributed to Dr. stephen shore states, “if you’ve

met one person with autism, you’ve met one

person with autism” (autism empowerment,

2017). it is important to remember that each

individual with asD is unique and will have

a different student experience. having a panel

of students speak to ras, as opposed to one

student with asD present, may be more in-

clusive of the student experience, making the

training more beneficial.

as adults (18+ years old), students with

asD are not required to disclose their status

to campus officials. this is even more reason

for residence life staff to be familiar with asD

characteristics and behaviors as part of the an-

ticipated, but perhaps invisible, diversity (in-

cluding neurodiversity) across the population

of residential students. residence life policies

or practices may include informing students

with asD in advance of a scheduled fire drill,

and/or making noise-cancelling headphones

or other devices available to residents to

reduce aural stimulation and undue environ-

mental disruptions.

Amy N. Miele • Justin W. Kelley • Florence A. Hamrick

Training

residence life professional staff, ras, and peer

mentors (such as above) should receive train-

ing on working with students on the autism

spectrum and incorporating all residents into a

functioning, healthy residential community. as

noted earlier, students with asD are particular-

ly at risk for depression and anxiety, as are other

students who have little to no sense of commu-

nity or support on campus. staff members at

all levels should recognize potential contexts

within which to understand students’ impul-

siveness, persistent social misperceptions, ag-

gressive behaviors, or loneliness. ras who are

A group of residential peer

mentors, hired and trained by both

residence life and disability services

staff, can serve as resources to

(self-identified) residents with ASD,

providing informal assistance and

support for living and succeeding

in residential communities . Such

peer mentors could improve initial

transitions to college and the

residential and social environments,

foster connections among residential

students, provide informal advice,

and ultimately help mitigate social

isolation and loneliness .

V o l u m e 4 4 , No. 3 • 2 0 1 8 41

Different is Not Deficient

Education or Information

the campus code of conduct, which includes

residence hall policies, should be as specific

as possible with respect to rules, guidelines,

and expectations. a clear code of conduct will

lessen the initial requirement for students

to generalize, interpret, or draw inferences

based on the policies and protocols. this in-

formation should be posted prominently on

appropriate websites and referenced in resi-

dence life materials for prospective residents,

so that prospective residents with asD can be

directed to this information in advance. im-

mediately after move-in, residence life staff

should provide community meetings or pro-

gramming that reinforce these policies and

codes with students, ideally with concrete

examples of infractions. the materials also

should include step-by-step phases of campus

judicial or student conduct procedures.

educational programming that can be ben-

eficial to all residents, but may be of particular

use to residents with asD, include topics such

as time management, self-advocacy, address-

ing isolation or homesickness, and strengthen-

ing interpersonal communications (White, et

al., 2011). residence life staff can partner with

student health services, for example, to build

awareness of personal hygiene and offer ex-

plicit descriptions of the health and well-being

that is promoted through regular attention to

self-care. as an increasingly more common

element of first-year student orientation and

other programs, workshops or presentations

on bystander intervention and sexual violence

also provide concrete examples of healthy

friendships, respectful relationships, and

(ideal) social responsibilities among peers.

these workshops, particularly those incorpo-

rating role-play, demonstrating self-assertive-

ness and advocacy, and illustrations of peers

stepping up to address awkward, potentially

alienating peer interactions also help unpack

social interactions and social cues that could

be perplexing and uncomfortable for students

across the neurodiversity spectrum.

Conduct Processes and Sanctions

Campus judicial or student conduct processes

can be tailored in ways that support the stu-

dents’ success without loss of integrity. most

processes allow students to be accompanied

by one or more support persons. for students

with asD, it would be helpful if the support

person(s) can serve as a knowledgeable process

advocate and guide. With the student’s consent,

a disability services professional may be con-

sulted to provide relevant, contextualizing in-

formation to the student conduct professional

and/or judicial hearing board members and

The campus code of conduct,

which includes residence hall

policies, should be as specific as

possible with respect to rules,

guidelines, and expectations .

A clear code of conduct will

lessen the initial requirement for

students to generalize, interpret,

or draw inferences based on the

policies and protocols .

T h e J o u r n a l o f C o l l e g e a n d u n i v e r s i T y s T u d e n T h o u s i n g 42

offer reasonable, appropriate sanction recom-

mendations. students whose academic accom-

modations include note-takers in class should

be allowed a note-taker during the conduct

process; students who have been granted extra

time or extra breaks for assignments and tests

may benefit from one or more breaks during

Amy N. Miele • Justin W. Kelley • Florence A. Hamrick

as with any educationally-focused conduct

process, sanctions should be tailored to the indi-

vidual student. Because students with asD may

have difficulties in large, relatively unstructured

social situations, typical sanctions like large-

scale community service projects or program/

workshop attendance may not be effective.

a more beneficial, tailored sanction may be

the student teaming with a residence life staff

member and perhaps a trained peer mentor

(see staffing above) to discuss and role-play

how the student more effectively can address

future conduct-relevant situations as well as, in

general, how to be a member or take leadership

within residential or campus communities.

cOncLUsIOn an overarching goal for residence life profes-

sionals is to provide a safe educational envi-

ronment for all students. this encompasses

providing support within the halls, address-

ing student misconduct, and being aware of

the laws and policies surrounding living on

campus and working with students. Current

laws and legal interpretations empower col-

leges and universities to address misconduct

from all students, including students with dis-

abilities. as more students with asD enter

college and live on campus, staff should learn

more about this unique student population

and effective strategies to help all students live

cohesively and productively. finally, depending

on the administrative configuration of individ-

ual campuses, the recommendations suggest

productive strategies for student affairs and

academic affairs collaborations centered on

ensuring the success of all students.

An overarching goal for residence

life professionals is to provide

a safe educational environment

for all students . . . . As more

students with ASD enter college

and live on campus, staff should

learn more about this unique

student population and effective

strategies to help all students live

cohesively and productively .

the hearing process. students should be in-

formed of these options well in advance, given

an option to visit the location(s) where meet-

ings and hearings are conducted and provided

an overview of the roles and purposes of the

persons involved with the conduct process.

all aspects of the conduct process should be

direct, clear, and explicitly described as inter-

linking parts.

V o l u m e 4 4 , No. 3 • 2 0 1 8 43

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V o l u m e 4 4 , No. 3 • 2 0 1 8 45

1. When it comes to FERPA, how can residence life professionals avoid legal violations and

also protect a non-ASD student if they are sharing a room with an ASD student?

2. How do institutions distinguish reasonable accommodations for high functioning ASD

students and non-high functioning ASD students?

3. What is the legal obligation of residence life professionals to ensure student development

and community development for ASD students?

4. Which areas must be evaluated and addressed when determining behavioral sanctions for

students with ASD?

5. How can residence life professionals evaluate the college transition needs for ASD students?

Discussion questions developed by Yesenia Ochoa, The University of Texas at San Antonio.

Discussion Questions

Different is Not Deficient

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