There are a number of courses that those on the autism spectrum can choose from during their secondary school and college experiences. Many of these courses have long-term benefits that are useful on a daily basis regardless of your major or focus of study. Some particular courses that I took during high school and college helped me succeed in and outside of school. These classes can be helpful to anyone, but can be particularly helpful to others with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or similar learning differences.
College Preparation English Grammar (CPEG)
I took this course during my senior year in high school and it helped improve my vocabulary immensely. Before taking it, I stumbled over many unfamiliar words when reading and could not use context to figure out the meaning of a word in a sentence. After taking CPEG, I learned about Greek and Latin word origins and a number of prefixes and suffixes that helped me identify what a word could mean. This kind of class is great boost for writing and reading at college or work. I recommend taking a class like this as early as possible, even in junior high, to help with reading comprehension from that point on!
We live in a digital age and, from a social and employment perspective, typing is a must-have skill! You can save yourself a lot of time and hassle when your 10 fingers know their way around a keyboard (especially compared to using just two!). Typing is an efficient way to construct e-mails, reports, essays, resumes, keep lists, addresses, etc. which can be a great help in college or work.
A lot of colleges are finding ways to help students in the transition from high school to college. In a personal development course, you can gather invaluable information on time management, study skills, self-advocacy, etc. so that you can get the most from your college experience. It can also help you find courses that align with your interests and/or the degree or certificate you plan to take at college. Skills learned in this kind of class can also help you organize other areas of everyday life like maintaining your schedule and your belongings, too.
Most people fear getting up in front of an audience of our peers to speak. However, there are courses designed to conquer this fear and improve your confidence and ability to talk to others. You get to practice different speaking styles, as well as informative and persuasive speeches, for example. Speaking in front of others is like any other skill; it can be learned if you know the basics and find ways to practice. A class like this can be especially helpful for people on the spectrum who could use extra help and practice to learn to communicate effectively and feel more confident.
Ever think about the answer to the universal question “Why?” Well, what better place to start than in your own brain?!? The human brain is capable of a great deal and it is fascinating to get a better understanding about why we think and behave the way we do. A class like this helps you realize how your feelings, decisions, interactions, etc. can impact you and others for better or worse. When I took this class, I gave a talk on autism and at the end I told my classmates that I have autism (they were surprised to hear it!). Taking a class like psychology can be a good opportunity to understand more about autism and how it affects you.
In this “tossed salad” world we live in, we inevitably come into contact with those from other countries and cultures. Their customs, beliefs and traditions will likely differ from yours. A class like this helps you take an interest in other cultures and make the effort to communicate with people from other backgrounds. You can learn about perspective-taking and learn from others’ experiences. This can also be a great way to improve social skills and a place to make new friends. Some people talk about “the culture of autism” and neurodiversity. Being an active participant in a class like this can help others begin to understand autism as another kind of human diversity.
People with autism tend to have difficulty reading body language, facial expressions and other aspects of nonverbal communication. I found that taking sign language really helped me improve my non-verbal communication skills, especially because the facial expressions are often very dramatic or exaggerated. Taking spoken words out of the equation helps students rely on gestures, eye contact, posture, etc. This is an important part of learning how to read people and figure out how to get messages across without using words. Another bonus is that most high schools accept sign language as part of the foreign language requirement, so you may want to take this class in high school.
There are lots of classes in a college catalog and sometimes it is hard to know which ones to take. I hope that you will be able to find courses like these that will help you be more successful in college or simply prepare you for life after high school. Remember, it might be possible to take some of these college courses while you are still in high school to get an early start to creating the life you want for yourself! Be sure to check out my article on Dual Enrollment for more information.
What courses have really helped you or someone you know? Please share your comments, I would love to hear from you.
I’m happy to share insights about my life with Autism Spectrum Disorder in my professional presentations and trainings. Learn more at www.ThomasIland.com and please like Thomas Iland on my social channels for more information and inspiration.
Self-Advocate and professional speaker with ASD
Tom Iland has worked hard to overcome challenges presented by his Autism Spectrum Disorder. His achievements include graduating from Cal State University Northridge, becoming a Certified Public Accountant, and working in corporate America. Tom is now pursuing a professional career as a speaker and trainer sharing insights and practical advice with the Autism community. Read more.
Thanks to Emily Iland and Kyle Duffy for helping me tell my story.