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Yes, someone with nonverbal autism can attend an online college or even a traditional college if they so choose. Nonverbal autism is a subset of autism that makes it so a person can’t speak. Most nonverbal children grow up to be able to speak but a small percentage of them don’t. They’re able to communicate through alternative ways such as the use of speech-generating devices, picture exchange systems, writing, or typing. Online courses would make it much easier for students that are nonverbal to communicate with professors, advisors, and classmates. Hari Srinivasan, a nonverbal autistic student, was accepted into every UC school he applied to last year. He’s currently enrolled at UC Berkeley and a writer for The Daily Californian.
Hari’s experience is one that sheds important light on nonverbal autism. Even though he doesn’t speak, he was able to get into his dream school and is incredibly articulate. Nonverbal autistic people don’t lack the intelligence to be good communicators or good students, they just need to have an alternate means of communication. Online courses won’t require students to talk with classmates or professors at all; these types of programs allow students to communicate entirely through a form more appropriate for them, most likely email in this case. Communicating their needs is something that almost everyone with ASD struggles with so for someone who doesn’t communicate in a typical way, those struggles can be exacerbated, especially in school. Many teachers aren’t trained in how to handle these students and a nonverbal person wouldn’t be able to guide them in the right direction very easily.
Colleges and universities across the country offer online programs and more and more of them are implementing support programs to help autistic students transition into college life more smoothly and to excel. These two things can come together and absolutely transform the future for students that can’t speak. The minimized interaction in a self-paced distance-learning degree program allows the student to focus on the things that they can do instead of having to consistently confront the things they can’t as they try to navigate their coursework. The support programs in place at many colleges are there for all students whether they are learning on campus or online and they can help to provide proper resources to students that need them, to help them stay motivated and organized, and to be there for the times that college gets to be a bit overwhelming. A nonverbal autistic student would be able to get the full college experience regardless of what method they chose to complete their degree, but it seems that online college would help reduce the stress of going to college and make communication between advisors, professors, and classmates a lot simpler.