Autism Spectrum Disorder

A young man facing the viewer at an angle, staring distractedly and creating a stream of bubbles by blowing through a plastic device.

Learning Objectives

This module will help you to:

  1. Explain the effects of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) on learning in the classroom.
  2. Understand the types of accommodations or other support that can help meet the educational needs of students with ASD.
  3. Know how to support a student with ASD.


According to Brasic (2013), Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD; i.e., Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome) is a neurologically based condition characterized by persistent impairment in social interactions, repetitive behaviour patterns, and a restricted range of interests. The notion that ASD occurs along a continuum first received wide public attention in the early 1980s.

According to the American Psychiatric Association (2013), people with ASD often have normal or above-average intelligence but may experience delays in language or in cognitive development. ASD is a lifelong condition and can co-occur with other disorders, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and anxiety disorders. According to Zeedyk, Tipton, and Blacher (2014), people with ASD often face significant challenges in adjusting to postsecondary educational settings.

People who have ASD can learn strategies to cope with their condition. Many can succeed in postsecondary education. Pillay and Suniti Bhat (2012) point out, however, that many postsecondary environments are not fully prepared to meet the unique needs of these students and that adaptation and accommodation measures are often necessary.