Autism goes to college

The Charter College of Education Division of Special Education and Counseling,
in partnership with The Cal State LA Office for Students with Disabilities and
School Psychology Student Association (SPSA)

a Film Screening of Erik Linthorst’s Documentary

Autism Goes to College

Autism goes to college

Thursday, November 14, 2018
University Student Union Theater
RSVP required
Doors open at 5:30 p.m.
Screening at 6 p.m.
Q & A with filmmakers and cast to follow

AUTISM GOES TO COLLEGE goes inside college classrooms and dorm rooms as five students on the autism spectrum share surprising stories and candid insights about their dreams, fears, fails, and successes. This first of its kind film explores how it’s going at colleges, as more and more students with an Autism Spectrum Diagnosis enroll.

Some students with autism write about their diagnosis in their college application essays, and immediately request services from disabled student services offices. But many others don’t: they want to walk into college for a fresh start, without a label, asking for accommodations or telling their professors or peers they have an ASD. Professors often don’t know how, or even, if, to help students they think might be on the spectrum, but have not disclosed. It gets interesting.

As it turns out, students with autism on campus is a big test for the schools, too. Often with no training in how to work with students on the spectrum, college professors facing a rapidly changing student body must balance the needs of typical students with the needs of students with a growing range of visible and invisible disabilities in their classrooms. While some college students with this invisible disability get by with no support from their school, others struggle. Most ultimately reach out for some help navigating the usual college challenges- academic loads, making friends, handling roommate situations, romances, managing finances, and sometimes more serious matters. Meanwhile disability services counselors at colleges are trying out a patchwork of new approaches and programs to help both students and faculty better accommodate special needs.

The University of California, Riverside became a target for study. Professor Jan Blacher, who had originated a free autism screening clinic for families, was curious about the campus community's knowledge and acceptance of students with ASD.  She and her doctoral studies conducted campus-wide surveys of knowledge about ASD (many respondents flunked the test) and interviewed students with ASD about their college experience. The seeds were sown for AUTISM GOES TO COLLEGE, and Jan found her filmmakers!

Following two students at the University of California Riverside, one at Cal State Long Beach, one at Cal State Fullerton, and a fifth at Mt. San Jacinto Community College, Director Erik Linthorst and Writer/Producer Jody Becker (the filmmakers behind Autistic-Like: Graham’s Story), found students entering adulthood and college with ASDs eager to share their experiences, and encourage their peers to access college opportunities available to all academically capable students in the state. 

“They know there is no map for them, and we found that even if they feel lost for a while, they just keep moving forward,” says Linthorst. “We were blown away by the insights and advice these students were ready to share. College was working for them pretty much because they were making it work.”

In intimate interviews with students, their parents, professors, siblings and on- campus counselors, AUTISM GOES TO COLLEGE shows that a diploma and career path can be realistic goals for a population with historically high under and un-employment.  

The five students in AUTISM GOES TO COLLEGE went on camera to tell their stories, showing their peers that as more and more students with ASDs make it to college, it’s not always easy, but it can be done.


Erik Linthorst

Jody Becker

Dr. Jan Blacher
The SEARCH Autism Family Resource Center at UC Riverside
Executive Producer

Logo of Office for Students with Disabilities    Logo of School Psychology Student Association